Review: The game that proves that "revolutionary" doesn't necessarily mean "good."
Nintendo likes to tout the innovation in their new system, the Wii. It's hard not to agree that they really hit upon something unique. Unfortunately, much like their other revolutionary system, the DS, some of the early titles use the new controls for less than stellar applications. Enter Excite Truck- a very fun and interesting racer that throws out the tried and true usable control schemes featuring a control stick in favor of a very difficult pitch based scheme. Is the game fun? You bet. Does it live up to the simple, yet innovative control scheme the Wii is supposed to deliver? Not so much.
Much like Excitebike for the NES and N64, players use their turbo energy laden vehicles to perform amazing acrobatics by flying off all sorts of ramps. If turbo is used too much, the truck's engine will overheat, causing the truck to stall. In order to cool the truck down, one must either stop using turbo until the engine cools off, drive through a puddle, or jump off a ramp.
As far as stunts go, Excite Truck gives awards for performing tricks such as flying through a set of airborne rings after making a jump, smashing into other trucks, narrowly missing trees, performing spins in the air, and drifting. Other than navigating the rings and spinning in midair, most of the stunts will be performed through the natural course of the game. The game adds each stunt performed to a tally and once the player pulls off the stunt enough times, he or she unlocks a trophy or some other prize.
The only other gameplay quirks that show up are the boost power-ups and the track deformation (or ?deterraformation? to those living on Pluto). When collected, boost power-ups cause the trucks to become unstoppable machines, destroying anything in their path, and driving faster than even the regular turbo will allow. The track deformation power-up does a mixture of things. Sometimes it will sink or raise the ground directly in front of the player, and other times it'll make airborne rings appear. Players can use the track deformation to their advantage by causing it to unexpectedly toss the trucks ahead of you into the air, and out of the way. The effect is pretty cool. All in all, the gameplay is fairly simplistic, but there is still quite a bit of depth to the game, especially when trying to squeeze the best scores possible from each race.
Excite Truck's controls are fairly intuitive. For this game players hold the Wii remote sideways, with the face buttons pointing inwards. The 2 button accelerates and the 1 button decelerates. The only other usable button on the controller is the D-pad that controls each truck's turbo regardless of the direction pressed. Otherwise, the rest of the game is based on how the controller is tilted. To steer, players tilt the controller either left or right. When jumping, players can twist the controller back or forward to change the angle of the truck, either giving them more or less air time.
That's about it to the controls. Unfortunately, as easy as they may sound things get complex when actually trying to turn, or control air time. Perhaps it was the fact that I was playing on an HDTV and was facing the ever-infamous HD lag, but I found that the controls were a mixed bag. It is very easy to under and over-steer, probably due to the off-road nature of the game. Many times it will appear that the controller wasn't tilted far enough because the truck will continue sliding forward. This could be because the game is off-road, or it could be because you really didn't steer far enough. Either way this causes endless frustration. What usually happens when the truck starts sliding is you'll end up turning the controller even more causing really bad over-steering that can send you driving off in the wrong direction. Driving in the wrong direction isn't the only problem, either. In many cases players will have to carefully navigate obstacles, but with the controls the way they are, it is very hard to avoid oncoming trees or thread the needle (drive through small openings). Both are things that show up in many races.
I don't know how many times I sat there playing Excite Truck thinking, ?If I was able to use my Gamecube controller, none of these accidents would be happening.? That's definitely not a good outlook to have on a game with a new ?revolutionary? control scheme. The entire time I felt like the tilting controls were there only because the developers could put them there, and not because the game needed them there. The turning could have easily been mapped to the left and right on the nunchuck's joystick, and the yaw of the trucks as they fly through the air to the up and down axes.
The game does offer a few challenge modes. One forces players to navigate a set of rings while being timed. This is overly frustrating given the poor nature of the controls. I found myself constantly flying off the track and after many attempts I quickly got burned out from the whole experience. The other modes include navigating airborne rings and smashing into trucks. Both of these are possible in the single player game, and if you had fun with them in the single player mode, then I imagine you'll enjoy them in the challenge mode. Otherwise, there isn't much to get excited about.
As far as visuals go, Excite Truck is definitely one of the better-looking games on the Wii. Besides the luster of the trucks, the water effects look nice, as does the motion blur when turbo is being used. The track deformations look pretty cool while happening too. Of course, Wii games have a bit of a handicap when it comes to the next gen arena, often times looking like improved versions of Gamecube games. This game is no different. However, judging it from the standpoint of what the system is capable of, the graphics work quite nicely.
Audio is a bit of a treat. Not because of the music (which is basically your average rock soundtrack with electric guitars blaring away), but the sound effects. There's just something exciting about hitting a boost power-up and hearing it over the Wii remote. Also, players who have SD memory cards with music loaded on them will be able to play that music in the game. It's not quite the Xbox 360 media streaming, but it's at least nice to have the ability to use customizable soundtracks.
Multiplayer offers only a two-player split screen mode. To say it's dull is probably an understatement. It's basically just the regular game with a whole lot less competition. The only other minor downside to the game is that it forces you to perform the first few tutorial challenges before any gameplay will begin. This is something you'll probably have to do anyway, but it gets in the way if you just want to start playing the game.