We're of the opinion here at VideoGamer.com that the Wii's software library is dominated by shoddy games. We absolutely believe the console is capable of great things, but most developers just don't seem to want to release good games on it. Let's take Nitrobike as an example. The Ubisoft published extreme motorbike game from Excite Bike developers Left Field in theory should be good. But it's just not. In fact it's one of the worst examples of shoddy production values the Wii has seen.
What strikes you first is the almost N64 quality front-end. The menus look awful and the load times are shocking for something so basic. And it just gets worse from here on. As you pull away from the starting line, boosting along with the other nine racers, the game chugs along at a frame rate I haven't experienced since playing GoldenEye multiplayer many years ago. It's shocking stuff, and not what the Wii needs if it's ever going to convince people that it's more than a machine for Nintendo software.
Fans of Nintendo's Excite Truck might be thinking that Nitrobike will offer similar thrills, but don't get too carried away - Nitrobike is sadly not even half as good as the Wii's premier racing game. Whereas Excite Truck revelled in its bouncy, almost haphazard gameplay, in Nitrobike the controls feel like a step back, and not nearly as fun. Cornering is a nightmare most of the time, with the courses being far too windy for the motion controls. Excite Truck's large open courses are nowhere to be seen.
Thankfully any mistakes you make on the track are rarely punished (at least early on) as the other drivers are completely incompetent. They'll cause mass pile ups resulting in the entire pack coming to a standstill, allowing you to go from last to first in a matter of seconds. The idea is to perform tricks while in the air, in turn increasing the size of your nitro meter, effectively allowing you to go faster for longer. In reality, you don't have to worry about tricks too much as you can boost around the majority of the time by just laying off the boost every now and again.
To be fair, the game includes plenty to do. With over 60 events, split between races, time trials, ring challenges, stunt challenges and elimination events, it'll take you some time to finish everything, but you just won't want to. The progression system is archaic too, so after each event you're sent back to the career menu where you have to choose the next event. You'll unlock new events and bikes as you work your way through, signified by the most ridiculous, yet amusing guitar riff I've ever heard in a video game. The gameplay and presentation just make most of this stuff pointless, as most players won't want to play beyond the opening set of events.
Considering the aforementioned chronic slowdown problems you'd be forgiven for thinking that Nitrobike looks pretty smart for a Wii game, but it doesn't. The textures are beyond muddy and the trackside detail is comparable to what you might see in a University project. The whole game also has an unstable feel, like we got back in the days of the PlayStation when it felt like the polygons could be ripped apart at any point. Combine all this with a terrible rock soundtrack that I can't imagine anyone wanting to listen to, and you've got to wonder how Nitrobike ever got past the design stage.
We all moan about Wii games not including online play, but amazingly it's included in Nitrobike. Six players can hop online for some competitive racing, but there aren't exactly a lot of people online, meaning finding a game is a slow process. Online performance was surprisingly good, but this isn't a reason to play the game. Four-player split-screen is also an option, but it's barely playable due to the poor frame rate.
It's hard to believe that Nitrobike is as bad as it is. When it was revealed there was some genuine excitement amongst gamers who knew the developer's history, but the end result is a game that is somewhat of an embarrassment. With some of the worst presentation the Wii has seen and some partially broken controls, even an inevitable appearance in a bargain bin shouldn't tempt you to buy Nitrobike.