Kawasaki Quad Bikes is an example of branding at its most obvious coupled with poor attention to the basics. Starting off, there are only a few vehicles to choose from and no discernable differences other than color and bulk. It turns out they perform differently on certain terrains, but you only learn that through plenty of trial and error.
The tracks include the usual off-road racing variants: dirty, muddy, rocky, sandy, gravely, snowy and lava-y. The beach level looks strangely similar to a Mario Kart level but without the shell-tossing fun. Graphics are nothing special with Kawasaki banners spread along the courses, appropriate for an inexpensive product-pushing racing game.
The game’s biggest fault is its control scheme conundrum. Holding the Wii Remote sideways with the buttons facing you, vehicles are controlled much like turning a steering wheel. Although reaction time is fairly accurate, this is not the natural way to steer a bike. This orientation also means your driver is always leaning too far forward, resulting in constant wrist twisting for every bump, hill and jump - and to bunny hop over obstacles in the Extreme Mode - otherwise you’ll either flip over or land too hard. If you try to hold it more like bike handlebars, the Wii Remote will hardly even recognize your movements.
Making the game a bit more nauseous, the camera view and the bike orientation don’t always match, causing a dizzying visual swirl that may eventually make you hurl. If you manage to convince a friend to play this with you, the camera craziness is multiplied by horizontally split screen crowded with HUD elements and an oversized bike. Switching to the only other view option, a first-person perspective, puts the angle so close to the track that every frickin’ bump means you’ll be seeing all dirt or all sky until you clumsily reorient.
Driving a four-wheel, all-terrain bike is not necessarily a smooth and easy task, but it shouldn’t be this difficult for a gamer to get behind the handlebars. The only discernable difference between the three difficulty settings is the extent to which the computer opponents treat the race like bumper cars. At any level, you got the car with the wonky wheel while everyone else seems to be having all the fun. Adding to the list of glitches, overturned computer-controlled bikes reset in front of you on a track, opponents can get un-recoverably wedged under your bike (we’ve completed many laps with an opponent underwheel), brightly flickering, seizure-inducing ghost bike in the Time Trials and being randomly reset on the track when the game decides you need it (and even times you don’t).
Back in November 2007 (when the game was supposed to release) the $20 price tag would have seemed pretty nice to unsuspecting holiday shoppers. Now, even the price isn’t low enough to make this racing game accidentally buyable.
Mar 4, 2008