Racing games are a dime a dozen. They are likely the easiest game concept to work with and do a modest job with. That being said, Detn8 Games has brought a new, unique racing title to the Wii by developer Awesome Play, called SpeedZone. What SpeedZone brings as a twist to the racing genre is control, literally as many controllers as they can squeeze into the game. Between Wii remotes, Nunchuks and GameCube controllers, SpeedZone caters to up to eight players in a single, offline, multiplayer race.
SpeedZone's single play focuses on three game-types: races, battles and challenges. Each game-type has 10 events, for a total of 30 events in all of single player. Races are up to four laps each, and in the earlier events, even a 4th place finish will unlock the next event. Battles are akin to a dumbed-down version of Twisted Metal, played out in arenas that contain various weapons to blast opponents with. Finally, challenges are unique in that they vary between time trials, and speed challenges.
The setting in SpeedZone can be described as futuristic, however that may be a stretch considering the final track is set among random geometry. No less, players will find themselves racing around tracks that loop and twist around asteroids, satellites, and other similar objects. Tracks are anything but slabs of concrete veering left and right; hence the name SpeedZone, races get to ridiculous speeds, and as such almost every turn is banked, and the track itself is floating in the air. Most times there aren't even walls on tracks, leaving even less wiggle room for sloppy drivers.
Throughout tracks there are speed pads, that when driven over greatly boost player's speed. These speed pads are the main focus of SpeedZone's races, as not using them during any race will almost definitely result in a lose. Staying on the track and linking up speed pads is the key to winning races, but it's really not as simple as it sounds. As cars can be controlled using a Wii Remote, Nunchuck, or GameCube controller, one would think between those at least one would make for a good controller. Surprisingly this is not the case, as no matter what controller players opt for, each controls as poorly as the next. Worst of all, it's the Wii Nunchuck that is the least-bad.
Controlling a car in SpeedZone with a single Nunchuck controller is a feat in itself. The nunchuck controls the player's car with tilting movements, so tilting the controller forward and backward does gas and brake, while steering is controlled by twisting the nunchuck left and right. The analog stick on the nunchuck is simply disabled during races, and is only used during battles to fire weapons. Learning to play using the nunchuck is very frustrating, and even when mastered, races are still frustrating due to numerous poor game-design choices.
First off, players start with a slow, clunker of a futuristic car. Normally it's understandable to start out with the worst car in a game's vehicle roster, but a bad car combined with learning frustratingly bad controls just compounds things. AI-control opponents frequently drive into players, and as there are no walls, expect to drive off the edge into oblivion dozens of times per race. Opponents in races also fly off the edge as much as players, which results in opponents often-times instantly respawning directly in front of the player, causing an unexpected wreck. Worst yet, when in the heat of a race, fighting with another racer for 1st place, if another car even as much as grazes the player's car, the camera immediately starts panning out and flashing "shake to respawn", even through the player is still racing perfectly fine.
Poor gameplay aside, winning races is only rewarding in the sense that players have overcome the many pitfalls associated with every single race. It is however commendable that SpeedZone has an almost unrivaled sense of speed, and the sheer concentration it takes to get 1st place in every race is ridiculous. The game is very aptly named, as players will certainly find themselves in-the-zone at extremely high speeds, if they get the hang of the controls.
Single player challenges are largely focused on this zone of speed, and as such, players must stay over a certain high speed for a certain number of seconds to win the challenge. Next to beating the final races, succeeding at staying in the speed zone for several minutes in the later-challenges is honestly fun. Battles are the worst aspect of the game, but not out of frustration, just for simply being out of place, and feeling like a complete after-thought of the designers. Players are dropped into a number of different areas, and expected to drive some-what slow to be able to actually collect weapons, and then use them against other players. The sense of speed is non-existent, and overall battles are a complete waste of time.
To get eight players going in multiplayer, four Wii Remotes and four Nunchucks are required, with each player uses either a Wii Remote or a nunchuck. Multiplayer is almost exactly like single-player, but with friends and family involved. Graphics are also forgettable and don't push the Wii much at all, but the audio fits the game quite well for the most part.
With as much frustration as SpeedZone will undoubtably bring out in players of all ages, it does at least make for even more exciting and rewarding victories. However, players are more likely to give up on the game long before they've completed it, as winning races is not at all worth the irritating gameplay. SpeedZone through-and-through is a disappointment, avoid it at all costs.