The racing genre has long been a disputed staple of video games. On the one hand they’re an easily exploited and developed bunch, requiring little in the way of innovation to get a passing grade. Despite this stigma surrounding them, every generation at least one game tends to take the genre to a new echelon. Be it Mario Kart, Gran Turismo, the Excite series, or Need For Speed – there’s always at least one to emerge as the trademark racer for a console. It may not have the same hype as other genres, nor the expansive fanbase – but there’s always a place in every library for a good racing game.
Nintendo decided early on that a wheel accessory would be a great idea for the up and coming Wii. Now we have the Wii Wheel. Nintendo continued their extremely successful practice of bundling accessories with games by pairing the Wii Wheel with their first-party racing games – Mario Kart Wii and Excitebots: Trick Racing. I currently have a total of three Wii Wheels. The first came with Mario Kart Wii, the second came with Excitebots, and the third I got in a 2-For-1 deal at GameStop. Is the Wii Wheel worth it?
Racing wheels have pretty much always been around for video games- going back decades in fact. The main two problems that followed the steering wheels of yesteryear were price and reliability. Wheel peripherals tend to be pricy- costing as much as 2-3 games for a console. Making matters worse, they’re not particularly reliable- they tend to experience issues within a year or so of purchase. It wasn’t until the release of the Wii Wheel that the purchase of multiple steering wheel peripherals became practical.
You can find a Wii Wheel for about $10-$15, depending on where you go- or purchase them in bundles. Mario Kart Wii with its Wii Wheel is currently going for about $40-$50. Excitebots: Trick Racing can be bought at around $20 with its Wii Wheel- effectively making the game an extremely appealing $5 or $10.
The Wii Wheel is made of the same sleek, white material as other Wii accessories. It’s hollow on the inside to allow the Wii remote to be inserted- the Wiimote being the power source and primary component of it. The wheel is very comfortable to hold, lightweight, durable, and appealing to look at. A large B button can be found on the back that essentially enlarges the Wiimote’s B button- much like the trigger of the Wii Zapper. But the question is… how does it play?
Mario Kart Wii
Where else could I begin but with the very first game I played with the Wii Wheel? Let me put this simply- I can’t go back to any other control scheme after using the Wii Wheel. The accuracy of the tilting is superb- mirroring the effect of playing on an arcade cabinet- if not surpassing it. Aside from making it much easier to control bikes and karts- it’s also a lot more fun to actually play along with the sensation of driving. Look at the cover- even Mario and Luigi know it’s all about the wheel!
After building a new ride for the occasion, I found the Wii Wheel to be just as fun in this MySims spin-off. The controls weren’t quite as tight as its Mario-based rival, but they were still good enough. The only real problem I found here was that turning seemed sluggish- though that may be a gameplay issue and not the fault of the wheel.
Sonic & Sega’s All-Stars Racing
You know I couldn’t go much further without letting Sonic’s Wii racer step into the ring. While more enjoyable than the MySims experience, I still didn’t feel that same tightness to the control that I felt with Mario Kart Wii. My game improved when using the Wii Wheel- that’s for sure. On an unrelated note, I feel like this game should have been more speedy than it was…
Excitebots: Trick Racing
More F-Zero than Mario Kart, this Arcade-style racer was the second to really hit the nail on the head. Speeding through frozen mountains or skipping over scattered tropical islands- the Wii Wheel was the perfect fit for Excitebots! Winning the in-race minigames is considerably more entertaining when your Wiimote is in a Wii Wheel. Highly recommended.
Need For Speed: Nitro
It was disappointing to go from the highly addictive Excitebots to this. While not bad, it was a serious step down. The game controls passably, but often it just felt like my quick turns and maneuvers weren’t registering the way they should. The sparse variety of power-ups didn’t make things better- a more varied experience would have made the gameplay less monotonous.
In 2006 Nintendo launched their Wii console with two first-party games. The first was the immensely popular Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The other? Excite Truck– a revival of the classic Excite series. While not developed with the Wii Wheel in mind (it didn’t exist yet!), this Arcade-style game manages to trump MySims Racing, Sonic & Sega’s All-Star Racing, and Need for Speed: Nitro with its accurate and fun gameplay. With the Wii Wheel I was tearing through jungles and desert hills with ease. Very impressive- made even more so when you consider how tight the controls are in the face of extremely fast-gamplay. While its successor, Excitebots, might be the better of the two- Excite Truck still holds a high spot in the racing genre after four years.
The Wii Wheel has made a deep impression on me. Whereas I only occasionally pull out my Wii Zapper for its compatible games, I’m always reaching for my Wii Wheel. There’s always a sense of envy and tension from the person that gets the Classic Controller when the three Wii Wheels have already been handed out. I highly recommend the Wii Wheel to any racing game fans on the Wii.