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Excitebike

The cover art for Excitebike, the title that defined racing games forever.

Excitebike is a motocross-racer game released first in Japan, and then released by Nintendo in the U.S. in 1985 as a launch for the NES. It's a very simple concept; you simply race by yourself or against others through a series of trakcs of your choosing, and try to either get the best time or simply come in ahead of as many opponents as you can. You can also build a custom stage for one sitting at a time.

I first saw what this game looked like when the Wiiviewer reviewed it as a part of his Playchoice-10 series, and I thought it looked...average. As I was looking for a game to review for a simple project, I came across this title in the emulator menu and wondered if it was any good.

So, I just jumped in and experimented, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It's actually a pretty advanced racing game for the early gaming time period. Basically, you can move up and down the track and use two kinds of acceleration; one makes you go very quickly, but it raises your temperature level at a wicked rate. One is a bit slower, but the temp climbs gradually. If your temperature mazes out and you don't give it a break, then you're stuck for a few seconds until your bike can work properly again. However, along the tracks are some arrows, and driving over them brings your temperature back down to normal, which means you have to have good memory and maneuvering to take advantage of them (and there are fewer and fewer as the tracks get harder).

Logically, there are also a ton of potential obstacles in your way. These could be anything from mud patches to hurdles to mounds. Some can help or hurt, depending on how you take them. For example, if you hit a vertical ramp just right, you can clear a pretty big chunk of track, sometimes even lines of obstacles that would hugely slow you down otherwise.

As you can probably tell, Excitebike is one of those games that needs you to think about a bunch of different things at once. It can be pretty frustrating at first, but after a while, you start to get a rhythm with the levels of speed, and it all comes down to pattern and skill. You have to try to avoid slowdowns and tumbles as much as possible, and have a strategy for every situation to get as good a time as you can manage.

This game is a unique one; it's a pretty silly idea, and tricky gameplay, even after you get the hang of it. Yet, that's kind of the beauty of it. It's rewarding when you set the #1 time on a course, and when you get through one without a single tumble. However, it's not a multiplayer game, so the real question is whether or not it's worth it for just different types of solo gameplay. My basic opinion is that if you (and any of your gamer friends) like racing games, you should buy this one. Otherwise, it's probably best to play online instead.

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