It wasn't always about your Ferraris and Brawn GPs, you know. Once upon a time in Ancient Greece people bombed it about in far more dangerous - and, by extension, manlier - fashion, hurtling around in shaky wooden horse-drawn contraptions against other nutters who thought it'd be a good idea.
Heracles Chariot Racing is essentially Mario Kart set in the time of Zeus and company. Originally a European Playstation 2 release, Neko Entertainment have worked wonders in squeezing it right down into a WiiWare release without having to make any cuts. Grasping the reins of the chariots for some well-known Greek legends such as Poseidon, the Minotaur, Heracles himself and a random bee woman who nobody's ever heard of, you've got the standard set of racing modes to go through: three cups, time trials and multiplayer battles and races.
The tracks all fit in with the mythical theme, so you’ve got the likes of Hades and Mount Olympus. In total there are ten, five for each cup, which you would notice sounds like a miscalculation if you’d paid attention to how many cups there are. Disappointingly, the final trophy’s championship mode consists of the previous two cups’ courses placed back to back, which basically means you play through the game twice to complete it. These tracks also only use a total of five environments, with alternate routes given around them to make up the races. That the track design isn’t always the best makes this even worse; it’s very easy to miss turnings or fly over the edge due to tracks or fences blending with the background, and to perform well you’ll have to master twisting the nunchuk to turn around frequent tight corners.
Yes, the nunchuk, as the only control option is the remote and nunchuk combination. There are no problems with this, thankfully; the nunchuk twist works well once you've worked it out, and other functions are mapped to the buttons and analogue stick, including a seldom used jump. The multiplayer is harmed, though - while the control itself is accurate, the restrictions placed on control types mean that it may be difficult to play it to its four player local potential due to needing so many controller parts. It's more likely that you'll be playing two player than anything else, which is fine, but the battle mode is clearly designed for the maximum amount of players; the arenas themselves are good, but feel empty with just two chariots. There's no online mode to save the day either, as incorporating one into the existing code would have required complete rewrites.
In following the Mario Kart style, tracks are littered with obstacles and item collections, all of which bare a distinct similarity to Nintendo's racer. You have projectiles (shells), speed boosts (mushrooms), explosives (Bob-ombs) and Zeus lightning (speaks for itself; there's no shrinkage, though), but it's all part of the cartoon racing subgenre that was set off by Mario, so you can't be angry at it. Something you can be annoyed about, though, is the boost that you are allowed upon relaunching your craft after a crash. For some infuriating reason your vehicle is never quite set back on course properly, meaning it's quite likely that, if you set off the boost, you'll end up being prey to the same cliff face once again.
One thing Chariot Racing does do differently is the way that it handles the AI. While Mario Kart features characters storming out of nowhere, pushing you out of the winning positions and kicking your shins for good measure, Chariot Racing features no such rubber-banding. This works both for it and against it; positively, it means that when you win you can see you genuinely have done so by the finishing times, and so if you have the skill to pull ahead you're usually only tussling with one or two others at the front. On the flip side, if you're too good then it leads to boring races as all other characters trundle along a full five seconds or more behind you, which eliminates the excitement.
If you already have Mario Kart Wii there seems little point in considering Heracles Chariot Racing, but for a cheap WiiWare alternative it's worth a look. It may not be as polished as Nintendo's series, and it may feature some iffy track design, but it's a solid racer overall. It's cheaper than building your own chariot, afterall.
It's basically Mario Kart with less of everything and dodgier track design. Controls and plays well, though.
Mid-PS2 standard; pretty good for the WiiWare restrictions.
Not memorable at all on the music front. Some amusing squeaks of voice work from the characters.
It's a PS2 game crammed down for WiiWare for a measly 800 points. There's a shortage of tracks and no online, though.
Heracles Chariot Racing is a pretty fun substitute for Mario Kart for the price, but it pales in direct comparison to the Nintendo series from which it takes many of its concepts. It's best played in multiplayer, but the necessity to own so much plastic for it to be used to full potential and the lack of online hurt the title. You can pit a bee woman against the Minotaur, though, so it does have its own unique appeals if you want a cheap racer.