Let's be honest - there aren't many real reasons to wipe the dust from your Nintendo Wii and boot its poor innards into action any more. Between the kiddy overload and workout bonanzas, 2010 hasn't exactly been the year of the big Wii hitters, and our Mario Kart disc hasn't been ejected for quite a while. How appropriate, then, that the next Wii game you should pick up is also a racing game - indeed, the glorious Trackmania has found a new home.
Not much has changed since the various PC versions, yet in many ways Trackmania was always meant to be a console game, and this Wii edition definitely backs up that theory. Going for a quick (and usually mental) spin with the Wii Remote feels wonderful, and most of the game modes from Trackmania United are in place to provide you with hours of entertainment. The loading times have taken quite a hit, sullying the PC version's great sense of flow, but this is still a Wii game you very much need in your life.
Trackmania takes place over hundreds of bite-sized races, with the biggest awards going to the fastest times achieved. Each level has a bronze, silver, gold and special author medal to pick up, and finding the best routes to burn rubber along is the key to unlocking everything the game has to offer. There are a variety of different vehicles and racing styles to play through, and each has its own distinct yet awesome feel. Since every little touch counts, it's important that the player always feels in full control, and this definitely shines through.
Control is only half of the TrackMania experience, however - there's also a huge dollop of zroooooom involved. The sense of speed is phenomenal, especially when firing through boost pads and launching off ramps. Finding that balance between staying firmly into control and unleashing the beast is tricky stuff, but TrackMania pulls it off effortlessly.
Don't bank on completing TrackMania Wii any time soon - there is far too much to see and do, and that's only where the single player content is concerned. You've got hundreds of levels, many with multiple routes and sneaky shortcuts to discover. A ranking system allows you to level up as medals are collected, unlocking new tracks and cars. Three different game modes are on offer too - Race is your standard 'get to the end sharpish', Platform is more of a 'get to the end without bailing', and Puzzle sees you putting the track together first, then racing for the fastest time.
With so much content to play through, it's a good thing that the level design is so varied and brilliant. The first batch of tracks is a little tame, giving you the chance to learn the ropes and get a feel for how it all plays out. Eventually however, the environments get pretty mental, with loop-de-loops, corkscrews, huge jumps, zigzag tracks and a whole lot more. Graphically TrackMania Wii isn't exactly a work of art, but honestly you'll be concentrating far too hard to even notice.
As if there wasn't enough to be getting on with already, there's also a Trackmania shop in which you can spend the coppers you collect during races. More tracks, level editor pieces and car skins can be purchased, although the latter aren't exactly the most exciting aspect of the game. There are also achievements to unlock, providing even more reason to keep plugging away at the TM world.
With the level editor mentioned, let's delve into how well it works on the Wii. The answer is: very well indeed. Placing track pieces is as easy as pointing at the preferred spot on the map and pressing the A button. Pieces can be selected via a menu at the bottom, as can technical actions such as undoing the last placement and editing those blocks you've already planted down. Any section of your track can be tested on the fly, and it's very simple for anyone to create something entirely enjoyable.
Here comes the big one - is the multiplayer up to scratch? TrackMania Wii provides up to four player splitscreen, as well as online racing for up to eight players. The local splitscreen is great fun and may well become your new Mario Kart, or at least a new experience to compliment the plumber. The online options are also great, with the ability upload and download user-created tracks... but unfortunately, there's a distinct lack of players online. We tried in vain for hours to get some proper online action going, but the most we even came up with was a four player race off. This was always going to be a problem for the Wii, and it's here that the PC edition trumps TrackMania Wii completely.
Still, apart from the vacant online multiplayer, there is so much to love about TrackMania Wii - although this edition does suffer a couple of technical issues not present in the PC version. The loading times are torturous, with each track taking a good ten seconds to boot up. This wouldn't be too bad if you could jump from track to track, but after each race the game throws you back into the track selection menu, prolonging the wait even further. TrackMania has always been about that rapid flow of action, so these lengthy pauses destroy much of what the series is about.
The menu controls are also an utter mess. Pause the game during play, and you'll be able to control the menu with the Wii Remote held sideways. Yet go back to the main menus, and the game now wants you to point and click, with the d-pad controls now rotated to fit a vertical hold. It may not sound like much, but swapping the way you hold the controller over and over is pretty irritating.
TrackMania Wii is a fantastic racer that will provide many hours of excellent single player and local multiplayer action. If you can get a bunch of friends to buy a copy too, you'll also have plenty of fun bashing around online.
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