Speed Zone (Wheelspin) (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 24.09.2009 10

Review for Speed Zone (Wheelspin) on Wii

When Nintendo fans want speed in a racer, the natural response is to throw them a copy of F-Zero. However, the first party series has yet to appear on Wii sans Virtual Console releases despite begging fans, leaving a gap in the market wide open. Archer Maclean, he of Mercury Meltdown fame, and his team Awesome Play are one of the third parties to take the bait with their own take on the futuristic racer.

Let's make one thing clear: Speed Zone is not up to the standard of F-Zero, not one little bit. For all its talk of speed, this is a game that, while fast, certainly does not measure up to Nintendo's franchise in that regard. It's also a game with serious control issues; movement is overly sensitive, meaning you bash into walls or tumble off course a lot of the time, and for a double whammy the physics are also floaty - cars glide along tracks and can be knocked off the tracks with the slightest tap or late turn. The same happens even with the sensitivity turned right down to the lowest setting. This is not an issue with the Wii remote's motion, as it's an identical story using the Gamecube controller and the Classic controller and their analogue sticks. It also supports Logitech's Speed Force Wireless wheel, but I don't have one of those to hand to test it, unfortunately.

The best control option is actually the remote on its side, where turning is activated Excite Truck-style - tilt the ends up and down rather twisting side to side. It's still ridiculously sensitive, but with concentration and effort you can soon match how the game wants to be played, using only tiny motions. That's not to say it's forgiven, just that it is workable if you're willing to give it a chance. When you take a trip off the track, which happens all too often, you'll be respawned automatically. You can also choose to respawn by holding down the A button when you're left spinning on the course. When your car is placed down there will be the odd occasion where it's not set straight, causing you to careen right off the track again. Frustrating.

Screenshot for Speed Zone (Wheelspin) on Wii

Visually Speed Zone is a mixed bag. The cars themselves look simplistic, while the environments range from 'basic' to 'pretty'; the difference is quite jarring, as some of the backgrounds, particularly the ones set in space, are quite lovely, whereas others will be just...plain. It's not a big issue, though, as once you're playing the game properly - to a degree - you cease to notice the graphics much of the time. While not F-Zero fast, it is still a speedy little number when you've got to grips with things. This is down to the boost pads that litter the tracks; slide over one of those and your speed ups considerably. In theory, if you can control the car well enough, you can keep running over these things constantly to reach blistering speeds. When you're able to do so, it feels fantastic - the problem is that, with the control issues, it's not as common a sight as it should be.

Screenshot for Speed Zone (Wheelspin) on Wii

It would be fair to say that Awesome Play have at least tried to innovate with Speed Zone somewhat. The most obvious example of this is in the eight player splitscreen mode. Using a combination of remotes, nunchuks, Gamecube pads, Classic controllers and Logitech wheels you are able to play the multiplayer on one system, on one TV. As an idea it's fine, and the game actually seems to be able to handle it well, with the obvious concession of reduced frame rates, but it's doubtful that many people will be able to enjoy it due to the small screen size it will be played in. The TV is split into nine sections, with all player screens around the outside of a block containing the map, and it feels more confusing than anything else. It's a shame that there is no online mode in addition, as this would have probably gone far more appreciated. If you are going to play this mode it's best to use four Gamecube controllers and four remotes, as if you're using Classic controllers and nunchuks you are tethered to another person using a remote, so you're going to be knocking each other off your game by accident if not purposefully.

Screenshot for Speed Zone (Wheelspin) on Wii

There are also three single player modes, with progression through each dictated by climbing a pyramid level select; beat two levels to unlock the one above. This is quite a good way of doing things as you don't necessarily have to beat all the courses on one level of the pyramid to make a start on the next - until you reach upper levels. Combat mode is as it sounds: you drive around an arena picking up weapons and firing them at other cars, though it's not very easy to do and aiming is quite bad, thanks to the handling. The race mode is your standard driving game staple, pitting you against seven other drivers who seem to have been designed with no compensation for human controls in mind; they zoom off, knocking into you if they have to, and there's not really much hope for catching up unless you're on the ball (or rather, on a boost) from the very start.

