I knew that I’d be picking up Twilight
Princess at the Wii launch, I wasn’t sure what else would be worth buying. The
purpose for most launch games is to display the abilities of the new system.
Sometimes they are groundbreaking (Mario
64) and sometimes they are poor games with many bells and whistles (Luigi’s Mansion). So when I first
reviewed the launch titles for Wii one name stuck out, Excite Truck.
part of the original NES launch set, Excitebike
was a game I fondly remembered. It’s not going to make a top 100 games list,
but it’s part of a the series of early NES games that got me hooked. So when I
saw Excite Truck as a launch title, I
hoped it would be a fun mindless racing game. Unfortunately, the only excitement
in the game is in the title.
McGee, an acclaimed dirt truck champion has two loves in his life, off-roading
and his daughter, Simone. While out on the circuit, the Blue Claw, an
international crime syndicate, kidnaps Simone forcing
service. To get his daughter back,
kidding. Actually, the game consists of racing in various locales, including
Outer Space. Racers earn stars in each race by performing tricks and placing in
the race. Earn enough stars, move on to the next race. Simple enough.
the Wii control is one of the better aspects of the game. It takes about 15
minutes to get used to, but, as my 11th grade drivers-ed teacher
told me “you don’t need to be proficient with the wheel to get an A.” Of
course, you also don’t have to put your hand in a 50 year-old’s sweaty pocket
to progress in the game, so the comparison sort of breaks down.
have some shred of credibility in its namesake, Excite Truck utilizes the turbo/overheat aspect of Excitebike. However, there is a lack of
balance. It takes a some time for the truck to overheat and the turbo adds so
much speed that you’ve already gained the advantage by the time the truck
Excite Truck, for some reason,
focuses on obtaining stars. Perform a trick, earn some stars. Finish the race,
earn some more stars. The more stars, the higher the grade. With a grade of B
or higher, the next course opens. Sadly, the game fails to be exciting in the
tricks category. There aren’t many tricks to perform and those that can be
performed are snooze-worthy. Tricks include crashing into other cars, running
trough trees and perfect landings. Perfect landings? The only place where
perfect landings add to the fun of gameplay is Bela Karolyi’s Gymnastics Prison. At least with a
skateboard/snowboarding/surfing game you can do flips and insane mid-air turns.
Nothing like that here.
the game truly fails, however, is that it loses focus on what it’s supposed to
be, a racing game. The greatest flaw of Excite
Truck is its complete lack of urgency. What makes racing games great,
whether they be super-realistic European rally games or Mario Kart, is the sense of urgency in each race. Here, it is next
to impossible to lose a race. It’s better to slow down and perform the tricks,
because there is no way the competition is going to catch up. As a result, the
game is an exercise in driving around and doing boring tricks, in a race that
is next to impossible to lose.
really is no need to spend time on the graphics and sound. The designers didn’t,
so why should we? Basic colors, basic graphics, basic sounds and trust me, the
“sun in my eyes” effect doesn’t get me in the sack anymore.
the plus side, the function of uploading your own mp3’s to act as the
background music is fun. Nothing gets me racing like listening to some Chicago
(Peter Cetera era, fuck you, Jason Scheff).
To motivate the player to continue
on, the game is stuffed with unlockables. New circuits (with the above
mentioned Space Race), new cars, new colors, new…who gives a shit? The bottom
line is that the unlockables suck.
gives a shit about a slightly faster car? A beat up VW Bug could kick the shit
out these grandma AI racers. Ooh more colors for my car? Do you really care
about getting a canary or fuchsia truck? If I could get a white truck and after
winning the race, O.J. would hop out and decapitate the other drivers while
holding a copy of If I Did It, while
A.C screams at me, then maybe, just maybe, it would have been worth it, damnit.
won’t fault the designers as much as I will fault Nintendo. It’s pretty clear
that Nintendo wanted a racing game at launch to display the steering function
of the Wii remote control (note that you can’t use the Ubisoft Wii Steering Wheel for this game). This desire resulted in
Nintendo slapping a bankable title on what is a mediocre, and more importantly,
is most frustrating about Excite Truck
is that the designers overcame the biggest obstacle, play control, and then
failed to back it up with any essential racing elements. If there is any
positive side to this story, it is that there is the potential for a great
racing game down the road. Maybe even starring Chad McGee. But probably Toad.