ATV Quad Kings for the Wii is a racing title that ended up being better than I suspected, and while it's a great bare-bones racer for the $20 price tag, you could do much, much worse for a bargain title. As far as quad racing or off-road style racers go, it's not going to compare to something like Pure or Dirt, but it's not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on the Wii, and if you're looking for a racing game to get for your kid brother or a parent who's not really into hardcore or sim racing, this might be a decent alternative.
ATV Quad Kings offers up two control schemes; one uses your standard Nunchuk and Wii Remote combo, while the other is more in tune with something like Mario Kart on the Wii, but unfortunately, the controls feel a little too touchy to work very well. To use the latter control setup, you only need the Remote, which you'll tilt sideways with the face buttons facing you. The number 1 and 2 buttons control your gas and brake, while the rest of the movement is controlled by tilting the Wiimote up, down, left and right, much like an actual steering wheel. This can be used in tandem with the Wii Wheel, which came packaged with Mario Kart or was sold separately by Nintendo, but using it doesn't help much, other than giving you some type of real-world feedback in relation to your movements.
My biggest issue with this control scheme comes from that fact that the steering is way too sensitive, and there's no option to adjust this in the game. Steering around basic corners isn't much of a problem, but if you swing a little too wide, it's hard to get back on course, and you lose a lot of ground if your racer is flailing back and forth. When you get to areas of a track that incorporate a lot of back and forth turns, well … good luck. It's hard to stay on the track — or even on your ATV sometimes — without wiping out. Higher jumps will become tricky because you need to tilt forward and backward to keep your balance, but it doesn't seem too effective, and it's hard to get a feel for how much you need to tilt the controller one way or the other.
Thankfully, the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo alleviate most of my control issues with the game. Using the Nunchuk to move the ATV is far easier than the motion controls, to the point where it's almost too easy to navigate the turns. I'm sure the developers would rather people default to motion for the "true" control scheme of the game, but I didn't find it to be very fun. With this alternate setting, you simply use the A button to give your ATV some gas, the B button to power-slide around corners, Z to brake, and the Z and C button to perform various stunts while in mid-air. It's easy enough for a classic control scheme, and it works fine here.
One thing to keep in mind with ATV Quad Kings is that it's a very, very basic racer. There are no real frills to it; the track design, ATVs and riders are all very simple. There are about nine different locations with 18 different tracks, but the single-player career won't last you a particularly long time. There are various modes within Career, starting off at Amateur and making your way into Pro, so the events are spread out if you don't want to truck through the entire game within a single sitting, but it is entirely possible to finish this one up in a couple of hours if you choose. There are a few alternative modes, but Career is where the real meat of the game is. There's also an Arcade mode, which is like a single race mode for one or two players; the self-explanatory Time Trial mode; and Freestyle, which emphasizes various high jumps to perform the different trick combos within the game. If you've ever played an off-road title before, some of these tricks will actually be pretty familiar.
For the single-player experience, the AI isn't particularly challenging, but it does manage to be pretty aggressive in groups. Because of this, it is entirely possible to be ousted from your vehicle on occasion, and sometimes, this feels a little cheap because there's not much you can do to prevent it. You don't lose a great deal of ground if you wipe out, but you'll probably fall back a few places, so you can spend a lot of time playing catch-up early on if you're not careful to mind your distance right out of the gate. Likewise, some of the jumps will have you flailing about and trying to regain your balance, and this seems harder to do, for some reason. I never felt that the game gave me enough feedback to upright my character consistently, and once again, this leads to a series of aggravating wipe-outs.
The look of the game is pretty low-key, with a track design that's not particularly inspired or interesting, and it makes use of a lot of locations that all end up looking the same. There's little in the way of background work or outside factors to add to the overall visual appeal, and the racers sport some ugly textures. The only way to tell guys apart is the limited color palette of their outfits. It certainly won't win any awards on the Wii, and nothing about the presentation masks the fact that this is a budget title. The basic approach works well enough, though, and you don't need to fiddle around with too much if you just want to jump into the game.
As I mentioned before, ATV Quad Kings isn't a great title by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time, it does what it sets out to do, and it does it well enough to get by. The racing is basic but fun for an hour or two, when you're not fighting against certain control issues. If you're looking for a realistic racer, or a polished one, for that matter, this isn't the game for you, but if you do have $20 to spend and you're not sure what to get, you could do worse than this. I know it's not exactly a ringing endorsement, and although ATV Quad Kings feels and looks like a budget-priced game, it's one that's at least somewhat fun to play.
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