Wii

North America

Excite Truck

by Jonathan Metts - November 20, 2006, 9:11 pm PST
Total comments: 13

8

VROOOM! The classic Nintendo series gets overhauled with big trucks and huge tracks, but the spirit of Excitebike is still going strong in this outrageous arcade racer.

Excite Truck is refreshingly absurd. In the era of a Gran Turismo demo selling better than most real games in Japan, and a series like Ridge Racer being called "arcadey" just because the cars drift, Excite Truck does a Super Truck Smash!!! into the competition and reminds us all of what arcade racers really are. The game is intensely focused on driving like a maniac around off-road courses, all of which feature insane ramps that must be jumped and landed properly to succeed. There's no car tuning, no license test, no tournament structure, and no physics model resembling anything in this dimension. Just get out there and tear up some mud.

Excite Truck plays like a 3D version of Super Off-Road and is every bit as addictive and fun as that classic. But in this game, the time you spend in the air is just as important as what you do on the ground. Some tracks will have your truck flying more than driving. In the air, you can activate a free boost just after takeoff with good timing, and there's another free boost available if you land all four wheels on the ground at once (which is very challenging when landing on a slope). During the actual flight, you can steer your truck to land in the direction of the track, do air spins (which rarely work, unfortunately), and tilt the truck forward or back to change the trajectory and distance traveled. Many ramps are set up in series, so you can save a lot of time and get more boost if you jump over the next ramp and land on its far side. This mechanic will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Excitebike, but the way it has been implemented for this game is immensely satisfying in its own right.

It's also challenging due to the sensitive, analog nature of the game's control scheme, which has you holding the Wii Remote horizontally and tilting left/right to steer and forward/back to change attitude in mid-air. There is definitely a learning curve for the controls, but most people seem to get the hang of it within thirty minutes to an hour. It may also take that long to find a truck with the handling characteristics that best suit your playing style. Even though Excite Truck's tilt controls could easily be mapped to a joystick, the game would not be as much fun without these controls. The mid-air control is especially intuitive in a way that I have never experienced before, even in other racing games that feature attitude adjustments in the air, such as the F-Zero series or Excite Truck's predecessor, Excitebike 64. The only problem with the controls is that air spins are awkward and unresponsive. Luckily, this move is completely optional and doesn't give you enough stars to be missed.

Stars are how the game judges your performance. Winning is nice, and it results in a lot of bonus stars, but you can earn a passing grade on many tracks while finishing in last place. That's because most stars are awarded for driving like a psycho; as in the great Burnout series, more risk means more reward. You get stars for driving between trees, drifting around long curves, slamming into other vehicles, scoring big airtime, and flying through rings. To help you perform these feats, the game offers two kinds power-ups on each track. The POW symbol makes your truck invincible to trees and other vehicles, and it also makes the truck drive at top speed for several seconds. Because you don't need to worry about tree collisions when under this item's influence, you are free to drive through densely wooded shortcuts (usually located close to the power-up), passing opponents and racking up major Tree Run bonus stars. On the other hand, exclamation point power-ups affect the track itself rather than your vehicle, terraforming a nearby section of the course. These markers usually create ramps and/or rings, which can help you earn tons of stars. If you're really lucky, the terrain shift will even toss opponents into the air, which may cause them to crash. Along with tons of shortcuts and alternate paths, the exclamation points help to make the tracks highly unpredictable and replayable.

Arcade racers are usually known for being great multiplayer experiences, but Excite Truck doesn't hold up in that regard. There is a two-player split screen mode which has no computer-controlled racers, so it's just a one-on-one competition for stars. Despite the player limitations and lack of bots, two-player is still a lot of fun when comparable players take the wheel… but this mode could have been truly great with more options and features. Instead, multiplayer is a fun novelty that takes a back seat to the addictive and challenging single-player mode. In this main portion of the game, you play through sets of tracks and try to earn at least a "B" rank on each one, based on how many stars you accumulate in a given race. This mode can be very challenging on the more complex tracks, but as you continue to play, new and better trucks are unlocked, and you will naturally get better with the controls as well as learn more tricks for getting stars. There is a higher difficulty setting, but in order to unlock it, you must achieve the "S" rank on every single track, which would take a very long time aside from being incredibly difficult to complete. Even though many players will learn to dominate the competition, it is likely that very few will ever get the chance to play the next level of difficulty.

