Load Inc, returns to the Xbox LIVE Arcade for the first time since Mad Tracks in 2007 with another wacky racing title â€˜Things on Wheelsâ€™. Within the game, up to 4 players can take control of radio controlled cars that each differ with various speed, power, weight and handling settings as you tear around a billionaire’s art deco mansion in your quest to become champion of the â€˜Citrus Cupâ€™.
Initially when you load up the menu, the game oozes a quirky and fun impression with its bright images, funky colour choices and rather crazy race names from Gran ToWrismo, Elvis is Alive to Wheel Side Story. From the menu system there is both single player and multiplayer options to tempt you into Championship or Arcade style gameplay â€“ the choice is yours, but the objective is the same, race to win â€“ nothing more, nothing less!
Starting with Arcade mode you have the option to set your A.I rivals, difficulty settings, and car categories before hitting the tracks. The Race Rules determine your gameplay and give you different fun-factor variations:
Red Lantern - Last car of every lap is out, but remains on the track creating dead traffic.
Endurance - Timed racing where the driver who has gone the longest distance wins.
Co-Op - Play with friends and the first team across the finish line or with most points wins.
Qualification - Try to beat the clock on a set number of laps.
Race - Simple game of first to finish the set number of laps.
At first, the only track available in Arcade is Training Day, but further tracks and extra cars become available the more you progress through the game’s main Championship mode which is where the competition truly heats up. If you want to be 1st place on those leaderboards, it’s not as easy as it looks because obstacles, ramps and power-ups have been cleverly placed to not only test your patience, but one wrong move and your rivals have the upper hand.
Click to Enlarge
Championship is split into four episodes, each with five separate race tracks that use pre-set Race Rules from those listed above in Arcade mode. Starting with simple Races, the further you progress the more difficult Race Rules start to make an appearance, but should things get a little too frantic, the option to change your difficulty setting and start again can prove to be quite useful, unless you like a challenge?
There are currently twenty tracks that have been designed with an articulate attention to detail for the art deco time period. Using lacquer and inlaid wood effects with noticeable bold sweeping curves in the interior rooms give a true feel of a 1930’s mansion. Some of the tracks are quite small and could be driven around with your eyes shut, whilst others are quite large with obstacles and ramps that take you off the beaten track - and once that happens, it can be a frustrating experience to get your car back on course. Tables, pianos and even paving if driven into can cause your vehicle to stop dead in its tracks and it is also possible to trap into scenery if you fall off the ramps, which can be corrected by using the Respawn button, but at a cost!
Click to Enlarge
Respawning in ‘Things on Wheels’ unfortunately places you at the last checkpoint, which then becomes near on impossible to catch up to your original position if you were 1st, 2nd or even 3rd place to begin with. The maneuvering of the RC cars once it grinds to a halt is either downright poor or deliberately created to replicate the troublesome effort of turning around a real RC car with the twin-stick radio module! Respawning and controlling your vehicle after a hit costs time which can then be challenging to keep up, but power-ups placed around the tracks if used wisely is your only means of at least trying to slow down your rivals.
Power-ups are placed in different areas around the tracks and remain in the same place throughout each lap. You can pick up a much needed speed boost, repel obstacles, freeze the wheels of your rivals and even bring down a lightning bolt to slow down their vehicles. The speed boost seems too over-powered which can give you a major advantage at the right moment, but in comparison to the other power-ups their effects aren’t as dramatic and it would only hinder your position by slowing down to obtain one if you already have a major lead on the track.
Click to Enlarge
Things on Wheels is graphically impressive enough to make Load Inc’s previous title ‘Mad Tracks’ look like a last-gen title; it’s very clear a lot of work and effort has gone into the design for an art deco style interior background which has payed off. There are 12 achievements which vary in difficulty, so don’t expect just to be ‘gifted’, as they do require a bit of hard work and the hunting of various items on the tracks. Also the game does try really hard to get you involved in a story that is written as a blog. By completing the Championship mode, more and more in game blog posts become available to read - whilst it is humorous, it still feels pointless.
The gameplay is fast and fun on some tracks and confusing on others because there doesn’t appear to be a clear direction until you eventually find a bumper, but it is one of the elements that make the game quite challenging, because you can’t expect to win every time! This would definitely appeal to ‘Mad Tracks’ lovers as it feels like a natural sequel, but in general you can make this game as fun as you want by bringing in some online friends and using the Race Rules to suit required gameplay. Only then it can rival some of the best arcade-style kart racers. For 800 Microsoft Points, you definitely get more than your money’s worth.
Why not download the demo and try this game for yourself?
Final Score: 6 out of 10 - Average (How do we rate games?)