Heracles Chariot Racing (WiiWare) - Review by Chris
As each week passes, the library of titles available to download from the WiiWare service continues to grow, giving home to many weird and wonderful titles. However, if you are a racing fan you will have undoubtedly noticed the lack of content within that genre, which is strange given that a racing game would be an ideal inclusion for the service. Thankfully, however, Neko Entertainment has stepped up to the plate and have developed and published Heracles Chariot Racing, hoping to provide a worthwhile alternative to some of the Wii's more illustrious kart racers complete with a unique twist and some charming presentation.
To begin with, it is worth noting that Heracles Chariot Racing received a retail release on the Playstation 2 back in 2007. For that reason, it does seem like a strange title to bring to the WiiWare service but luckily, Neko Entertainment have managed to cram everything from the original version into the WiiWare one and as such, it makes for a very good package given the price you'll be paying for it. Heracles Chariot Racing is, as the name suggests, all about racing through the use of chariots. Whereas many Wii owners may be used to kart racing, this has the unique twist of being the only racer to incorporate chariots as your mode of transport. However, they are not horse-drawn, as you'd expect from a chariot, and in the end, do feel very similar to other kart racers so there is no worry of becoming alienated by the choice of vehicle but the experience is diluted a bit as you never truly feel like you are piloting a chariot around the tracks.
Like other racers, the premise here is simple: there is a championship mode where players will race around a series of tracks in one of 3 available cups in the hope of becoming the greatest charioteer. In the hope of doing so, players will pick from one of a cast of 9 available characters, ranging from title character Heracles, known as the greatest of the Greek heroes, to the likes of other ancient Greek mythological characters such as Medusa, the Minotaur and Poseidon, with each of these characters boasting their own specific traits for racing. The tracks on offer have been designed in such a way so as to maintain a competitive racing environment, and this will become even more evident in the higher difficulty settings that are available if you feel that you are winning too easily. Also pushing that competitive edge are the genre stalwart attacks which litter the tracks range from the likes of Zeus' lightning bolt, to homing attacks, to tridents. These attacks are the basics that you'd find in any racer similar to this, such as the Wii's very own Mario Kart, yet they don't feel as fresh or exciting as they do in the aforementioned title perhaps because of this being a downloadable title instead of a retail release. That's not to say that they don't lend themselves to exciting races as, with the difficulty on the highest setting, you'll constantly be trying to manage your own attacks while dodging those of the competitors in the hope of keeping that illustrious first place. The main item holding the game back, from a single player perspective, is the lack of racing though. There are 3 cups but only 10 tracks with the final cup, the Gold Cup, being run over all 10 previous tracks. It's not a really bad choice but it's bound to annoy players who were hoping for something new for the final races.
The game also comes with robust multiplayer options allowing you and up to 3 others, in split screen mode, to go head to head in races on the 10 available tracks but also incorporating a battle mode that throws you into an arena and has you duke it out with your friends. It's simple but makes for a fantastic package, especially given the low price tag.
The game makes simple use of the Wii-mote and Nunchuk combination, with the Wii-mote handling your acceleration and your use of weapons, while the Nunchuk is used for steering, braking and jumping. It's a simple yet effective setup and one that thankfully doesn't rely on motion. Saying that, however, the developers have made the obscure choice of mapping you skid option to a tilt of the Nunchuk to the left or right depending on which direction the corner turns. It takes some getting used to but you'll never fully grasp it for several reasons, the most apparent being that the motion isn't always detected. Why they couldn't have mapped it to one of the buttons is beyond me but when you have an action such as the jump one, which you'll rarely use or need to use, then it seems strange to have included that when a more obvious and necessary tool could have been placed on that respective button because many of the tracks require you to use the skid action to make your way around tight bends.
For such a small package, Heracles Chariot Racing packs quite a punch. A cel-shaded look is used throughout and it looks great. Character models are of a good standard, if a little on the jagged side, a trait that some of the chariots share. The tracks are delivered in 5 distinct visual styles, moving from the likes of an Aegean farm to Hades to Mount Olympus, each with its own character. For example, the Hades track has a looming statue of Hades staring down at the circuit making for quite an imposing figure as well as having Cerberus shooting fireballs. The tracks are designed well, providing a good mix of easy and sharp turns that really put your skills with not only racers but with the game's controls to the test. They do, however, suffer from some noticeable draw-in problems and there is the odd bit of slow down when more than 3 racers appear on the screen. But overall, the graphics are presented well and the Greek style is done very well.
The midi sound track that accompanies the game provides a musical style designed to suit each specific track and it works well and fits with the overall style. It may not be as memorable as some pieces of music in racers but it's noticeably good. One area where the sound may annoy players is that of the chariots travelling around the tracks. This is perhaps the area where the game feels most authentic as the sound of the wooden wheels hitting the course seems realistic but they do get rather irritating as time progresses.
Comparing this in any way to Mario Kart would be unfair, but what you get here is undoubtedly a very good little racer for the WiiWare service. There may be some issues with the controls and some graphical issues, but on the whole the game is a very capable racer given what has come before it and makes for a pleasant alternative to the other racers on offer for the Wii. At 800 points, you get a considerable amount for what is a very small price. Definitely worth a look if you are looking a racer that is different.
Pro: Top notch competitive racing, great graphic style, simplistic control scheme
Con: Some issues with the controls and graphics, only 10 tracks
Final score: 6.8