Version tested: Wii
A warning to all trend-conscious Wii owners: rubbishy mini-game compilations are so last season. The latest fashion for autumn Y2K8 is rubbishy driving games, preferably with a futuristic twist. Or so suggests the latest pile of wretched old tat to land on my desk, of which 75 per cent consists of rubbishy driving games. Two-thirds with a futuristic twist.
One of them isn't too bad, to be fair. Another one almost makes it into the realms of mediocre. But the third is less playable than tennis on a trampoline and seven thousand times less fun. Just to top things off, the remaining 25 per cent is made up of a rubbishy mini-game compilation. Well done everyone.
Time to take a look at what's strolling down the catwalk this season, then. As Gok Wan would say, "Let me feel your bangers, it's all right I'm gay." Or rather, "Let's get going, gorgeous!"
It's always worrying when the developer can't even be bothered to think up a name for their game and ends up going literal. Here we have Off Road, the latest effort from the studio which brought us Football Game and Shoot Things. Probably.
Off Road is officially licenced, at least - there are Ford and Land Rover logos on the box, and proper cars in the game. They are joined by ugly visuals, terrible AI and pathetic physics. Not all of the cars handle badly; some of them handle appallingly, and as the game progresses you can unlock vehicles which handle awfully, shoddily, dreadfully and horrifically.
Theoretically, you steer by holding the Wii remote horizontally and tilting it left and right. In practice, the slightest of nudges will send your car swerving around like it's being driven by a flailing shark who's caught his fins in the wheel. The cars appear to have been made of PVC and filled with helium, judging by the way they float across the track and spring bouncily off obstacles.
There are ice, desert and water environments to drive around, though due to the aforementioned handling these might as well be margarine, extra virgin and WD-40. The races are utterly tedious. It's enough of a struggle trying to make your car go in a straight line, let alone worrying about opponents who zoom off right away at the start of the race never to be seen again.
There's a half-baked attempt to offer a range of game options - tournament, arcade and career modes, checkpoint and slalom challenges and so on. But none of them are enjoyable; they merely represent different kinds of tedious, with great dollops of frustration mixed in. There is also a split-screen multiplayer mode where you can only see half of your car at any given moment.
Off Road is not as hateful as, say, RealPlay Racing, but you still shouldn't buy it.