MotoHeroz is a cuddly toy you hug to your face, only to realise a second too late it’s in fact a surly porcupine. The 2D platforming racer’s facade of Nintendo cheerfulness – tracks corkscrew through cartoony forest, ice, desert, water and sky environments; buggies hit the ground with a pillowy bounce; and both coins and collectibles lay tucked around each level – masks a sobering challenge that slaps you down for the tiniest imprecision. RedLynx fans who became ragdoll physicists in the all-too-literal crash course of motocross platformer Trials HD will feel right at home with MotoHeroz.
Holding the Remote in landscape orientation, you use the 1 and 2 buttons for braking and acceleration (the track occasionally coils back on itself, yet the buggies can’t turn, so be ready to trundle along in reverse periodically). Sadly, instead of the spring and analogue precision of the Xbox controller’s triggers, mashing the accelerator in MotoHeroz feels as limp as pressing an aspirin tablet through its foil sleeve. More precision is offered by the left and right buttons on the D-pad, which change your buggy’s angle in mid-air to align with the surface below. If your buggy end up on its roof, a quick waggle of the Remote gives you a flip.
Story mode spans over 100 micro levels, and RedLynx’s world-class level designers manage to deliver a steady parade of fresh ideas. In one stage you’ll carry half a dozen speckled purple eggs in a basket atop your buggy. Getting them to the finish would be simple if there weren’t bumps, dips and mechanical lifts bouncing you skywards along the way. One level finds you using jetpacks to rocket upward through a maze, staying just ahead of an insistently rising tide. Rope bridges sway and buckle. Underwater driving sequences feature boulder-like, drifting blowfish that can be nudged aside with enough acceleration. During your schooldays, you certainly never imagined physics could be this much fun.
Unless you’re obsessive about scoring a gold-medal time on every track, a skilled player could wrap up MotoHeroz’s story mode in an afternoon (prepare to re-try harder levels a dozen times or more). But the unobtrusive, pun-riddled tale of Gene McQuick’s quest to topple bearded rival Spider McRally merely sharpens your driving skills for the game’s long-term attraction: Party Rally mode. Up to four players can compete onscreen at once, though twoplayer matches offer the best balance between vehicular slapstick and competition – four buggies jostling past obstacles can cause a series of chaotic pile-ups worthy of the coining of a new word: clusterfun.