My last complaint regards the soundtrack. Excite Truck features some of the worst guitar rock music I've ever heard. As someone who loves the guitar and has seen some of the world's best guitar players in concert, I am probably the target audience for this soundtrack. Unfortunately for the developers, people like me know the difference between quality and garbage, and this soundtrack is the latter. It's shallow, obnoxious, and shockingly repetitive, and most folks will turn down the volume immediately. Perhaps in admission to this failing, there is an option to create a custom soundtrack from an SD card, and largely thanks to Excite Truck's awful in-game music, I just ordered my own card today.

Don't let the musical woes put you off, though. This is Nintendo's best console racer since F-Zero GX, although it will appeal to a somewhat different crowd than that hardcore series. Excite Truck is crazy enough to enjoy immediately (even though you may not feel in control yet) and deep enough to play for hours on end, with your heart racing the whole time. I'd like to see a sequel with more varied environments and much better multiplayer features, but this is a great launch title worth the consideration of any Mario Kart or Burnout fan.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 2 8 9 6 8
Graphics
7.5

Excite Truck doesn't look amazing, but it looks good. The trucks are sharp and shiny; courses have some nice fog and water effects but don't show much variety from beginning to end. The terraforming animations are convincingly violent.

Sound
2

NEVER FORGET

Control
8

This is not an easy game to get into, but once you wrestle down the tilt controls, they are rewarding and comfortable. Mid-air controls are particularly fantastic, except for the air spin, which hardly ever works in practice.

Gameplay
9

Excite Truck is full of pure, brutal arcade racing in off-road environments. The more you play, the more you'll realize how brilliant the track designs are. It probably wouldn't be as great as a straightforward racing game, but the stunt-driven star system pulls together all the racing/flying elements to make for a truly addictive experience.

Lastability
6

The single-player is decently long, and you can always try to improve your ranks and earn more stunt trophies. It's too bad that the next difficulty level requires so much repetitive work to unlock. There are also simple challenges that are not worth playing for long. Multiplayer is entertaining for a while, but it is so bare and limited that you won't spend much time with it.

Final
8

Excite Truck is tons of fun while it lasts, and if you are interested in high scores and unlockables, it may last for weeks. The game is a bit skimpy on features, so I'd love to play a more robust sequel, but this is a great launch title and a perfect example of how Wii's tilt sensors can be used in racing games.

Summary

Pros
  • Addictive single-player
  • Great sense of speed and airborne insanity
  • Tilt controls
Cons
  • Only two-player, no bots, in this day and age?
  • Soundtrack should be deleted from music history
  • Steep learning curve for steering
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Bill AurionNovember 20, 2006

Sound is boosted up to 10 if you factor in SD Card MP3s... face-icon-small-cool.gif

DAaaMan64November 20, 2006

Exactly Bill, do any other games support this yet?

UltimatePartyBearNovember 21, 2006

What is the "home" position of the controller? If it's perfectly horizontal, then it seems like landing on a downward slope would be next to impossible the way I normally sit.

RickPowersRick Powers, Staff AlumnusNovember 21, 2006

I'm really surprised that Jonny didn't mention that the tutorial mode is a required play-through before you can get to the main game, and that it's like 20 stages long, and boring as hell. I had a major problem with that, so much so that it's turned me off of the game entirely.

Therac-25November 21, 2006

RickPowers: You only have to play the first quarter of the tutorial. It takes less than five minutes.

PartyBear: Yeah, the home position is flat. It works fine, as you can see how the truck is oriented. I normally lean back in a desk chair, so I tend to get alot of air.... I wonder why....

Reviewer: Getting an S in each track took me slightly less than an hour and a half last night. It's not particularly hard or time consuming, all it does is increase the star count you have to get. I use the Alpine truck exclusively since I got it.

