High Voltage Hot Rod Show is the third WiiWare game courtesy of High Voltage Software, who are now famous for their upcoming Wii FPS The Conduit. Building upon the tilt-control they toyed with in one of their previous WiiWare games, Gyrostarr, HVS has successfully filled the gap in the racing genre on Wiiware with their latest offering – a short but fun stunt-racing experience.
Here’s how it works: You pick from the available single or local multiplayer or time trial modes, enter your initials, pick a racer/hot rod and a difficulty setting. Bam. A few seconds later you’re in a race. It’s a short, quick process and it’s arguably a big part of what makes Hot Rod Show a game that you can keep coming back to for short bursts of entertainment.
Once you’re in a race, you hold the Wii remote sideways (Nunchuk, Classic and Gamecube controllers are also supported). The 2 button is used to accelerate, A is used to jump and the D-pad acts as a drift button similar to the one from Mario Kart DS (except without the short hop). Tilting the remote is used to steer your hot rod and while it takes a little getting used to, it’s a lot of fun once you get accustomed to the sensitivity.
There are a total of five race tracks in the game. Each one is filled with ramps and boost pads which you can use to perform mid-air stunts (done by giving the remote a shake after performing a jump) and vault yourself through the numerous hoops scattered through the tracks at varying heights. The purpose of the ramps, performing stunts and these hoops is the same – to give you the short burst of speed you’ll need to overtake other racers when you land. Along the way you will also encounter patches of wet mud which you’ll need to avoid if you don’t want to lose momentum.
I stuck with the Wii remote control scheme for the most part, and it felt great. Performing stunts is a fun little challenge where you have to remember not to shake the remote before you’re actually high enough in the air (or you crash). Acquiring the boost upon landing always feels very satisfying, especially when you’re able to maintain it by successfully driving over more boost pads ahead. The ability to steer in mid-air also allows for some very fun tricks like being able to jump around a bend. This is important because going off the track results in an instant crash.
My only criticism in this regard is that every hot rod controls exactly the same. The game pretty much tells you so during one of the tips offered in between races.
Considering High Voltage had to work within the 40 MB (approximately) limitation Nintendo has imposed upon WiiWare games, High Voltage Hot Rod Show looks good. While it’s no Conduit, the game is pleasing to the eyes. The 2D portraits of the racers are great and are sure to get a chuckle or two out of you just because of how intentionally stereotypical they are. They’re funny in the same way Road Rash‘s characters were. Menus are colourful and easy to navigate.
On the 3D side of things, it’s an equally colourful affair. The hot rods themselves sport bright colours and offer a nice contrast to the tracks. The track textures are mostly tileable and you won’t find much detail anywhere, presumably due to the size restriction. However, for those of you who do care, there’s a nice bit of specular mapping on the muddy areas. Unreal 3, eat your heart out.
The boost effects look nice as do the crashes. Each hot rod has its own unique crash animation where it bursts into a colourful bits and I personally found that to be a nice touch. Overall, the art looks good all around and works for the game.
In summary, High Voltage Hot Rod Show is a short but fun affair. If you’re in the mood for some satisfying tilt-controlled racing and are looking for something more akin to Excite Truck than Mario Kart, go ahead and pick this one up. Some might feel that $10 is a little too much, but the game offers a fair amount of replay value thanks to its multiplayer mode and pick up-and-play nature.
Food for thought:
1. An online multiplayer mode would have been nice and offered more value for the 1000 Wii points.
2. Likewise, hot rods with different stats would also have added a little more variety to the game.
3. The ability to control the camera zoom would have been welcomed by those who like being a little closer to the action.
4. Being able to control the pitch of the trucks in mid-air by tilting the remote would have been fun. Being able to stomp on other hot rods this way sounds like a blast.
5. I’m not aware if any developer has done this yet, but the idea of using rumble as a substitute for force feedback with tilt-controls is an interesting one. This could work particularly well when a racing game tries to tell you that it can’t turn any faster or while you’re performing a long drift.
Images courtesy of High Voltage Software.