|By Andrew Raub||Friday, 23 Feb 2007|
One cannot see the word “Excite” preceding a type of vehicle without recalling the splendor of the original Excitebike. Excitebike consisted of little more than ramps and other obstacles and a rough racing setup, but it was fun. Lots of fun. Excitebike 64 sounded like a good idea, but it ended up being little more than most other motocross games at the time. News of Excite Truck for the Wii launch got me revved up, but I remained cautious. Early video of the game eased my worries though; the game looked fast and furious, perhaps too fast and too furious.
On the advent of the Wii launch, I decided that Excite Truck would be the only game I purchased. Why not Zelda? Because I didn’t have time to dedicate to it. But Excite Truck looked fun enough that it could satiate my gaming needs. And it did.
At first, Excite Truck seems very difficult. The controls are sensitive and take some time to get used to. To steer the trucks, all that is required is holding the Wii remote sideways and tilting it like a steering wheel. There is obviously no resistance like a real steering wheel, so it is easy to get a little too wild and crazy. The game is fast, and there are humongous jumps and fast, sharp turns. And lots of trees to crash into. There is a bit of Zen tranquility required to master the game, and learning to calm down and deeply focus is very rewarding.
This Zen calmness is necessary to tackle the many challenges that Excite Truck presents. Aside from standard racing, there are rings and spins that give points required to pass the various courses. Courses are won not by finishing first, but by getting a B rank or better. The rank is determined by the points aquired in the race. Spins and ring bonuses provide one way to get points, drifting and “tree runs” and crashing into other racers another, and your finishing place gives you a bonus. It is possible to S-rank a course and not even come close to 1st place, so players can develop their own style.
As far as the actual courses go, there are a few different locales that the races take place in covering several terrain types. These locales are expanded upon in each cup providing familiar, yet new courses.
Beating and S-ranking the normal difficulty opens up an expert mode, which uses the same courses but increases the points requirement and makes the opponents harder. S-rank this mode and get an extra, out-of-this-world course.
As courses are completed, more and more trucks are unlocked. There is enough variety in the trucks that it’s hard not to find one to love, but it’s also easy to find ones to hate.
Excite Truck is vibrant and colorful, and when combined with the speed of the game, the limits of the graphics are well hidden. The real graphics power of the Wii is still unknown, and while Excite Truck could look better for a next-gen game, it still looks quite nice.
The weakest part of Excite Truck is by far the sound. The music is just… not that great. Fortunately, if you own an SD card, you can play your own songs in the game. This works really well, and is much better than listening to the default music.
Excite Truck is a love-it-or-hate-it game. Most people will either instantly fall in love with the cheap thrills or get so frustrated at the touchy controls. From my experience, most people I know fall in the former category. It takes a bit of getting used to, but Excitetruck has a lot of simple fun to offer.