The modes you unlock are a bunch of new courses (it looks to be more than the first half, but I can't be sure, as you have to progressively unlock them) and new cars (which you don't see on the selection screen until you do unlock Super Excite). The courses are still just more re-treads of the same 5 locations, but they are *much harder*. Both in a competition sense (the enemies are artificially "better") as well as a course layout sense (the star goal : easy ways to get stars on the track ratio feels to me to be higher than in the first half of the game).

The new Disturbed album makes a great soundtrack to this game, BTW.

trip1eXNovember 21, 2006

i love this game. Fun stuff. I am partial to out of control arcade racing games like Crazy Taxi and Burnout tho.

Yeah and the tutorial mode takes 5 minutes. You only need to do part 1.

I have to say the lastibility is pretty high for this game actually. These are the types of games you actually want to keep around when you just want to play for 12 1/2 -30 minutes. And that's where this game will get its lastibiiity in the long term. By being easy to get into and fun and always having room for improvement so that it be one of the first games you'll pull off the shelf when you need a quick fix.

Windy told me last night that he unlocked Super Excite pretty quickly, but then he was a professional game tester for two years. It took me many attempts just to finally pass some of the Platinum courses with a B rank or better, so I think it's going to take me a good while to get all S ranks...but I'll do it eventually. It sounds like there is a ton of additional content on the other side, which makes it even more unfortunate that many people will never see it.

WindyManSteven Rodriguez, Staff AlumnusNovember 21, 2006

Super Excite is HARD. I've been squeezing stars out from all over the place and I'm still only getting Cs and Ds. My only complaint that the game is only good in short bursts. I can't sit down for more than 15 minutes without getting a little bored of it.

KnowsNothingNovember 21, 2006

Quote

My only complaint that the game is only good in short bursts. I can't sit down for more than 15 minutes without getting a little bored of it.

See, I love that. I do the same thing with F-Zero GX. I play a couple races for sheer THRILL and then stop and play something else, and it's completely awesome. Arcade racers like this are the only games I can play in short bursts aside from minigame collections, but those are getting kinda tired.

Excite Truck provides INSTANT THRILL whenever I want it to.

Therac-25November 23, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: WindyMan
Super Excite is HARD. I've been squeezing stars out from all over the place and I'm still only getting Cs and Ds. My only complaint that the game is only good in short bursts. I can't sit down for more than 15 minutes without getting a little bored of it.


Weird, once I unlocked Super Excite, I ended up glued to the game for two hours.

Once you get all B's in Super Excite, you get the Diamond Cup -- it's one race on an alien/crystal/space track which is *really* cool.

Then, it challenges you to get all S's in Super Excite to unlock 'Mirror'.

FWIW, I've had the best luck using the trucks with the highest Air rating.

SixthAngelNovember 23, 2006

This is probably my favorite racer of all time. Granted I have never been a racing fan besides Mario Kart/wave race (arcadey stuff) but I love this game. Anyone (a couple of reviews) who say that the new control isn't a thousand times superior to analog is kidding themselves. I hated moving a little joystick back and forth to play, a little slip and you were screwed. I have no doubt that the control is one of the reasons I like this game so much.

Is there some trick to getting a 720 because it never works for me?

Michael8983November 24, 2006

I knew this would be the type of game that despite some initally bad reviews would earn a following for its pick-up-and-play, straight-forward fun.

Therac-25November 24, 2006


The 720 is a tough one. I *think* you have to start doing the motion of the second turn while the first one is happening, or towards the end of it. If you wait till you see the "360" award, you're too late.

One of the things I love about this game is that it's very forgiving -- you fly off the track and land on a rock (I'm looking at you, Canada track)? No problem, just jump off the rock for another link in your jump combo chain, fly towards the track, and land in the direction you want to go. In most racers, you'd just have crashed.

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Excite Truck Box Art

Genre Racing
Developer Monster Games
Players1 - 2
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Excite Truck
Release Nov 19, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Excite Truck
Release Jan 18, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Excite Truck
Release Feb 16, 2007
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Excite Truck
Release Feb 22, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral

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