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Track Mania Wii strips the racing down to man against tarmac. A little sparse compared to other Wii games the genius here needs a little work to uncover, but for serious time-trial racers this has been a long time coming.
In case you haven't come across it already, TrackMania is a car racing videogame that enables the player community to create their own tracks. It uses a building block process to keep things simple, a little like designing a Scalextric track.
If, like me, you are interested in unusual or alternative ways of designing videogames, TrackMania is fascinating. Alongside the track creation and community aspects, the game also offers some technically different ways to play.
Unlike other racing games, TrackMania lets you race a track as many times as you want, until your time runs out on a particular level. If you fall off you simply re-spawn back on the track, or restart to attempt a better lap time. Also, although you can play with up to four people on the same track in the Wii version, the cars cannot actually collide with each other.
TrackMania is well named. It's designed to enable players to focus on one challenge - their racing skill against a particular circuit. Rather than the power-ups, tricks and shortcuts of games like Mario Kart, this is pure racing. And for me, it's just the sort of game that the Wii needs to attract a more serious gamer.
TrackMania on the Wii comes loaded with an extensive set of tracks spread through four environments: stadium, island, coast and snow. The different terrains each offer their own challenge as the game models the various road surfaces and driving conditions accurately.
Rather than hiding the simulation side of the game under a soft exterior, TrackMania feels stripped down and minimalist.
In fact, this sense of "modelling" permeates the whole experience. Rather than hiding the simulation side of the game under a soft exterior, TrackMania feels stripped down and minimalist. What remains is an incredibly fast and smooth racing presentation.
As you progress through the single player game you earn coppers - the game's currency - as well as bronze, silver and gold awards. This grants access to other courses and more powerful cars.
In addition to the single player mode you can also play the tracks with other people. Unlike other games, where this also signals a switch from competing with the computer to competing with other players, here the sense of trying to beat the track perpetuates. In multiplayer mode, there are just more of you trying to do that at the same time.
TrackMania Wii continues to walk its own path, and deserves a place in any experienced gamer repertoire.
Those expecting a fleshed out driving game might be a little disappointed. TrackMania expects you to spend time designing and sharing your own tracks via the extensive editor. Although this takes some time to achieve, the results are instantly playable and really extend the life of the game.
I'm really attracted to the hardcore simulated time trial racing, but it will be interesting to see how big an audience this finds on the Wii. In terms of game design and delivery, TrackMania Wii continues to walk its own path, and deserves a place in any experienced gamer repertoire - assuming there are still some of those left still playing Nintendo's little white console.
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