- Reviewed on: Nintendo Wii
- Also available for: N/A
- The Good: Level design is interesting and varied, particularly with the morph ability. You can create your own soundtrack with a SD card full of MP3s
- The Bad: Control is "floaty" due to a lack of discrete response from the Wii remote. A real lack of variety in game modes. Just not really that exciting
- The Verdict: Excite Truck fails to excite, and casts doubt upon the Wii remote's use as a steering wheel substitute
When the Nintendo Entertainment System hit North American shores in late 1985, ready to change the face of video gaming forever, one of the launch titles was Excitebike, and it's perhaps in the same spirit that Nintendo have decided to launch the Wii, 21 years later, with Excite Truck.
An important distinction, however, is that the name Excitebike made at least a modicum of sense, as it rhymes. The name Excite Truck basically meaningless; just a clumsy and misguided attempt to appeal to gamers who remember the original. As such, it's a solid example what is wrong with the game.
Without a Wheel there's No Way
The first thing noticeable about Excite Truck is the aural assault that you're faced with from the moment that you click the icon from the Wii home menu; the kind of by-the-numbers "rawk" music that is un-listenable to anyone with any taste, but which, I'm sure Nintendo believes, fits the kind of people who like to drive giant gas-guzzling trucks around. If you can get over the dislikable style of the game, or, in a very welcome feature, if you have an SD card full of your favourite MP3s available, what you are left with is an off-road racing game with trucks, at least superficially similar to something like Microsoft Game Studio's long forgotten Monster Truck Madness series, but with an important twist; the Wii remote acts as a steering wheel.
Holding the Wii remote in the same orientation as you would if you were to, say, play an NES game on the Virtual Console (horizontally, with the buttons face up) to play the title, at it's simplest, you hold down 2 to accelerate (1 to break) and rotate the controller in the air to 'steer'. Importantly, you tilt it left and right in the air, you don't turn it in the air. With your thumbs pushing buttons on the face of the controller, it's easy to forget how to steer in the heat of the moment (really!) but that's not the main problem with the controls. The unavoidable flaw of a control system that requires you turn a controller in the air as if it was a wheel is that there is no meaningful feedback to let you know that you've reached the apex of a turn. The controller does rumble and make noise for many in game occurrences, but nothing beats, well, a physical "stop" to let you know you can't turn any further.
As a result, the control of Excite Truck always feels "floaty". With you never quite sure that you're turning as far as you can, the game's controls are not as satisfying as the freedom promised by the Nintendo Wii would have you imagine.
That's not to say that Excite Truck is entirely doomed by the controls. Though the game doesn't appear to be any more beautiful even than Waverace: Blue Storm (a Gamecube launch title) the level design is pleasing enough. Players have the enjoyable ability to morph the terrain of the track by hitting special exclamation marks, which means they can be fairly different every time you race them, and the already bumpy and hazard filled tracks mean you spend rather a lot of time flying through the air; either after horrific crashes or launching off huge hills.
Unsurprisingly, it's while flying through the air that the floaty controls make the most sense, as you can tilt the Wii remote in the air forwards and backwards to maneuver your truck in the air and guarantee the best landing, for which you receive a speed boost.
It's Not 1985 Anymore
Though the levels, located in countries as diverse as Scotland, Mexico, and Canada, are interesting enough, if not exactly alive with local colour, the game's longetivity is severely damaged by the sheer lack of variety in the game modes on offer. There's Excite Race mode; several racing tournaments of increasing difficulty, and Challenge mode; a paltry selection of levels offering tasks such as driving through gates, flying through rings or smashing other trucks, not one of which is particularly diverting.
And that's perhaps the crux of the problem with Excite Truck, even ignoring the flawed controls; there's simply no excitement here. And as a launch title for a system that's supposed to offer something special, something different, that is damning. In the end, there's one more thing that Excite Truck has in common with Excite Bike other than the name: compared to other titles on the market today, it is simplistic, outdated, and forgettable.