Excite Truck

Have you heard of Excite Truck? If not, you may not be the only one.

A title which flew under many radars on the underpowered Nintendo Wii, Excite Truck is a successor to Excitebike series on previous Nintendo consoles, except this time motorbikes have been swapped out for offroad inspired trucks.

That may sound like a mess, but in application, Excite Truck totally blew me away – and the game play is totally on par with the things that made the motocross series popular.

First, there’s plenty of jumps, plenty of speed, and plenty of crashes. If you can remember overheating your bike on the NES, or having missed the timing of a jump and needing to collect yourself from the ground, then you’d be on board with Excite Truck’s spin on all of the above.

Single player mode sees you race against computer opponents in timed tracks. The main goal, however, is to collect stars, which is done by performing many tricks to perfection.

Some of those tricks include getting air, perfect landings from jumps, or successfully navigating an area full of trees without crashing.

The tracks are based on real life locations, such as China, Scotland, Mexico, Fiji, Finland and Canada, with a fictional Nebula level tossed in. The locales are detailed and lush, with most of the terrain able to be navigated (for better or worse!)

The trucks are based on real-life variations too, with more vehicles and paint jobs unlocked as you progress through the game. That’s a neat feature which reminds me of Mario Kart. You begin by picking the truck that fits your style and then choosing the color of it. You may pick on with better acceleration, for example, over handling.

Once you choose your cup level and stage, the game kicks over to the Wii’s main gimmick: motion controls. There’s no thumbstick, nunchuk or classic controller options here, as Excite Truck forces you to steer by tilting a sideways Wiimote controller side-to-side like a real steering wheel.

When executing jumps, you can turn your car sideways, or tilt forward or backward to help execute a better landing. Gas and brakes are handled by buttons 1 and 2, and the only other button truly used is “down” on the D-pad to use the speed boost feature – but be careful, you don’t want to overheat the engine!

While most won’t like using the motion controls they’re actually great. The game couldn’t be any easier to play and who hasn’t jerked side-to-side or pulled back when playing the original NES game? Now those movements mean something!

However, I would’ve liked to have seen a few additional controller options, as we saw in Mario Kart Wii.

Overall, Excite Truck is a very pleasant surprise which I feel deserves a follow up too. The only true shame is that more people don’t know of this game and that the Wii didn’t have HD graphics, as tweaking an emulated copy shows how this game really shines even over 15 years later.

EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp

EA Sports was obviously looking for a way to milk the cow with their NFL license in 2010.

Among the fitness craze of Nintendo’s Wii was EA Active, an initiative to use the console’s motion controls, balance board, and other devices (such as a heartrate monitor) to help people get in shape from the comfort of their own living room.

The only problem is, as a “game”, this one looks like a total cash grab!

Unfortunately, there’s only so much which can be done these days without the proper add-on devices. The premise of working out as any player on the NFL roster, within a training camp environment (and doing similar drills) has some appeal.

The problem is, this really feels like a Madden Football extra mode than anything else.

The graphics are welcoming, and the approach makes you feel as if you’re in the game or at least living vicariously through your favorite players. There’s plenty of incentives if you want to continue, such as creating your own player and then customizing them through a team’s “pro shop”.

But the entire thing wears off so quickly that the boxed package of fitness equipment ends up in the garage next to the ab circle and some Jane Fonda VHS tapes! (And the video clips within the game, as displayed through the DVD (not HD) quality Wii? Looks like VHS!)

There used to be an online component as well, but of course, that was shutdown two years after the game’s release.

Not that anyone’s looking to play this – I only stumbled upon it on my quest to review more Wii Balance Board games – but should you have a morbid curiosity of what an NFL game that’s not Madden could look like, look not further than this fitness trainer.

At the very least it will help put you to sleep!

GoldenEye 007 (2010)

It’s almost criminal that this game isn’t mentioned more often among the GOATs of FPS shooters, particularly in the James Bond 007 franchise.

2010 brought about a buzz when Activision acquired the James Bond license and announced a reboot of one of the most influential console first person shooters ever made: Goldeneye.

