As its name suggests, Excite Truck is all about trucks, and exciting ones at that. Tossing realism firmly out the window, the emphasis here is on blistering speed, daredevil stunts and ludicrous over-the-top action. In fact, with these elements taking precedence over any particular driving proficiency, there’s plenty here to appeal to even the most ardent racer hater.
You see, developer Monster Games has honed Excite Truck into a delightfully accessible concoction. For a start, it employs the Wii’s tilt-sensitive controller to steer, by holding the remote horizontally – effectively capitalising on the way your mum’s been playing Mario Kart for years – while paring other controls down to the barest minimum. Button-wise, you’ve got accelerate, break and the all important turbo boost – triggered by thumbing any direction on the d-pad. That’s your basics covered and it’s as simple and intuitive to play as that suggests. Thankfully too, unlike other tilt-enabled truck racers we could mention (on the PS3, for instance), steering is spot-on, with just the right amount of sensitivity employed.
Better still, Excite Truck takes these streamlined controls and fashions a substantial trick system around them, squeezing a surprising amount of depth into the proceedings. Whether you’re hitting the turbo as you hop off a ramp and flaming through the air, grabbing a power boost (essentially, a time-limited turbo) and riding as close to road-side foliage as possible or simply tilting that little bit longer to slide round corners, you’re constantly forced to assess the course way ahead of time and plan your moves to make the most of the road layout.
Pull off the tricks at your disposal with panache and you’ll be ranked between one and five stars. Stay skyward long enough after a particularly hairy ramp launch, for instance, and you’ll earn a five-star Super Air bonus. Crucially, this is where Excite Truck deviates from the beaten racer path – rather than demanding first placing at the end of each race, progress is achieved by accumulating a pre-ordained number of stars per course. And, with first place awarded a fairly meagre 50 stars, you’ll really need to make the most of each courses features, pulling off ludicrous jumps, partaking in high-speed shunts or screeching roung corners to rack up your progress points and work your way onward and upward.
It’s this canny track design that really shifts Excite Truck up a gear from your usual racing fodder. With each circuit stuffed with shortcuts and secrets to uncover – many requiring judicious use of the terrain-deforming tokens strewn on the road – the impetus to explore every last inch and squeeze every last star out is irresistable. Whether it’s a tree-lined dirt path high on a distant hill (and we mean distant, thanks to the game’s impressive draw distance), tempting you with a five star Tree Run, or an off-course stream – ideal for keeping your turbo going without fear of overheating – there’s always a new or potentially better way to tackle a track. If compulsive self-improvement isn’t enough to keep you coming back for more, the game keeps constant record of your stats, with everything from trophies to trucks to new modes on offer as you wrack up five star Super achievements or S rankings.
For all its adrenaline-infused addictive qualities though, there’s no avoiding the fact that single-player is the game’s main focus. Alongside the four-cup Race mode, there’s also the option to complete challenges around each course – ranging from racing through time gates to flying through rings. However, compared to the main game, it’s little more than an amusing distraction. Sadly, Excite Truck’s lone multiplayer offering can’t live up to the frenetic single-player race either. Stripped of any AI competition, two-player racing becomes a thrill-less win or lose affair, while the lack of some of the game’s more excessive visual glitz, sucked almost all sense of speed from proceedings.
Despite its slightly rough and ready appearance, belying the fact Excite Truck was a launch title over in the US, there’s a deceptively addictive racer vying for your attention here. Fusing impressive accessibility with a surprising degree of depth and design finesse, Wii owners eager for something to quell that inevitable post-launch games drought owe it to themselves to give Monster Games’ compulsive racer a test drive.