TWiG 2009-04-20

When the Name Defines the Game

by Mike Schiller

20 April 2009


The people at Nintendo never cease to amaze.  Do you remember Excitebike?  Perhaps you remember playing it, you mastered the timing of flattening out that little bike for perfect landings, you remembered just how long you could keep the turbo jets on before you overheated, maybe you even created a few custom tracks for the game (which, looking back, was a surprisingly forward-looking feature for such an old title).  It was absolutely a good game.

What it wasn’t, really, was exciting.  Even at its fastest, the scrolling of the racetrack was really pretty slow, and you could almost always see obstacles coming way ahead of time, even if you didn’t necessarily have the reflexes to do anything about it.  It was a skill game, not a speed game.  And yet, by way of simply giving it the name “Excitebike”, Nintendo told us it was exciting.  As long as it’s a good enough game, the mere presence of the name offers it a sense of exhilaration that the game on its own simply doesn’t offer.

As such, I’m surprised it took them until the Wii to resurrect the Excite* name.

Lo and behold, they released Excite Truck at launch, and it was one of the most successful launch titles the Wii had to offer—it didn’t blow anyone away, but it was nice to have a Wiimote compatible driving experience right off the bat.  Now, a mere two-and-a-half years later, Excitebots is upon us, and just in case anyone was unsure what it would offer, it carries the subtitle Trick Racing.  It looks like a nice little companion to Mario Kart Wii (which I still unabashedly love), slightly less cartoony but still pretty ridiculous—so far screenshots have come out that feature bots that look like grasshoppers, turtles, and various other animals.  Presumably, the bots have special mods that allow them to take on some of the properties of the animals they represent, and the races look to take advantage of these mods.  Plus, as the trailer after the jump shows, there’s also pies to the face involved.  It could be a lot of fun, really, and the fact that it more or less came out of nowhere makes it a nice little sleeper for the week ahead.

Elsewhere, Jelly Belly has a game coming out this week, which I’m curious about just because I love jelly beans.  The PC has a couple of interesting things on the way, like Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason (a first-person horror experience which probably won’t break any new ground but might be fun anyway) and, yes, Stalin vs. Martians, whose appeal should be obvious from the name.

What are you playing this week? Has a name ever tricked you into thinking something about a game that you wouldn’t have thought otherwise?  Let us know in the comment!

Xbox 360:

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 (21 April)

Nintendo DS:

Hands On! Tangrams (20 April)
101-in-1 Explosive Megamix (21 April)
I Love Horses (21 April)
Jelly Belly: Ballistic Beans (21 April)


Excitebots: Trick Racing (20 April)
Jelly Belly: Ballistic Beans (21 April)
Pennzoil Build-N-Race: Speed Demons (21 April)


Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 (21 April)


Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 (21 April)
Jelly Belly: Ballistic Beans (21 April)


Adventure: Collector’s Edition (Volume 1) (20 April)
Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason (20 April)
Stalin vs. Martians (20 April)
Zeno Clash (21 April)
Dream Day Wedding: Viva Las Vegas (22 April)


...a quiet week…

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article