Based on the movie and the 1997 game baring the same name, this title is an oddity that shares some characteristics with other video games which add to the movie canon, such as Ghostbusters: The Video Game or any number of Star Wars games which add to their universe.

In this iteration of Goldeneye, the settings are familiar but like the movie series, it has been completely retooled with its new Bond lead, Daniel Craig. For me, this is over the top and very ambitious – could Activision and developer Eurocom pull this off?

The answer is a resounding yes – so much so that I wish I had a higher rating on this site for a few games that stand out in a category all their own.

The first edition of Goldeneye 007 was released on the Nintendo Wii, and is thus the copy I reviewed here. There’s something off about the “remastered” versions that came out one year later for the PS3 and Xbox 360 – namely, even the first level is laid out a bit differently, and some of the voice acting parts seem to have been cut – leaving me less than impressed I stuck with the original.

We all know the Wii wasn’t an HD machine, but playing this in an emulated state greatly sharpens the graphics and there’s a “film grain” effect to the Wii edition that’s missing from the later “remastered HD” versions.

Plus, playing with a Wiimote and nunchuk is totally satisfying, to a degree, when it comes to the FPS genre. (It also gets annoying in firefights, so I opted to use the Gamecube controller later on, but the classic controller is also supported.)

2010’s Goldeneye recasts all of the actors, minus Judy Dench’s “M” (who has appeared in quite a few films). The settings and plot are all similar, albeit tweaked to match 2010 rather than 1995 when the original film was released.

What that means is that Bond is using a smartphone instead of his Dick Tracy style watch, and that the Goldeneye installation is now part of a solar array.

The tweaks are subtle, and as part of a reboot with Daniel Craig, it hits just right. If this were a movie, it would’ve been a blockbuster, and you get that sense every step of the way playing it.

All of the Bond gimmicks are here and then some.

The game is filled tons of fan service. I swear you’d think this was a Michael Bay production. From the start, you get the same overhead pan of a dam somewhere in, IDK, Serbia? I forget… not the point however, as it brings you back to the N64 days of Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan. Yet, after you pass a security tower and a tunnel, the game starts to shine immediately with booms and bangs, and you get a sense for how much more polished every detail is.

Carried over from the original game are most of the levels, including the dam, the library, monument park, and a thrilling tank drive through town.

The computer AI is solid as a diverse cast of recurring enemy mercenaries floods the screen, finding cover, ducking and diving about.

Stealth is a huge component of this game, as a run-and-gun style will often get you killed on the spot. The big gimmick is holding the L trigger to zoom in while aiming, as the game eschews your typical “auto aim” feature to hone in while shooting. Your gun will often vibrate or move, realistically, making it harder to hit targets as well.

You can duck behind cover, and use this feature to pop up to shoot.

Other stealth items include shooting security cameras, hacking into drone guns, or simply waiting out entertaining conversations between soldiers – who will move on on their own without any other interaction needed on your behalf.

Beware, however, that one wrong misstep, such as shooting a soldier conversing with another, can bring an onslaught of armies headed your way!

There’s so much packed into the single player campaign that I didn’t even get a chance to review multiplayer unfortunately. Yet, that’s a testament to just how complete and satisfying of a game this is.

If you’re a fan of FPS games, 007, Daniel Craig… you know what. Just play the game.

It’s so darn good that I now wish I hadn’t put off finishing this one for so long – and would love to see this translated onto the big screen as a real Daniel Craig reboot too!

NBA Jam (2010)

Here is a game that time forgot: the 2010 pseudo sequel (and update) to NBA Jam.

Someone, somewhere is probably wondering why I gave this a review on the Wii. Well, for starters, I was thinking the same thing! Why did I have this on the Wii and nowhere else?

It appears EA botched another NBA title they were working on, in which this new version of NBA Jam was a pack-in perk for buying – so the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions eventually released at retail, and with better graphics and online play, but were also lacking compared with the Wii version.

Another cool aspect at the time was most of us with a Wii had multiple controllers handy in order to play with a room packed full of friends. We all got older by this point, but the fun was still there from the originals, including the announcer from the first games.

