This has a lot to do with how the game looks. Wii games aren't Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 games, and are sometimes accused of being a bit GameCube 1.5. Nitrobike is N64 1.5 - fuzzy, muddy, jagged and indistinct, full of geriatric effects and Vaseline textures. The way the camera drags you into the picture as you boost is a positive, and the sense of speed and consistency of frame-rate isn't in question, but if you dig out that Excite Truck disc again - as we did - the difference is alarming. One is full of rich, detailed graphics and effects. It's not this one.
Across the game's nine tiers there's undoubtedly a fair amount of racing to be done, with enough variety to stop you tiring of one particular discipline, but the game's various flaws conspire again and again to push you away. You dominate some tracks but get thrashed in others - the main difference being where you couldn't avoid contact with silly objects or other racers because of bottlenecks or the camera not showing you what's coming up. There's a decent stab at a reward system, with Achievements of sorts that unlock stat boosts, or even mini-games like Bowling, where you race down a course and smash into a barrier, your rider being flung the remaining distance to the ten pins.
Where Nitrobike does exceed its contemporary is in multiplayer, because as well split-screen there's six-player online racing. Except you'll struggle to get anywhere unless you coordinate carefully with your friends, because the "Auto-match" option wants you to input specific game-type and size parameters for each search. For all we know there could be dozens of other people sitting there staring at their "Attempting to match with other players" screens just as we have done for two evenings in a row, but without the option to widen the search or meet in lobbies the most likely outcome is a lot of drumming fingers before giving up. If you do find someone, often they're alone with you on a big track, and if one of you messes up then it can be very hard to close the gap again, discouraging risk-taking and theatrics off ramps, which are surely things the game ought to reward.
Nitrobike does have redeeming features. The hoop levels are enough to steal an hour here and there and the satisfaction of besting one is considerable, and there's no denying that developer Left Field Productions has a good handle on the Wiimote, which means we do. Plus it does well by default - there simply isn't much competition. But when the game finds itself up against one cheaper, much better year-old rival and fails to make any in-roads, it's hard to justify sending you out to buy it. Better to hang around and see if Nintendo re-commissions Monster Games for another round of Trucks, because this certainly fails to excite.
5 / 10