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Excite Truck Review

Developer: Monster Games Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 19, 2006 Also On: None

Imagine what it would have been like if Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and Zelda were all launch titles as originally planned. Excite Truck would have been on the outside looking in. With Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it’s easy enough to forget that Nintendo had a second launch title alongside the Wii. Of course Excite Truck didn’t do anything to become a second tier title for Nintendo, it just can’t compete with big boy Link. That’s not to say a second tier title should be overlooked though.

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Excite Truck is very loosely based off of the NES era classic Excite Bike. The two have virtually nothing in common and as such, I won’t be comparing the two in this review. Basically what we have here is an arcade racing game with monster trucks that takes full advantage of the Wii’s motion sensing controller. This is not a game that would even be on my radar if there were other racing games on the system worth nothing. Taking what we have available at launch, Excite Truck is a decent racing game that makes a leap to virtual control.

Monster Games, the developer of Excite Truck, does not even allow you to begin racing until you play through a set of tutorials. All of the game modes, including single-player and multi-player are locked until you demonstrate the necessary skills to race. I can’t say I’m sure this was necessary, as it’s an easy game to learn, but it’s a good thing nonetheless that they included lessons to aid gamers. All steering involved is controlled by your motions with the Wiimote.

I was a bit frustrated when I started the game, because when I tried to enter my name with the control pad, up/down would go left and right on the screen, and left/right would go up and down. I realized that the game has you play with the Wiimote sideways as if you’re holding a steering wheel. The 1 and 2 buttons on the Wiimote are used to brake and accelerate with the control pad playing the sole role of speed boost. You will quickly learn that Excite Truck is a fast-paced game that requires boost almost constantly to remain in the front of the pack.

Excite Truck does a better job showing the potential of the Wii than it does in execution. With Wii, I have never felt as much a part of the game as I do now. Excite Truck is no different. It’s an absolute thrill to be able to control an automobile on-screen by tilting a remote instead of moving an analog stick. Not only can you control your trucks movement left and right by tilting it, you can also point the nose of the truck by moving the Wiimote towards your chest or away from you. I can only imagine what kind of games would benefit from these kinds of controls. Wave Race, Pilotwings, Star Fox, F-Zero and Mario Kart are just a few that come to mind.

Unfortunately as far as game modes go, there really aren’t that many. This is the big downside to Excite Truck. You have a limited number of “Excite Races”, you have “Challenges” and “Versus”. The multi-player is only two players and limited to racing. It can be entertaining, but I would have liked more modes and the option for up to four players. There are only about a dozen tracks to choose from and roughly the same number of vehicles with a limited number of colors. With just six more months, this could have been much better of a game.

The twist to Excite Truck is that you win not by finishing first but by earning a certain number of stars. First place obviously helps, raking you in 50 stars and second place isn’t too shabby either (25 stars), but how you race will determine the outcome, not just your position. Other than placing well, you can earn more stars from tricks like getting a lot of air, speeding close to trees, flying through rings, spinning your truck in the air and crashing into your opponents. Overall, the racing has a lot more strategic value to it than you would presume.

With a couple paths to choose from, choices are abound. You can take the high road or the low road, the choice is yours and there are benefits to both. Taking the high road will get you air, which can get you a large number of stars. This also cools your engine down, which heats up after you use your turbo boost. Low roads have the benefit of often having water, which will almost instantly lower the engine temperature to the lowest possible point. You can also boost an unlimited amount through the water, as your engine will not heat up.

While you don’t have any “power-ups” per se, you can drive over a marker that will morph the race course. Usually this will cause a hill to rise quickly out of the ground, but it can also lower the level of land, exposing water. These will occasionally set off a chain of rings that you can fly through with your turbo boost while in the air. The other marker is the POW, which will temporarily speed up your vehicle and mow down trees. POW markers are especially affective when you need to gain some ground or if you need to earn some stars by riding safely past trees.

The Challenge mode has you put your skills to the test. There are three game modes to choose from with just two races per mode. The goal of each is to earn a certain number of stars, just as in every other mode in the game, except you have to earn them different ways. The Ring Challenge has you flying through the air earning stars. The more consecutive rings you fly through, the more they are worth. Any time left will be converted to stars. The Gate Challenge has a time limit for which you will need a certain number of stars within that time. Think of any checkpoint modes from other games and you have the idea. Finally there’s Crash Challenge, the funnest of them all. All you have to do is race around the map, running into all of your opponents on the screen.

With the use of the Wiimote, Nintendo has made what would have been a generic racer into something worth owning. This isn’t Burnout or Ridge Racer, it’s just good arcade style fun. Even though you have a limited number of modes, a wretched soundtrack and a small number of tracks, Excite Truck more than anything gets me excited about the future of racing games on the Wii. As a third or fourth pick of Wii launch titles to own, Excite Truck fits quite comfortably.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.6
Written by Kyle Review Guide