Unlike some of the follow-ups to the series following Tournament Edition, including the branching off of Jam and it’s sibling NBA Showtime, the 2010 Wii title feels like a direct successor of the original two NBA Jam games which took arcades by storm over a decade earlier.

The 2-vs-2 gameplay returns, with the silly dunks and “He’s on fire” we all come to love.

I think the simplicity of the Wii Remote really helped put this game over the top – complete with motion controls – as updated rosters finally saw fans of the series and pro basketball alike rejoice over the updates.

A sticking point for me, however, is LeBron James and his post-Decision roster choice of joining the Miami Heat: a damn near unbeatable team. Use them if you want to act like the “King” himself and cheat your way through the game!!

(Note: I’m a Cleveland Cavaliers fan so this sits worse with me, as my team is handicapped with probably the worst roster in the game, utilizing Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams!)

Like TE and unlike the OG, the 2010 update features the ability to swap your two stars, usually from a selection of 4 players on that team. In this way, the “Big Three” of James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh can all be alternated through with the Heat. (Ahem, the cHeat.)

The graphics are updated, even though the Wii isn’t HD it’s noticeable these are 3-D models this time around and not the usual sprites.

Gameplay, as noted, is as simple as before – pass/shoot or block/steal with two buttons, as the third gives you the infamous “turbo” necessary to make rim-shaking dunks or send an opponent to the floor.

Other extras, such as spin moves, crossovers, and alley-oops were added to the 2010 edition too – and feel more at home than changes made between TE and 2010’s Jam/Showtime spinoffs.

The animations, right off the bat, give you a sense of “Jam” goosebumps when you see (in this case) Kobe Bryant execute a behind-the-back pass on the very first change of possession. The courts and crowds are far more detailed, with attention paid to paint and markings giving each home venue a more personalized feel – ditto for jerseys – than the originals palette-swapping (which was understandable at the time).

The camera adds to the game, with new panning that takes you up with the dunks and “shakes” the screen when slamming it down. The presentation of the original always felt like watching the old “NBA on NBC” broadcasts – also updated to 2010 standards here but retaining the TV-like feel.

Notably, the game still cheats like a mother.

If you ever played the originals, you know your winning streak is in trouble no matter what. Even one of my screen grabs here shows a cheap blocked shot by Pau Gasol, where the computer opponent doesn’t even touch the ball! (In the arcade original the goal was to beat all 27 teams – which by the time you got on a small win streak, the computer would NEVER allow you to have a lead!)

Seriously, this game cheats worse than Mario Kart… but it adds to the authenticity of being a Jam game too. There’s also a plethora of hidden legends in the game, including Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, essentially the cherry on top of what was a great update to a great game, that most people didn’t even know was remade!

Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll

Growing up, parents were always worried about their kids becoming couch potatoes by watching too much TV or playing too many video games.

Along comes the Nintendo Wii in 2006, introducing motion controls which saw you, the gamer, actually move a vehicle on-screen by tilting your controller – a motion that kids were already doing while playing the NES and SNES, but without any true interaction with the console.

The Wii’s motion controls opened the door for physical activity, which opened the door for fitness games and extra peripherals; including one which harkened back to the 8-bit generation and Nintendo’s Power Pad, now aptly named the Wii Balance Board.

The Balance Board launched with Wii Fit, a fitness game, and others followed suit. The list of games developed which supported this add-on were few in number, however. Many were other fitness or dancing games, or another title which simply tacked on the controls for novelty.

Yet, there was one supported game that not only fit the use of the board, it wasn’t your usual add-on or fitness genre title either.

“Step & Roll” continues the strange world of Super Monkey Ball, where monkeys move about a stage while rolling in large hamster-style balls. The stages have short time limits and rotate about as you flail your character like a marble towards a finish line.

On your way to the goal you collect bananas, hit bumpers, or fail and meet your demise.

The short but fast-paced levels are enjoyable, but the addition of the Balance Board as a controller made YOU the monkey!

