3D Classics: ExciteBike
- Free until July 7th. Ł5.40/$5.99 thereafter.
Unlike a lot of the NES-era titles, Excitebike is one of the few that continues to be almost as entertaining now as it was nearly three decades ago. No, really.
OK, it doesn't exactly rival Trials for the title of best stunt bike racing game anymore, but there's a depth and accessibility to the game's design that still make it feel fresh and fun.
And with slightly superfluous 3D depth effects applied to the game's functional-but-appealing visuals (now in widescreen!), there's more reason than usual to go back and wallow in its addictive allure. It's also free for the next few weeks, so get in quick.
Gameplay is the same as it ever was, with two distinct modes to meddle with: the Selection A solo time trial and the Selection B races against AI racers. The 'excitement', if you can still call it that, comes from mastering the angle of your landing and judging the exact momentum you need to avoid the obstacles.
Basic stuff by today's standards, obviously, but that doesn't mean it's no longer fun. However, it is a shame there's no online leaderboard or any way to share your track creations, especially for a game that is eventually going to sell for a premium price.
Right now, though, Excitebike represents a pleasing - if not essential - example of how Nintendo is planning to overhaul some of its true retro treasures.
Super Mario Land
It's somewhat fitting that the game which kicked off the whole Game Boy era for Nintendo should be present at the opening of the eStore. Woo hoo!
As any Nintendo veteran will know, it was incredible at the time to have a fully-fledged Mario title on a handheld machine. Super Mario Land arrived in 1989, remember, only a few years after Game & Watch, and it was as good as handheld gaming got.
Even its monochrome visuals didn't dampen the enthusiasm, mainly because the faithfulness to the NES-style gameplay was so strong. And then there were those whistle-along tunes. The tunes.
But Gunpei Yokoi's take on Mario was also a pretty brief affair, with just 12 relatively compact levels spread across the four worlds. Even average players could probably romp through it inside an hour.
For the completist, this is a chance to see what cutting edge handheld platforming looked like in the eighties. Those wanting the real deal would be better off holding out for Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, or the inevitable point when Nintendo starts issuing 3D ports of its NES and SNES classics.