Hot Wheels. Hell yeah. The joy of pushing a toy car around isn’t something a videogame can ever capture, but it can come close! Being a licensed game, it’s easy to be skeptical of this. Thankfully, rather than trying to make a quick buck, Firebrand, developers of Trackmania Wii, have put together a great Hot Wheels package here. Track Attack has a good variety of content, with 5 game modes, a track editor and 4 player split screen, there’s some fun to be had.
The name means business, the tracks are absolutely the highlight of the game, and they actually attack you. Each track is covered in detail, constant elevation changes, obstacles, power ups, and environmental hazards. They all have multiple paths you can take and some tracks even have giant creatures walking around that do different things on each lap. Watching a spider tower over the track helps create the feeling that you’re driving a tiny Hot Wheels car.
Track Attack is controlled with the Wii Wheel like any decent Wii racer, and like most it’s responsive and accurate. However the handling isn’t the games strong point. My main problem with it is that there isn’t much direct control through sharp corners; you have to slow down before the warning signs that you’re going wide kick in. Initially it feels like you’ll make a corner at full speed, but then the car stops turning the same way and slides out, forcing you wide. When the rear of the car slides out there’s nothing you can do to correct it, it feels like a canned animation. The solution is to lift off the throttle or brake much earlier than it seems necessary. The collision detection when landing from a jump also feels a bit odd. Like any game with its own physics, you get used to it, but it’s difficult to keep momentum going. Hitting the walls doesn’t really slow you down though, so there’s always that option.
Game modes include Race, Elimination, Hot Lap, Checkpoints, and Token Grab. Race and Elimination are basically the same thing, except opponents get KO’d after each lap in Elimination. Hot Lap requires you to beat a certain time over a lap. Checkpoint races put a good spin on things: with checkpoints all over the track, it changes the way you drive and feels pretty fun. Token Grab is a big change, it takes place on brand new levels that are similar to the battle arenas of Mario Kart. The goal is to drive around everywhere to collect as many tokens as you can in the time limit; you’ll often have to use jumps to get to high platforms and plan out a good route to get the maximum out of this mode. It’s a different kind of challenge and keeps the game fresh.
There’s a whopping 36 Hot Wheels cars to choose from, the controls for them all feel pretty similar, but they all look radically different. Tokens you collect in the game can be used to upgrade any of the vehicles. Oddly I found the fastest car in the game is one that has had every stat fully upgraded, except top speed. Too much top speed makes jumps very punishing, as your car usually flies way over the landing point and glitches into an invisible wall and loses a ton of momentum even when landing on a normal part of the track.
The graphics are quite good, nothing groundbreaking but above average for a Wii racer. The core engine is a bit basic, but the colours shine bright and the environments have a lot of detail in them. The framerate isn’t great, but it’s solid and amazingly still holds up in 4-player split screen. Unfortunately, there’s no online mode, but the multiplayer is still impressive – 4-player gaming is something that’s been shunned by developers lately, and it’s good to see it back here. As well as standard racing there’s a special Team Race mode here, as well as Elimination and Token Grab. You can also race your friends in tracks that you’ve made yourself in the track editor.
The track editor is very intuitive: it lets you draw out a map of a track with the Wii remote, then when you’ve got your layout down you can choose what pieces go where, and put in loops and boosts to your liking. If you’re unsure if the track will work or not, you can race on it straight away while still staying in the track editor. Don’t expect much visual flair in the track creation mode, the background is largely empty and the colour of the track is the same the whole way through, but this is still a very cool feature that you don’t see very often.
Hot Wheels Track Attack is overall a great package, and despite the flaws in its gameplay engine, it’s still fun to play if you don’t take it too seriously. This is because the game doesn’t emphasise high precision driving. All of the challenges are pretty easy, and I barely shrugged my shoulders on my way to fully completing the game. Hot Wheels is about tiny cars and huge tracks, and this game does a good job bringing that to life.