Now it was up to you to shift your body weight while standing on the board, shimmying and gesturing to get your monkey across the finish line.

The result is often fun or frustrating, with no middle ground. Missing perfection toward hitting the goal is met the same way as using the Wiimote – you just start the level over! Seriously, trying to get back on track in the Super Monkey Ball series is a futile effort in most cases, which translates over to the Balance Board controls too.

However, the board feels somewhat natural and the game gets even more enjoyable as you play with others in the same room. It’s quite possible the best Wii motion-control game to be played with a party not named Wii Sports.

If you have a Balance Board and can track this game down, I recommend doing so. It may not be something you pull out a lot to play, but the few times that you do are worth the experience.

Mega Man 10

Another digital-only release, Mega Man 10 is a direct sequel to the main storyline. As such, it continues the plot of one Dr. Wily and the story somehow still sticks despite this being the 16th title I’ve played in this series! (And I have yet to get to most of the X and any of the Zero titles!)

Now, let me say, for my gripes with Mega Man 9, 10 is a really solid title. I felt most of the weapons were balanced (except that sheep/wool/cloud crap) and being able to replay as different characters (such as Protoman) is really cool.

However, they left out some key abilities from previous iterations, like being able to slide, which I felt took away from this game.

Another change I wasn’t happy about with 9 or 10, is the return to MM1/2 style graphics: the later games in the series looked sharp, including 5 and 6 on NES.

There was no need to strip MM10 down to its bare bones.

Following playing the Genesis release (which was a remake of 1, 2, and 3) I question the move even more. The Sega version was sharp. The Super Nintendo games were sharp. And Mega Man 8 on the original PlayStation was tremendous, almost like playing an anime cartoon.

This felt nostalgic, but it was unnecessary – unless it was deliberate to churn more profit by not getting too fancy with the visuals.

Regardless, if you’re into Mega Man or retro games, this one holds up pretty well. (No wonder this spawned yet another sequel!)

Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary

Amidst the Mario mania for our favorite plumber’s 35th anniversary was a loosely celebrated 25th anniversary for Super Mario Bros. some ten years ago on the original Wii.

To celebrate the milestone Nintendo had a special red console released, along with a re-release of the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario All-Stars collection. The 4-in-1 disc included revamped versions of the first three Super Mario Bros. titles as well as the first stateside appearance of the true Super Mario Bros. 2 which was only released in Japan at the time.

In other words, it was the exact same set of games as they appeared on the SNES cartridge version in the 1990’s.

Naturally, there must’ve been more for the big guy’s birthday, right?

Well, there was a game music compilation CD and a booklet which came with the above physical game release – and this Wii Virtual Console release celebrating the big two-five.

That seems really exciting doesn’t it? Back then it did, and looking back now, after getting a taste of Mario 35 on the Nintendo Switch, retro gamers must be thinking “wow, I need to play Mario 25 now!”

Well, sorry to let you down (as I have a habit of doing sometimes) but the reason I haven’t mentioned much about this game is that there’s not much that was changed or updated to make this much of a special release to play.

It’s Super Mario Bros., with a new date added to the copyright on the title screen and “?” blocks replaced with “25” in them instead.

The only other noticeable tweak is Princess Peach, who upon completion of the game adds another line about pressing “B” to choose your world on the menu screen – you can go straight to the first level of any of the eight worlds, but in the “second quest” or whatever its called when you beat the NES version and everything changes to hyper speed with buzzy beetles in place of goombas.

Actually, that part isn’t too shabby, but I imagine it was included somewhere else in the history of Mario – and its especially underwhelming for those of us who have used cheats or save states to do the same thing in the past.

For someone playing on the Wii?

My guess is if you wanted your SMB fix, then you would’ve already purchased the unadulterated version from the Virtual Console shop, which was a release day title anyway.

Don’t get me wrong: this is still Mario. The controls are tight, and the translation to play a bit more of the levels on a wider screen, but not so much as to ruin the original experience, totally works. It’s a good port.

However, this game was nothing special other than the swapped “25” blocks; essentially something a game hacker could’ve done with a little bit of extra time on their hands.

