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www.compuexpert.com home of 48 Hour Madness!!

Steve (Bane) Rhoades July 14, 2000 Review Feedback

Excitebike 64

Since I've already used the perfect announcer intro in my Motocross Madness 2 review, I've got nothing as near as catchy an introduction for this review; so without any further delay, I present to you my opinions on Excitebike 64:

First of all, it is an extremely hard game. Novice difficulty presented next to no challenge, but after that, things can get a bit grisly. I'm getting ahead of myself, however, so allow me to start at the beginning.

There is a helpful little tutorial in the beginning for the...beginner. Although the tutorial is completely boring, there are two reasons to play it: First, the last couple lessons teach some advanced turning techniques that prove quite valuable. Second, completing the tutorial unlocks one of the "secrets" of the game. I say "secrets" because they aren't hidden, just locked. Perhaps the coolest secret: the entire original Excitebike from the NES. The last secret might be cooler, but I don't want to spoil it for you.

The controls of Excitebike take a bit of getting used to. I'd recommend starting with either Jumpin' Jim Rivers or Sarah Sugar Hill, as they are the two easiest bikers to start out with. Even with one of these two, cornering is an art form that takes much rehearsal to master. Jumping can also challenge the novice biker. I should rephrase that, actually -- jumping is relatively easy; landing is the challenge. Due to physics that aren't exactly Newtonian, a bad landing does not always equal pain for bike and rider. However, landing on a downward slope at a proper angle helps maintain speed. Through leaning backward or forward, speed and distance can be regulated. Mastering this technique may take a bit of effort. Overall, a couple of hours will make most anyone a fairly decent racer.

After the tutorial, the main portion of the game consists of the novice, amateur, and pro difficulty levels. When setting out, only the bronze round of the novice difficulty level is open. To unlock the silver round, one must finish a season in the bronze round in first place, overall. Continuing along in this manner will eventually get you to the platinum round of the pro difficulty, provided you've got what it takes to get there. The bronze and silver rounds contain tracks that are not too difficult. The gold and platinum rounds contain much more difficult tracks, but the gold round also contains my favorite track in the entire game, "The Gravel Pit." What can I say; I'm a sucker for insane amounts of air.

Overall, the track design on Excitebike 64 is pretty good. There are two types of tracks during the bronze-platinum rounds. The first type is the stadium/supercross type tracks. Bales of hay on the sides...mounds of dirt for leaping -- you know what I mean. Starting from the first course, a simple oval, these three-lap runs only get better. Even this is quite fun to play on, due to how well the ramps are done. In fact, I would say that is what makes the levels so good, for the most part. There are large varieties of different ramps, jumps, and obstacles. The indoor levels may look fairly similar, but they all feel quite unique.

It is actually the other type of course that lends itself to the large variety of track designs, however. These courses are of the "cross country" variety, over various types of terrain. A couple favorites of mine include a desert run called "Canyon Chasm." I'm sure you can figure out why I like it. The course is just a blast, aside from chasm jumping, anyway. As I mentioned above, I am also a big fan of "The Gravel Pit," as massive air, well-done design, and a couple of extra fun shortcuts make it a biker's dream. I still can't set any records for time on it, though.

Overall, there are twenty courses, spread over the five rounds. Of course, if that is not enough for you, there is an excellent and easy to use track editor. Understandably, the only tracks you can make are the ordinary stadium type. You can choose from banked or normal turns, about twelve different ramps, and three surfaces (dirt, mud, or sand) for the course. Of course, there is also the ability to create your own ramps. Unfortunately, both the beginning and end of the piece have to be at an altitude of zero, but within the length of the piece the altitude can dip or rise all over the place. I was able to create a pretty decent course after a couple of tries, but the first couple attempts all had ramps that resulted in the dreaded "bike-in-the-crowd syndrome."

Now comes the special/secret tracks. Two of them are immediately unlocked; the rest take some work. The first is the desert -- similar to the Baja events on Motocross Madness 2, the Desert is a journey into randomness. On a randomly generated desertscape with randomly placed gates (in the form of small fires), it creates a new experience every time. For those of you that read my Motocross Madness 2 review, you may remember that I was a big fan of the randomness that Baja events offered. The Desert even has a couple of pros and cons over the Baja. On the plus side is the fact that it is much easier to stay on your bike, and that there is much less view-obstructing (and crash-causing) vegetation. The negatives are the fact that it is completely easy to get first place, for the most part (no difficulty levels for Desert); and while there may be infinite possibilities, they are all in the same desert that looks pretty identical. A bit of visual variety is always a good thing.

The Stunt Course is up next. Now, it sounds like something that would be extremely fun, considering my opinions on massive air and tricks (see
my Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (N64) review). Against all odds, however, I find this pretty boring. The controls for the tricks are not the most innovative (they are comparable to the special moves of Street Fighter games), and the air really isn't that massive. I've only given the Stunt Course a couple runs, and I doubt I will end up back there any time soon.

The next special track is the original Excitebike from the NES. I was a huge fan of it when it was originally released, and I remain so. Unfortunately, I also remain quite horrible at it.

After that comes the strangest of the special tracks: Soccer. You heard me: Soccer. There is a gigantic soccer ball, the players are split into two teams, and they ram the ball in an attempt to get it into the opposing goal. It sounds like it would be completely lame, but I had a fairly good time playing it. I prefer the regular races, though.

Next comes the Hill Climb. It's pretty self-explanatory, but I'll explain it for you anyway: there's a big, steep hill, and you have to climb it (on your bike, of course). It's pretty tough, and not too fun, but kind of an interesting change of pace. This leaves one final secret, but it is way too cool for me to mention at this point in time. Trust me; you will like it.

So that pretty much wraps up your single player options (aside from Soccer, which is multiplayer). The only other multiplayer pleasures for the Excitebiker are exhibition races and custom track races. You can race exhibition-style on any of the races from the four rounds, on any difficulty. You can make the races up to six laps long. You are limited to four bikers at a time, human or AI controlled. Multiplayer is a world of fun, because you can "gladiate" (in the words of my friend) your fellow racers, and as we all know, causing pain to friends via video games is a very special joy.

Of course, this all looks rather pretty. The stadium courses do suffer a bit because of similarity, but the variety of the cross-country helps a lot. The riders and bikes are all brightly colored; a little too bright, but decent. Crashes can be pretty entertaining, but not nearly so much as on Motocross Madness 2. There is a certain type of crash that I have dubbed "the sun exploding again". Certain walls, when properly nudged, cause a certain explosive death, thus earning the nickname. On the sound front, there are some ups and downs. The music contains a really terrible rap song, and then some fairly decent background music for the race. The incessant engine sounds can get a bit annoying, but they are covered by the slightly less annoying commentator and background music.

A quick sentence that deserves it's own paragraph: the game ran with nary a technical issue.

So there you have it...my look at Excitebike 64 is at an end. For the lazy people that just skipped down to the end, the game is quite good and very challenging. The graphics are pretty good, the sound is decent, and the game is technically sound.

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