|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: High Voltage||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: High Voltage||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 19, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
If the name High Voltage sounds familiar to you, it's because the developers have been getting a whole lot of attention lately from the Nintendo camp. Their soon-to-be-released first-person shooter, The Conduit, has been in the limelight for about the last year or so, yet High Voltage has set aside time to work on a handful of WiiWare titles as well. The latest to hit Nintendo's online store is High Voltage's Hot Rod Show, an arcade racer somewhat reminiscent of the Micro Machines series. It's fun, fairly easy to jump into, but is it worth your 1000 Wii Points?
Hot Rod Show is broken up into three main gameplay types: Championship (the game's version of Gran Prix), Time Trials, and Multiplayer. High Voltage has covered the gamut of control options, allowing players to use the Wii Wheel, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, a GameCube controller, or the Classic Controller. The Wii Wheel actually handles fairly well, but it still doesn't offer a level of control that can match the other options. Ultimately, we opted for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk set-up, and it offers a comfortable and enjoyable way to play.
The Championship mode is fairly brief, as it paces you through three random tracks (of which the game offers a total of six). There are three levels of difficulty - Easy, Medium, and Hard - though you must complete Easy mode in order to unlock Medium, and so on. Championship mode is a fun diversion and it definitely offers a challenge (especially on the higher difficulties), but it's an experience that wears thin rather quickly.
The Time Trials mode allows you to simply race through an unlimited number of laps in an attempt to beat your own best records. There are no other racers (or ghosts) in this mode, and it's an option that adds very little to the overall package.
The real value of Hot Rod Show comes from its multiplayer offering. You can play with up to four players in local, split-screen races, but there's no online whatsoever (which we found especially odd, since the game offers an ESRB warning about the game's rating during online interaction). Playing with friends is always a treat, but again, the gameplay gets old pretty fast. With only six tracks to choose from and few differences between them, you'll likely find yourself playing a couple of races and then moving on to something else. The lack of online multiplayer is a real bummer, since competition with strangers (something I like to refer to as "the pwnage factor") inevitably encourages replay.
Regardless of which mode you choose, the tracks are fairly basic, with little to see and little variety from track to track. The vehicles (mini Monster Trucks and big rigs) all handle exactly the same - something the game tells you outright - and the differences between racers is 100-percent aesthetic. In multiplayer, you can select the number of laps for each race (from two to 100), but that's about the extent of customization, outside of raising or lowering the volume of the music and sound effects.
The focus of Hot Rod Show is, undoubtedly, the ramp-and-trick system. Similar to other arcade/kart racers, there are boost markers along tracks, and hitting each one is essential to success in the higher difficulties of the Championship mode. More importantly, however, hitting ramps and tricking while in midair will score you bigger boosts, and it's an element of the game that is, admittedly, somewhat addictive. You can jump (with the B button) over mud pits to keep from slowing down or jump while hitting a ramp to get more air. If you can get high enough to reach the star markers, you'll get a super boost that lasts for a good, long while, giving you an edge over the competition (not to mention making you a hazard should you run into other racers).