Excite-Truck is another game that is also different from its predecessors and successors within the Excite-Bike franchise. Moving on, Excite-Truck was announced and released as a launch title back in E3 2005 and 2006, alongside Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Sports, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It heavily focused on motion controls and other casual gimmicks, rather than good graphics and gameplay. While it did get critical praise and was succeeded by Excite-Bots: Trick Racing a few years after, the Excite-Bike IP has been going through some pretty rough times, since there isn’t any new games released or announced yet on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
Just like with Kirby’s Epic Yarn in the previous review, I purchased this game at A & C Games back in March 2014, and this was a relatively short game to beat. I never heard about this game through advertisements (stores, flyers, or online), but rather through Nintendo’s website while browsing through their game manuals; that might seem wierd, though you’ll soon find out in the future and understand why. Because Excite-Truck is even shorter than Wii Sports Resort, this review will be said length too (so don’t assume I’m rushing to meet deadlines or to be lazy!) Though I beat it in only three days – six hours in reality back in August of 2014 – it was still a memorable experience that still holds dear to me today.
Have you ever played a racing game before? Good. Now did you ever play an open-world racing game with monster trucks in the past? Congratulations, you now know the very foundation of the basics and fundamentals of Excite-Truck. I can’t really say much about it as it appears to be just that at first glance, and diving deeper would require me to explain the controls and gimmicks; therefore, I will stop here. Mechanically speaking (pun sort of intended), all the mechanics are from typical racing games or from Mario Kart such as drifting/boosting and aerial tricks; thus, anything I explain here is redundant and will only get repetitive. The only comment I want to make is that nothing is broken, there are no gimmicks (at least with the game mechanics), and everything works fine as it is.
For a generic racing game, there’s a variety of fun game modes to choose from – Excite Race, Versus, Challenge, and Tutorial. Excite Race is this game’s single player, allowing you to either race against other CPU opponents with the course and vehicle of your choice, or compete in a 4-track set of a grand-prix tour. Versus is pretty self-explanatory, and as with Tutorial; however, they are not mandatory and I find many techniques that they teach you to be useless as they’re mostly aerial tricks. Challenge is this game’s mission mode. Probably the weakest out of them because there’s only three missions and only two stages per each. Looking back, they’re okay, but nothing special nor anything of mediocre quality.
With most “realistic” racing games, many race tracks are located in countries (or continents) from around the world. Unfortunately, many of the courses blend in and to make matters worse, even courses from different nations that are totally unrelated blend in too. This is partially due to the use of generic textures, as well as many objects and textures being recycled frequently (and even parts of older tracks are re-used in newer tracks), which makes them generic and forgettable. On the contrary, the pathways are non-linear (it’s open-world after all) as they split up and lead to the same destination, and there are even off-road paths that you’d avoid in other racing games from the abundance of obstacles (but in Excite-Truck you’re encouraged and rewarded to go otherwise).
Trucks come in all shapes, sizes, variations, and colors. Not only are there several dozen vehicles to choose from (each with different stats and control), but you can also change the color to suit your preferences. Meeting certain conditions – yes, there is an achievement system by the way – unlocks more vehicles, stickers, and paint-jobs to stylize the trucks even further. There are only two power-ups in this game, which are the “!” trigger and the POW icon. The former changes the terrain to flip out opponents, reveal rings to earn bonus points, and…changes the terrain to help you go faster or stay longer in the air; the latter makes you invincible and super fast to go through off-road sections with ease.
I managed to get A’s and even S ranks on my first attempt without putting too much skill and effort into beating Excite Truck. You think that the motion controls, trick performance system, opponent AI, and race ranking would actually pose a decent challenge to unfamiliar players, but no, it’s not as it’s quite the opposite actually. They’re all simple to overcome, plus the lack of content makes Excite Truck even shorter to complete as I said at the beginning of the review. If it weren’t for the replay value – which is plentiful but unfortunately heavily depended on for artificial extended length – the most devoted gamers wouldn’t even go back to play (which isn’t that much to be honest). Funny how this feels like the alter ego to Mario Kart Wii where it excels in areas that the former fails and vice versa.
If you couldn’t already tell by the cover and vibe, Excite Truck has a soundtrack composed mostly of rock ‘n roll. It works well with the whole monster truck theme, and doesn’t come off as cheesy or annoying as the Sonic titles (especially the Adventure games). They are generic as they all blend in and become forgettable because of it, but I guess that’s the price for only using one instrument (actually many, but sounds otherwise) and one genre to compose all of the songs. For a game that was developed in 2005 and released as a early launch title for the Nintendo Wii in 2006, Excite-Truck actually (gotta start using a thesaurus; okay, this joke is getting old) has decent sound quality that transcends beyond standard definition and slightly below high definition. You can even insert an SD card to play MP3 files to listen to music of your choice if you ever were to get sick of the rock ‘n roll.
Earlier I claimed that Excite Truck felt very similar to Mario Kart Wii (and even the Mario Kart franchise in general). Well now, I claim that quote again since the controls and motion gimmicks are similar too. In fact, if you played any racing game that requires motion controls on the Wii (most likely Mario Kart Wii), then you’ve pretty much mastered this game from the start. The quality of the controls though definitely shits on Mario Kart Wii as you can perform very sharp turns within a short time just like in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing because drifting is enabled when steering sharply, and super drifts are rewarded when turning extremely tight. The fast animation also allows for players to steer quickly and easily, a bonus for those with fast reflexes and reactions, though I am not implying this game runs at 60 FPS or anything – in fact, if anything, it would be at most a consistent 30 FPS. Unfortunately, there are no other controller alternatives (this was sort of a cash-grab after all) so you can’t refer to traditional button pressing for this game.
Well, the only thing I have left to review are the game’s graphics which is the game’s weakest part. As much as I don’t want to say it, the aesthetics are semi-bad. Just like with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the game’s graphics, textures, and screen resolution is mediocre; but the models, lighting effects, and special graphical effects range from decent to good. Unlike those though, the animation and resolution (of small model textures) are great, which I guess qualify the graphics as decent looking. Excite Truck somewhat looks like a regular game on the Nintendo Game-Cube, yet it still looks like it belongs on the Wii. I’m going to say this right now: this review is my shortest one yet and I like the simplicity and length of it.
(Kind of obvious of the replayability value; however, I’ll state it here.) Stuff like the achievement system, tutorials, missions, trucks, ranking system, grand prix, and multi-player satisfies players and hardcore gamers with lots of replay value. The major flaw is that Excite Truck is composed and dependent on just that. I’ve also noticed for the majority of this review, I had little to say and I skipped many sections and combined sub-sections together – even when I was not supposed to – in order to end it off faster (sorry about that…). With that finally off of my chest LOL, let’s move on to the last paragraph with the pros, cons, and verdict…even though this contradicts what I just said awhile ago…LOL.
Excite Truck doesn’t have anything good or bad worth specifically mentioning, as everything was already written down earlier in the review. The only things that I do have to say are that I like the concept of an open-world racing game and open-world in general – the non-linearity, the off-road, and the inconsistent routes (since this is a first for me); and I like the simplicity and how it manages to make it more fun. I dislike how this game is so damn short in terms of content and gameplay, and how little effort was placed in order to appeal to casual gamers. Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend it to anybody, but if racing’s your thing, only get it at a cheap price at a vintage gaming store. After a review that only took me four pages to write, I’ll give Excite Truck an 8 out of 10. Wait! How did this happen? Oh well, it’s an honest score that’s unbiased and neutral anyways…