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Although it's common to see a physics engine mentioned in the opening credits of current generation titles, games that are driven by calculated friction, momentum, and the like are still so rare. Trials HD is one of the few I've experienced that uses complex physics as a gameplay core, rather than merely governing how crates jump and limp bodies flail after an explosion. Tellingly, Trials HD is also among the generation's most unique games, a blend of platformer, simulation, and racer that make it impossible to define with current genre labels and difficult for new players to grasp.
Developer RedLynx appears to preserve that essence and curtail the frustration in MotoHeroz, a WiiWare title that replaces Trials HD's injury-prone dirtbike rider with durable, tumbling buggies. Trials's garage skatepark courses are also traded for platformer-adventure mainstays like forests, snowfields, and deserts. Strip away the Wii-appropriate aesthetics, however, and the game seems to be a kinder Trials romp, very much the approachable but deep physics showcase of its Xbox 360 and PC cousins.
I spent an hour bounding through the Story Adventure and climbing the leaderboards in some daily online challenges. Check out some of the footage pulled from that sixty minutes.
- MotoHeroz controls every bit like the forgiving Trials spinoff that I expected it to be. Core considerations in Trials, like ramp coping and weight shifting, are important factors in MotoHeroz, but the punishment for an awkward landing is less severe. When overturned, the player can shake the Wii remote to flip right back onto wheels delaying only a second or so. Still, those who want to shave every tick off of their speedrun will need to tilt and accelerate carefully.
- The story adventure courses have ample variety so far. Loop de loops, launchers, barriers, wobbly bridges, water, and more obstacles are scattered across each course. Some player-triggered items, like jump springs, boosts, and incorporeality-granting ghosts, make their appearances in a few stages as well. Most of the objectives are simple races against a staff ghost, but a few one-on-one courses and chaotic sprints against three CPUs have shown up as well.
- Mimicking more traditional platformers, MotoHeroz has a number of collectibles placed around each course. Coins are trailed in a similar way to those in Mario games and can be used to unlock new vehicles. Blue orbs, called "ancestors," are like the Star Coins in Mario, hidden in plain sight but difficult to reach. Through the course of normal play, I tend to collect about half of a course's coins in each run, but rarely acquire any ancestors. Snagging these doodads requires a different approach than normal racing and could go a long way toward extending the game's replay value.
- There are also performance-based medals awarded after each stage, but I'm not sure if they are contingent upon collectibles or speed alone. Either way, I've never managed to get better than silver. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen a bronze, either...
- I spent about thirty minutes running through the offline modes, and my player profile indicates that I am at 13% completion. Simple math would portend a mere four hours' worth of content in MotoHeroz, but the investment curve of Trials HD was pretty steep: late in the game, I needed a full hour to finish even a single stage. I doubt MotoHeroz will require quite that much dedication, but I think five hours is a conservative estimate for the game's offline content for someone experienced in the Trials HD style of play.
- Though the game features no online multiplayer, daily challenges are available for players to compete for high scores. One such challenge was a ski jump, allowing unlimited practice jumps but only one "real" attempt that would go on the charts. Another was a standard race to the finish (which you can see in the video above, in which I raced against the current #1 player's ghost) that had no limit on the attempts you can make. The availability of every ghost on the leaderboard allows you to scout other players' strategies and serves an easy frame of reference when trying to take the #1 spot.
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Would I keep playing? Definitely. The hour I've spent in the offline and online modes hints at a less sim-ish, more adventurous physics vehicle platformer. MotoHeroz is shaping up to be one of WiiWare's very best offerings.