Check it out at your own risk.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

At my household we decided to dust off an old relic of an accessory known as the Wii Balance Board. In doing so, we started looking up games which supported this century’s version of the NES Power Pad… and in doing so, we found a game that was a blast to play, with or without the accessory!

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is something you’d look twice and shake your head at if you were a time traveler from the 1990’s. No one ever envisioned Nintendo’s main mascot pairing up with the face of their competition. Furthermore, I doubt anyone ever saw the duo teaming up on for an Olympic-themed game.

Yet, all of these oddities come together and simply work. Much like Nintendo’s foray into the kart racing genre, Mario & Sonic really clicks with a well-known cast of characters from both series in a number of events that transcend demographics.

I’m the least bit interested in figure skating, for example, but seeing how it works with the motion controls of a Wiimote and/or the balance board, made for quite the experience. In some cases, you could even get a nice workout in playing each of these events.

While some of the events do not use the board, the ones that do don’t always feel like a tacked on gimmick. Snowboarding even has you turn the board vertically, as to stand on an actual snowboard and shift your weight.

There are many events to try out (as seen in the images below) and most of them are well-balanced and play fairly for anyone picking up the game. It’s likely the most accessible Wii game outside of Wii Sports – so yes, even grandma can give freestyle skiing a try!

The graphics are somewhat dated now if you’re playing the SD Wii console on an HDTV/4K TV, but aside from that technical hurdle, Mario and Sonic could be the definitive balance board game for the console. I highly recommend it, especially if you have someone to share laughs with: it makes for a great inclusion on a game night.

Mega Man 9

After praising the last two iterations of Mega Man games (7 and 8, which were on the SNES and PlayStation respectively) the ninth game in the traditional series takes us way back to Mega Man 1 and 2 visuals and gameplay… sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

A digital-only release and the first in the main series since Mega Man 8 on the Sony PlayStation in 1998, Mega Man 9 is a weird duck of the bunch. Rather than progressing the series, it felt like more of a throwback to the day of old, where, once again, Capcom had not lost their sense of sick humor to torture gamers.

Let me be firm in saying:

This game is stupid hard with all sorts of cheap killing mechanics littered throughout.

Rush reappears to help get through some difficult areas, but gone are the ability to charge up the “mega buster” or slide. You can, however, play with Proto Man too and he does have those abilities… for whatever reason that may be.

Some of the weapons are especially cheesy, as are the bosses you face to acquire them. Concrete Man leaves you with the “concrete shot” which creates a concrete block.

The “Hornet Chaser” is another reach in the series, as Mega Man shoots hornets which sting enemies or retrieves items.

You’ll likely settle on two or three special weapons you’ll use throughout the game, if that, and the rest will be long forgotten – showing how long in the tooth the series was at this point, even with a ten-year hiatus.

Some additions to the series are achievements tacked on and a save menu (in lieu of the password system). There’s also another Mega Man first: a female robot master!

Overall it’s a good look back at how these games began, but I really wish they would’ve stuck with the cartoon/anime style they used on the PSX, which feels like a far superior experience rather than going way back to some boring and drab 8-bit styles.

At least the storyline has a few surprises worthy of Mega Man fans playing through the end of the game as well. Otherwise, casual gamers may be more prone to avoid this like many of the original titles in this series as it offers more in the sake of nostalgia than anything truly “new” (and that despite there being nearly a decade between main series releases!)

Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!

An exclusive to Club Nintendo members, this is supposedly a very difficult game to acquire by legitimate means. It’s also hard to call it a “game” because it’s more or less a minigame of the Wii Punch-Out!! remake I reviewed on the site earlier.

Why it’s not a full game is actually strange, but this is a cool little standalone.

You basically spar with Doc Louis (Little Mac’s trainer) in three different modes.

Some thought was put into making the environment look like the game is “training mode” but playing against Doc is a little more fun than that. (Which is why this works as a standalone special title.)

The voice acting for Doc and his one-liners, while also being a challenging opponent, is a great addition to the series and one any Punch-Out!! fan should play.