The granddaddy of wacky items is the wrench, which temporarily transforms your bot into a two-legged abomination (a spider running on only two legs?!). The gas button does not work in this state; rather, you have to twist the remote side-to-side to make your bot take speedy steps. While running, your bot can jog up steps, grind rails, kick opponents off of the track, and launch off of cliffs and take the form of a glider. Steering while twisting rhythmically can be tricky, but your bot is pretty much invincible, so you don't have to worry about crashing through trees that would otherwise stop you dead. Trees, cacti, and other impediments are scattered throughout the internationally flavored tracks, which will have you launching over icebreakers in Finland and speeding along the Great Wall in China. Each locale has a few different courses that vary in difficulty, but when you've seen them all you'll wish there were more available. The saturated color scheme fits the wacky aesthetic perfectly, and it's easy to spot obstacles even with the generous speed blur. It also suits the goofy minigames, which would look absurd in any other context.
And speaking of absurd, why not play a hand of poker while you're racing? In the separate mode Poker Race, it's all about forming the best poker hand that you can to earn stars and win. Poker tracks are much shorter and less cluttered, which is good because you'll need all of your brainpower to decide which card you want to aim for and steer appropriately. You begin with four cards in your hand and will soon encounter a line of five cards hovering on the track. You can pick one up by driving through it, and it will fill your blank spot or replace the card of your choice. You can choose to "play" your hand and cash it in for stars, or you can hold out for better cards. This mode is more of a novelty than anything else, given that it lacks the diverse challenge of the proper races. Nevertheless, it's mildly entertaining and makes a good candidate for some of Excitebots' interesting online features.
Yes, Excitebots has online features, a welcome addition after the local-only action of Excite Trucks. Of course, the most robust option is the six-player online races. These are exciting, lag-free affairs that pit you against a menagerie of human-controlled bots as you race for honor and stars. The only connectivity drawback is that you might end up joining a lobby while a race is in session and have to wait until it is over, but races are short enough that this isn't too onerous. At the beginning of each online race, you wager stars against your performance in the race. When the race is over, your winnings are determined by a spinning cube with multipliers on each side (0x, 1x, 3x, and so on). How good these values are depends on your position in the standings, so losers risk losing their bets while winners cash in. The multipliers feel pretty generous, so unless you're regularly coming in last, the odds are that you'll profit from online play. The other online feature lets you send challenges to your friends (or to your own console for local challenges). After you complete a single-player race, you can send a replay or a score challenge to a friend and attach some of your own stars as a reward. Your friend can earn the stars by watching the full replay or beating your score. This is a clever way of encouraging competition and offers a fun incentive to go back and perform high-scoring runs.
Mama Hummingbird's gonna be so proud!
The single-player cups, local versus races (only two players, unfortunately), and online multiplayer all add up to a substantial amount of Trick Racing at a good price. The bevy of unlockables, including a harder difficulty mode for the truly dedicated, provides fun incentives to earn more stars. The Poker Race and minigame mode offer shallow diversions, but the core racing is where Excitebots really succeeds. Though the actual racing is fairly simplistic on its own, the huge amount of wacky stuff thrown into each race more than makes up for it. Excitebots is always challenging you to race faster, perform more stunts, and nail more minigames, and it constantly rewards your efforts with a stream of stars. The generous rewards and the sheer fun of racing make Excitebots an engaging, exciting blast.