FAST - Racing League
- WiiWare - 1000 WiiWare Points (Ł7.00).
Presumably, if Nintendo mothballs the F-Zero series for long enough, technology can finally catch up and we can live out our reckless racing dreams (before crashing and burning like a futuristic James Dean on the first corner). Until then: FAST - Racing League.
Until you actually get your hands on Shin'en's glossy WiiWare effort, it promises you the world - and you believe it. Blazing speed, flawless visuals, smooth, responsive tilt controls and neat phase-shifting mechanics make it the new poster child for Nintendo's much-maligned download service.
It even promises depth, and boasts 21 race challenges, along with four-player split-screen racing and a challenging league-based career structure. What's not to like?
Despite checking every possible box, the one thing Shin'en apparently forgot to get right was playability. Right from the start, your AI opponents scorch past you at the first opportunity and appear immune to even the slightest error. The first time you fail to hit a boost pad cleanly, they leave you for dust and keep on going; by the time you've finished the third and final lap you're lucky to get nil points.
You'd imagine practice would make perfect, and to a certain extent it does. You'll get the measure of the black and white phase system and remember when to toggle the d-pad to gain maximum boost speed. You'll even get better at picking up boost tokens and consistently beat your own lap time, but getting good enough to win a race takes an extraordinary amount of effort.
Thanks to this vertical learning curve, there's no smooth route into the game, which ultimately means playing the same tracks over and over until you finally crack it - or just crack and go do something more rewarding. If you posses superhuman racing skills, FAST - Racing League is the game for you. The rest of us can mull over what might have been.
The Avatar Legends
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 240 Microsoft Points
Under normal circumstances, the addition of the word 'Avatar' to an Xbox Indie title is the gaming equivalent of ramming red hot poisoned needles under your fingernails. Remarkably, Barkers Crest's latest spares its audience such a cruel fate.
The Avatar Legends is a half-decent RPG in its own right. I won't lie; the by-the-numbers fetch quests and wobbly, one-note combat hardly belie its low-budget indie status - but that doesn't stop it from being a mildly enjoyable button-masher.
The game's saving grace is largely the emphasis on sharp dialogue and, by extension, its ability to motivate you to wander off and do things that wouldn't otherwise waste your time on. It's not a bad-looking game world, either, though the fact that's it's populated with Avatars never feels like a plus point.
Creative types can also fashion their own twisted RPG adventures and share them with unsuspecting friends. Barely being capable of creating a slice of toast, I can't comment on its usability, but I have it on good authority that it's intuitive and allows you to create characters, dialogue, quests and environments from the ground up.
The six-player online multiplayer, though, wasn't exactly working as expected when we tested it, so it's a case of buyer beware on that one. Apparently you can't have everything in life for two pounds, but if you don't mind its rough edges, love XP grinding and have a creative spirit, there's fun to be had in the bargain basement.