Excite Truck (Wii) – Review

Excite Truck - Cover Excite Truck, developed by Monster Games for the Nintendo Wii launch, is a nice introduction to how the Wii Remote could be used as a virtual steering wheel, and is rather quick and easy to jump into. The game is pretty fun with a nice difficulty level, though lacks other racing innovations and uniqueness to make it a must-have hit.

Gameplay: A-

The general goal of each Excite Truck race is not necessarily to come in first, but to collect enough stars, based on the course, to get a passing grade for the course. You can earn a lot of stars for placing high in the race against the 5 other computer controlled competitors, but most of your stars will likely come from doing stunts: catching air, drifting, crashing into other trucks, and running close to tree lines, among other stunts. Holding the stunt for a while gets you more stars in a row, and special achievement awards can be earned for the number of cumulative 5 star stunts that you can perform.

The key part of Excite Truck is the control scheme. It uses only the Wiimote, held horizontally in your hand, such that the d-pad is to the left, the ‘2’ button to the right, almost like a old-style NES controller. The ‘1’ and ‘2’ buttons are used to brake and accelerate, and up on the d-pad is for your turbo, which you have to make sure doesn’t overheat by cutting it’s usage or running through water. You steal by rotating the Wiimote like a push-cart steering wheel, and when you take air, you can alter the angle you land by tilting the remote in both hands, as landing cleanly gives you another boost of power. For the most part this works great like a virtual steering wheel, the only problem was that if I got too anxious and tried to make too sharp a turn (beyond 90 deg), I’d lose control with the Wiimote until I turned back.

Excite Truck - ScreenshotThe various tracks are laid out on hilly coursed through several types of terrains from tropical islands to snow-covered lands, covered with a fair number of trees and other stationary obstacles you’ll need to avoid. There are also several special switches that if you can run over will usually trigger some drastic alteration of the upcoming terrain, such as suddenly making a hill appear out of nowhere or causing a rockslide. Usually you’ll have the time to respond to these and make use of them gaining stars, but if you can knock the leaders off track from that action, you’ll not only slow them up but get the “truck throw” stars for that. There’s also a handful of super powerups that give you a huge burst of speed for a short bit, usually right before a line of trees so that you can attempt to rack up many tree run stars. Regardless, there’s plenty of places across the courses (about 20 in all) to find spots for not only trying to take the lead but for pulling off stunts to get the needed stars. Each track also has a predetermined number of laps (2 or 3), and a time limit.

When you complete a race, you get a ranking, with B, A, or S rankings clearing that course. There’s two series of races, with various levels of difficulty, and which you need to clear all the races with at least B ratings before you can move onto the next difficulty. The Super Excite series requires that you get S ratings on all the Excite race series, which is a rather daunting task as the computer opponents aren’t slackers at higher difficulty races, though they exhibit just a hint of the rubberbanding that can come into play with EA racing games. As you complete races and stunt points, you can unlock better vehicles that have more speed, air time, and the like which can make clearing the last few races a bit easier, as well as unique paint jobs for those vehicles. I found the basic Excite run through to be a sufficiently good challenge, starting nice and simple to the last few courses requiring you to nail a lot of stunts to clear them, and that was without getting an S rating on each course. There’s easily more than 10 hours of play through the game just to clear most of the unlockable material, and several more just trying to continuing to beat your best scores. However, I found that while the challenge increased, even with the variation in the terrain, most of the courses felt the same at their core, and seemed to have gotten repetitive after a bit of time.

Value/Replayability: B+

Outside of the main career mode, you can race in single player challenges, which either involve driving through marked gates on a course, achieving enough air and direction in the air to maneuver through hovering rings, and making a large number of high-speed crashes with other racers. Each of these considers the score you get for doing those goals and the time left to come up with a total score, which you can work to improve with time. There’s also a head-to-head challenge mode available with two players using split screen.

Graphics: B

The graphics are reasonable for the game. They move fast enough for the speeds you’re at, and there’s great sight distance, but as noted above, while the terrains are patterned differently, they all seem to blend in after a bit of time. But it’s still pleasing to look at and doesn’t seem to be pressing the Wii engine for too much.

Sound: B+

The sound aspect is interesting. All the sound effects are fine, but what the game offers is the ability to use an SD card to put up to 100 MP3s on it as to select one of those as the racing background music over the music within the game. The provided music is ok, but has a rather short loop and all sounds very similar, so this ability to use your own music may be a benefit to the game.

Overall: B+

Excite Truck doesn’t really push too much in racing games – most of what’s in it is similar to other racing games. However, for a launch title highlighting the use of the Wiimote as a virtual steeling wheel, it is a good deal of fun, even if it does get old after a while.

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