This article was originally published at Aussie-Nintendo.com
Although it was a launch title in the USA, Excite Truck has taken a few months longer to reach our shores but we have it now and our American friends have finally got WiiPlay too. The only question that remains is, was Excite Truck worth the wait?
After spending quite a bit of time with this game I can safely assure potential buyers that it certainly lives up to its name. Excite Truck is a fast-paced crazy arcade racer and the spiritual sequel to Nintendo’s Excite Bike games. It contains over ten different tracks set in a variety of countries and over ten different trucks to race in. Unlike most racing games, the object is not simply to come first (though it helps) but to perform a variety of different tricks and earn enough stars to pass each stage. Stars can be scored for crashing into other trucks, going through trees without crashing, flying through the air and even shooting through giant rings. There is also a mission based mode which has you doing more specific tricks. Excite Truck is by no means a realistic racer and it is made all the better because of the fact!
When you first start Excite Truck you go through a quick tutorial which might seem annoying at first but will be a real benefit to most players just starting out. It is not dragged out too long and once you get the basics and jump into the main game you will be enjoying yourself from your first race onwards. The game is controlled by tilting the remote either left or right to turn and using the d-pad for boost and the one and two buttons for breaking and accelerating. It is a deceptively simple setup though as there are many different tricks to master and all are achieved with quick and precise use of these controls. While it easy for anyone to pick up and enjoy this game the true challenge is in mastering the stunts as once you are past the beginner stage you will already be pulling off some amazing moves. I’m already looking forward to seeing videos in the future that really show how far gamers can push this game.
The main mode in the game is Excite Race (Super Excite is unlockable) where you race and compete for star points. Each level has a set amount of stars needed to achieve a pass but going further than this will early you higher ranks; the highest being S-rank. Winning the race gets you bonus stars but to pass each level successfully performing stunts is a must. Once the basic mechanics are mastered the game becomes more strategic as you measure up just how many stars you can get around each corner and each jump. Boosting is also a strategic element as boosting too much will overheat your engine which will slow you right down. The engine cools over time but even faster when airborne and instantly when crossing shallow water. As you get further into the game all this has to be taken into account as it can mean not only the difference between passing and failing but also in getting those higher ranks and unlocking the many extras available in the game. There is also a mission based mode which has you undertaking more specific tricks in a tighter time limit. An expanded tutorial is optional and a very simple two player mode (which unfortunately allows no computer racers) is also available. Excite Mode is where the best bits of the game are and this is where most people will spend the time.
The visuals in Excite Truck look really good most of the time but they are definitely nothing that can’t be seen on GameCube. It is unfortunate that it has been released later in Australia as rather than looking like a game that suffers from launch blues, it just seems like yet another game that doesn’t show what the Wii can do visually. Despite all this the game is in no way bad to look at and due to the speed of the game you won’t get much of a chance to admire the scenery anyway. The truck models in particular look great as do many of the greener levels in the game. The tracks covered in snow look a little plain but these are the exception out of some very big, bright and detailed tracks.
One of the best features Excite Truck offers (and I’m glad it was included in an early Wii game) is the ability to play tracks off an SD card. Captain told me in an email that this feature should have the game losing marks due to the otherwise poor default music and while I agree that this can easily be seen as an apology for the bad soundtrack, the feature should become a standard options for most if not all Wii games in the future. The standard soundtrack offers only some very generic rock tunes and while they suit the overall feel of the game, even rock fans will prefer their own music. Luckily the best tracks are the ones you have to listen to at the title and menu screens and in game music can quickly be switched for your own before the races start. The sound effects for the trucks revving, crashing, breaking, skidding and landing are all excellent and really add to the excitement of the races. The biggest gripe I have would be where voice work is concerned as I feel this game could have used a voice announcer like in many other arcade race games and of course the option to switch him or her off.
The biggest problem with Excite Truck overall is that the game just does not have enough content to extend it past a couple of weeks play. In this way it is very similar to two other 2nd party Nintendo Titles: Mario Smash Football and Battalion Wars. Like these two games, what Excite Truck does, it does very well but there is just not enough on offer to keep either casual or regular gamers on for very long. Also like the other two titles, there is very little to nothing outside the main game and most of the replay value is in found with increased difficulty and higher point scores. Casual gamers will be put off once the difficulty increases as they already have access to most tracks and vehicles and regular gamers will probably finish much of what the game offers within a few weeks. If Excite Truck had more tracks, more game modes and a much more fleshed out multiplayer, it would easily receive a much higher score. If a sequel is made in the future (and I really hope there is one) it would also benefit from a greatly expanded multiplayer mode that includes online services.
Excite Truck is pure arcade fun and gives you everything you would expect from a slot-operated arcade hit in your home. As a home console game though, it just doesn’t give enough to last or justify the price tag of $99.95. If you’re a racing fan and especially an arcade racing fan then this game probably is still worth the buy but for everyone else I would recommend it either as a rental or when it gets a whole lot cheaper in shops.