Friday 29 May 2015

Excitebike (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1984

Excitebike is a motocross racing game that was a NES launch title in North America.

There are three modes including Selection A where you must first qualify and then complete each track in a specific amount of time. The main control scheme is simple but effective as the A button accelerates while B turbo boosts. You must watch your temperature as if you boost too much you'll overheat and need to pull over for a few seconds. Driving over an arrow icon helps to reset your temperature gauge though. The game has brilliant subtleties when going off ramps as pressing Left on the d-pad will launch you into the air with greater height. The aim is to then land with both wheels on the ground; if not, you'll bounce and lose speed. The first two tracks are easy with few obstacles and a lenient time limit. Track 3 introduces roadblocks that you can wheelie over. Track 4 has overhead platforms, more obstacles and clusters of hills. Finally, track 5 is fiendish with ramps and steep slopes everywhere! Obstacles are purposely placed to slow your momentum and you'll need almost a perfect race to complete it. Selection B mode is the same except you have to contend with other CPU players that can knock you off your bike. It's trickier but great fun as you can clip them with your back tire to send them crashing! The final mode is Design where you can create your own custom tracks; back in 1984 this was mind-blowing! It's a really nice feature but unfortunately you can't save your courses and load them again at a later date. Also, each track piece is represented by a letter so you'll definitely need the manual on-hand to guide you.

Excitebike is a short but challenging game that still plays extremely well today. The gameplay mechanics have real depth that were ahead of their time and the addition of a track designer make this an early classic in the NES library.

Random trivia: In 2011, the game was remade in full 3D on the Nintendo 3DS and it allowed you to save up to 32 custom tracks.

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