Curb your enthusiasm.
The Wii might be a strangely affordable combination of new controls and old graphics, but at the end of the day, we don’t give a damn about the commercials and hype. We just want to know how it plays. If the simple yet entertaining Excite Truck is any indication, the Wii is a fun ride, but it’s gonna need more gas in the tank.
Remember when you’d sit on the couch, controller in hand, ducking and weaving with a game, flailing the controller around because you were so into it? Excite Truck turns that instinctual movement into the basis of its gameplay. You just tilt the controller side-to-side to turn, and pull back for more air on your jumps. While that sounds really simple, it’s ridiculous how much enjoyment it produces.
And that’s a very good thing once you consider the rest of the package. The racing itself is fast and fun, but limited multiplayer options and weak challenges send it back to the garage pretty quick.
Across the nineteen tracks there’s quite a bit of variety, from deserts to castles, and there’s also a lot within the tracks themselves. You’ll race against five decent computer opponents across four cups with two difficulty levels. That sounds like a lot, but if you have enough hand-eye coordination to buckle a seatbelt, you can knock half of them out in one hour. The most interesting features in any given track are the exclamation points scattered around that radically change the upcoming terrain, revealing shortcuts, alternate routes, or triggering giant ramps that launch you into the stratosphere and ahead of your competition.
The cars in Excite Truck all spit fire and soar through the air with arcade-like grace, flying thousands of meters and landing without a scratch. The races themselves all load quickly and don’t take long to finish, at just three laps. There’s a wide variety of vehicles to choose from, with stats stretched across air, handling, speed, and turbo. You can also select from a few colors for each vehicle.
Like my crappy middle-school basketball coach tried to tell me, winning isn’t everything. Instead of just grabbing the checkered flag, progression in Excite Truck is hinged on collecting stars for all kinds of stuff: holding drifts, catching air, smashing into opponents, etc. Placing in a race nets you a lot of stars, sure, but first place alone won’t unlock the next set of tracks. Since your opponents go crazy fast in the later races, you must rely on these other methods to get by. It’s nice that you’re given a set of options, but it can make getting a good score seem more luck than skill, and it’s definitely lame to lose a race when you came in first.
Once you’ve blown through all the races, there’s a small challenge mode to check out as well. Although it’s just slalom runs, ring jumps, and a demolition derby, it adds play time to a short game. If there had been more challenges, it would have at least taken more time to realize how lame the multiplayer content is.
You and a friend can race head-to-head on any of the normal tracks, and while that can be fun for awhile, that’s it. No computer-controlled competitors, no four-player, no online, not even a demolition derby mode (Mario Kart
had one!). Considering the otherwise impressive online features of the Wii, that’s a point against Excite Truck’s
driving record. It definitely makes the game feel more Hyundai than Hummer.
The audio also came off the bargain lot. The canned rock is thankfully replaceable by loading mp3s onto an SD card, which is a neat feature. It’s just too bad the Xbox has been doing the same thing with an internal hard drive for years.
Graphically, the framerate is very smooth and conveys a great sense of speed, blurry edges and everything. It would be wrong, however, to say the game looks next-gen, or even current, thanks to the simple car models and flat textures. It may be a new car, but it looks used.
And with a fifty dollar price tag, it’s hard to really get behind Excite Truck. It’s a fun game with great control, a portent of good things to come, but sports a bargain title’s worth of content while asking for a full price. This would’ve been much better as a package deal, but at such a high price, Excite Truck works best as a rental car.