The best of the lot is the solo mode, which is literally just your car on the tracks with a ghost of a rival driving around to give you some incentive. It's this mode that I spent most time in by far, and without rival drivers or weapons bumping around you're able to give yourself the time to adjust yourself to the controls, admire the sometimes excellent tracks - when they're not doing too many hairpin turns and focusing on the fun bits like loop-de-loops and multiple routes - instead. This mode does not care if you come first or last, just that you hit certain speeds throughout. By going over the boosts and driving well, you will enter the titular Speed Zone; be in this zone for the required total over the course of the race (i.e. you can go in and out of it - and you will, with all the crashes) and you beat the level. It's in this mode that you can really see the potential of the game's speed, as it's the only time you get much opportunity to reach those peaks.

Screenshot for Speed Zone (Wheelspin) on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

You can see the direction Awesome Play were trying to go with Speed Zone, but it just doesn't come off. The modes are there, the speed the title touts can be there, but the controls are not what they should be. They're learnable with effort, but this should not have to be the case - the sensitivity of the handling is simply set way too high, and more than anything else this is the downfall of the game. F-Zero's place on Wii is still reserved.

Also known as

Speed Zone

Developer

Awesome Play

Publisher

Detn8

Genre

Driving

Players

8

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

The best control option is actually the remote on its side, where turning is activated Excite Truck-style - tilt the ends up and down rather twisting side to side. It's still ridiculously sensitive, but with concentration and effort you can soon match how the game wants to be played, using only tiny motions.

This game's controls are terrible to the point of ruining the experience for me totally. At first I thought I might get used to them, as you find in some racers, but nope...every goddamn time it was 'Weeeeeeeeeeeee...off the track'. Oh, and don't get me started on how easily your vehicle crashes. For an arcade-style effort you'd think it would be far more forgiving. However, the slightest of touches against the scenery will send the car flying. In fact, even if you think you can get it under control again, sometimes the computer decides otherwise and resets the car back to a certain place on the track, taking away vital seconds from your race.

I've been playing this and DiRT 2 lately. Can you guess which one I didn't like?

Visually Speed Zone is a mixed bag.

Understatement! I found the game to be extremely bland for the majority of the time. Sure, F-Zero on the N64 was basic-looking, but that was so you could break-neck speeds without slowdown. For a game that is supposedly pushing Wii to its limits (yes, Archer Maclean DID say that), this is nothing more than a sub-par Extreme-G. Yes, not even in the same league as F-Zero, but relegated to beneath the game that mimicked Nintendo's futuristic racer!

Watch as this crashes and burns at retail...Readers will know I'm not overly harsh on games, but considering this was meant to be Bethesda's 'big' Wii game and Archer Maclean said his development team pushed Wii to its max, it's a massive disappointment on almost every level.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

The controls ARE workable, but the game has an extremely steep learning curve. After a few hours I was able to complete races with very few crashes, but you have to wonder if everybody is going to invest a similar amount of time to be able to play the game in the first place.

Once you get it under a more acceptable degree of control the speed and gameplay ramps up, but I think the only mode of play I would go back to would be the solo mode; the combat and standard race modes are not very fun.

Mason said:
After a few hours I was able to complete races with very few crashes...

You're a better man than me Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Looks like an early PS2 game. I reckon they changed the name over here because the word 'speed' is more closely-related to the narcotic than fast movement Smilie

This is already out in the US? Hell, I coulda missed it. It's had NO MARKETING WHATSOEVER. You can tell exactly how much effort they put into this game. "Bethesda's big Wii game", my ass. Either that was a lie or they're severely deluded.

Or they knew that any old shit would sell on Wii, because most the people who own one don't know anything about games.

A 5/10? Better than expected. Smilie

jesusraz said:
For a game that is supposedly pushing Wii to its limits (yes, Archer Maclean DID say that)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Looks almost worse then F-Zero on N64! Ich think I have to search for F-Zero on Cube, then... At last.


You played DIRT2? On Wii? Is that one good? Personal opinion, I mean. AFAIK it was reviewed here some time ago.

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

DiRT 2 is on both DS and Wii. I've only played the Wii version and am quite pleased with it so far! I don't know if I'll get time to review it at the moment as I've got several other C3 things to sort, but it's the best 'serious' racer I've played on Wii...

If the DS game is by Firebrand Games again then I recommend picking that up for any DS racer fans as I know their track record is exemplary Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Guest 24.10.2009#10

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