Excite Truck offers repetitive racing and limited fun. It’s more of a novelty than a game that will engross you for weeks on end.
As a purely arcade-style novelty, Excite Truck fits the bill nicely. It’s simple, fun and thrilling but due to the repetitive nature of the races the enjoyment is quite honestly short-lived. After a few hours it begins to feel like work. And I’m not kidding. In order to get to the next level you have a number of objectives that you have to complete in which you will be awarded stars. You have to collect the minimum amount of stars to unlock new course in order to proceed. It doesn’t really matter if you come in first, second or third as long as you collect the right amount of stars. But if you want to get a better ranking, which is an “S” ranking, you will have to collect virtually all of the stars in each level. This will unlock the higher difficulty setting but it requires repeating the course over and over which takes all of the fun out of the game and replaces it with frustration exercises.
Inspired by ExciteBike, Excite Truck is a wild romp through treacherous terrain at terrifying speeds. There are so many opportunities to launch your vehicle into the air that it’s a wonder you don’t need a pilot’s license to operate one of these trucks. The sense of speed is exhilarating if not “exciting.” You’re always on the verge of losing control by spinning out or toppling over. The control system is unique and makes up a huge part of the novelty factor. But the longer you play the more you’ll realize that the controls aren’t responsive enough for lasting play.
There are many inconsistencies with the control system which will frustrate you to no end as you replay certain sections over and over only to master one part and then find the controls don’t respond the same way in another part. This is mostly noticeable when attempting to control the direction of the truck when it’s in the air. You can attempt to steer it while in the air so that you can hit the track in the perfect position, ready to go. Some jumps allow you more control than others. I guess the gravity of the earth is different in certain places.
Steering is facilitated by holding the Wii-mote sideways with both hands and tilting it in either direction much like you would an actual steering wheel. The feel is good but the arc is limited. Brakes and acceleration can be accessed directly on the Wii-mote and the D-pad is used for boosting. Boost juice gives your truck an extra kick to help launch it in the air. Hit it just before a jump and you’ll catch a lot more air than you normally would. While in the air you can control the direction of the truck as well as the angle of the base in relation to the ground. Pitching the truck back will extend your airtime while pitching it forward, so that the front wheels are in a position to hit the ground first, will bring you back to earth faster. It’s best to attempt to land with all four wheels on the ground at the same time as it makes the truck more stable during recovery. You will also earn a bonus in the form of more boost for pulling off a perfect landing.
Needless to say, boost comes in handy. It’s great for catching air and earning more boost, and it can also be used to out-distance your opponents when winning is everything. If you overuse the boost your vehicle will overheat. Every time you use the boost your engine will get a little hotter. It has a cumulative effect but if you lay off of it, catch some air or hit some water, it will cool your vehicle down making it good-to-go for using more of it.
As I already mentioned, winning is not everything. Star collecting is. You will earn stars for achieving specific goals such as powersliding around turns, avoiding trees in a high-speed obstacle course, executing a stunt in mid-air such as a spin, and smashing into other vehicles. In Excite Truck, racing is a contact sport. There’s a smash mode in which you use your vehicle like a weapon in a demolition derby-style race where the object is to turn your opponents’ vehicles into scrap metal. Environmental icons appear on the course which you can grab to actually instantly alter the environment. You can cause a hill to appear from beneath you or new sections of track to open up or close in front of your opponent. You can even cause some parts of the environment to come crashing down on them. Along with these transforming icons you will also find power-ups that will give you incredible bursts of speed while making you virtually indestructible to everything in your path.
There’s a good selection of courses. They run the gambit from deserts to dense forests with some snow and ice added to the mix for some surprising traction physics that take a lot of getting used to. Graphically the game is a mixed bag. It’s clean and the frame-rate is consistent but some of the textures a little current gen which can be jarring. Sometimes is looks like you’re driving over a carpet rather than grass. The trucks handle well but not good enough to even allow you to master the control system. For some of the trickier moves you’ll have to rely as much on luck as you do on skill. The music is generic rock and won’t instill much excitement. There should have been some real jug-blowing hillbilly tunes included as well as some Ted Nugent and other redneck favorites. Yee-haw.
Excite Truck has all the staying power of an arcade game. Don’t expect a lot of replay value out of this game despite the two-player, offline, split-screen mode. And for that matter, don’t expect a lot of “play” out of it the first time through as you probably won’t want to work so hard to reach the coveted “S” ranking. A rental is recommended.
May 10, 2006 – I spent many a quarter on Excitebike back in the day and now I will spend plenty of quarters, all rolled up in $10 wraps to play the next iteration in the series. Excite Truck was shown at Nintendo’s E3 press conference yesterday and while the game itself didn’t illicit many “oohs and ahhs” from the crowd, the proof seems to be in the gameplay thanks to the Wii-mote style handling.
Excite Truck is an extremely fast arcade racer with roots in Excitebike (obviously), Hydro Thunder (not Offroad Thunder thankfully) and Burnout. Players will feel the burn of competition as the name of the game is still trying to land safely and squarely on the ground after a lunch-losing jump into the air. You’ll need to hold the Wii-mote on it’s side, like an NES controller to play the game. The 2 button is the accelerator, the 1 button is the brake (brakes, who needs brakes?) and d-pad control is the turbo and to steer, you’ll just simply have to the controller in the air.
As mentioned at the conference, the terrain will deform in realtime when certain powerups are obtained. This will allow little bumps in the road to instantly transform into an awe-inspiring ramp which will launch you skyward. Just make sure to land that sucker….
No word on whether the Wii version allows a track creator like the original Excitebike, but wii can dream, can’t wii?