At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey Wii Shin'en Multimedia Shin'en Multimedia 1-4 (Split-screen)
Requirements
None.

FAST - Racing League review

If you want a reason for the recent slump in Wii sales then I give you this simple explanation: Nintendo haven't released an F-Zero game on Wii. While that might not be completely true, it is certainly notable that Nintendo's other racing series has been conspicuous by its absence on their current console. It's not even on the DS for that matter, with no signs of a revival on the 3DS, unlike other series such as Kid Icarus or Luigi's Mansion. A series which still has a significant fan base has been ignored probably because its speed and resulting difficulty don't quite match up to Nintendo's audience in 2011. Ready to fill the gap and keep fans of futuristic racers happy is Shin'en with their 1000 Wii Points (£7) WiiWare entry, FAST - Racing League.

The initial feel of FAST certainly evokes memories of F-Zero X, despite the vehicles looking more like something out of WipEout. However, it's definitely more of the former than the latter, with no weapons, so you can only beat your opponents through racing. However, this is certainly not a clone, as FAST brings its own ideas to the table. It does this by allowing you to switch your vehicle between black and white 'modes'. Jump pads and boost strips around the tracks are in one of these two colours, and you need your vehicle to be the same colour in order to take advantage of them. Hit a white jump pad while black and you'll likely tumble to your doom, hit a black boost strip while white and it'll slow you down. A switch between the colours costs a single energy point, and more of these can be gained by picking up orbs around the tracks. You can also exchange 5 (out of a maximum of 10) to get a short turbo boost. This management of energy, and the need to switch colours at the right moments to gain advantages, changes the dynamic of each race. It's an exciting addition, and the only real downside is that it isn't always clear enough from glancing at your vehicle which colour you are, particularly while travelling at very high speeds.

This really is a rather pretty-looking WiiWare game

This really is a rather pretty-looking WiiWare game

The excitement is carried through the game's campaign. It's a fairly conventional affair, with 4 races in each championship, while each championship is set on one of three fictitious planets. You complete each collection of three championships at a difficulty level that operates similarly to the WipEout series; races get faster and opponents get tougher as you move up each level. Races can be thrilling, with tight battles generated by the constant need to switch colours and take advantage of boosts. There are a lot of obstacles on the tracks, such as ice, fire, rotating walls, narrow sections, and plenty of opportunities to fall off.

All these challenges will make you immediately aware that FAST is not an easy game. It is certainly possible to recover from such disasters, which lurk around every corner, but you won't just be speeding past AI drivers without much skill or good conservation of energy points. It may not be a game that's right for a good chunk of the Wii audience, who are new to games, and prefer to immediately be able to take part and have some level of success in a new game. As someone who is reviewing their third racing game in a row, and plays pretty much every worthwhile game in the genre besides this, I have enough experience under my belt that I could come into FAST and start winning races immediately, but it is clear that the difficulty curve is probably a little bit steeper than it needs to be. There are, after all, multiple difficulty levels, so this challenge could simply have been presented a little later. On the other hand, I'm certainly no expert, and have made a rather large number of errors in the course of playing the game, so if you've played and enjoyed racing games in the past then I can't see why you can't succeed here too.

You need to be right colour to use that acceleration pad on the left

You need to be right colour to use that acceleration pad on the left

While the championship is a fairly standard, but still highly enjoyable, affair, there are also some interesting Challenges available to the solo player. These range from putting in a quick 3-lap run, to picking up orbs on a specially designed bit of track. You can also record lap times in a Time Trial, but unfortunately there's no online leaderboards, possibly due to the limitations of WiiWare. In fact, it may be for this same reason that the game also lacks online play, which is a pity because it would probably work so well. WipEout HD continues to offer exciting online races, so it's a shame that Wii owners can't do this too. However, making up for this is the 4-player split-screen multiplayer mode, which generally manages to maintain the framerate despite four of you zooming around together.

While the game may not have been designed with the casual audience in mind, motion controls are still present in FAST. Armed with just the Wii Remote you can tilt to get around corners, which seems to work quite well, or by plugging in a Nunchuck you can use the analogue stick to direct your vehicle, although, curiously, you need to shake the Wii Remote to enable the turbo. My preferred control method was to plug in a Classic Controller, allowing to you play in the more traditional style with no motion controls at all. There isn't any support for the GameCube controller, which seems a bit of an oversight considering how widely it is used in games such as Mario Kart Wii.

You have to watch out for hazards, such as fire, on some of the tracks

You have to watch out for hazards, such as fire, on some of the tracks

It's only because FAST - Racing League is so fast that it can get away with such a silly name. It's a futuristic racing game, so travelling at very high speeds is a natural feature, but accomplishing this on the Wii is quite commendable of Shin'en. Like F-Zero, the single player portion of the game is locked at 60 frames-per-second, helping to deliver a great sensation of speed. It does this while looking rather beautiful, despite the size limits of Nintendo's digital distribution system.

While FAST - Racing League may be a challenging game, it's still one I'd recommend to most Wii owners. There's a lack of good Wii racing games to compare it to, especially in the futurist racing sub-genre, but as it stands it's an extremely enjoyable game with plenty to do in single- and multiplayer modes.

Ratings

Overall The Wii may be growing dusty for those not into Just Dance or Zumba Fitness, but those lurking fans of F-Zero, and racing games in general, will be extremely pleased by FAST - Racing League. 9/10

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