Review: Excite Truck (Nintendo Wii)

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Off-Road Racing
Release Date: 11/17/2006

After the excitement of Nintendo’s E3 game explosion subsided, suddenly Nintendo was only delivering two first party games at launch — Zelda, of course, and Excite Truck. Taking only the name from the 8-bit classic Excite Bike, Nintendo has instead created a fast paced racing game that puts a spotlight on the new style Wii Controls.

Excite Truck might not have the graphical punch of other racing titles, but it does have a remarkable charm and a fun to play, harder to master gameplay style. But is it enough to warrant a full purchase?

1. Game Modes
For a racing game in 2006, Excitetruck does not offer a wide variety of game modes or options. There is the single player game that progresses through the tracks in the game and keeps track of the best times and best star ratings. There are two difficulties, but neither are particularly difficult to beat.

In addition there is a two player head to head mode where two players can race against each other to see who can earn the most stars en route to victory. There is no online support, and the 2 player games do not have computer racers.

There are also a handful of mini games that add a bit of depth to the bare bones options. There is a demolition derby style mode where the object is to smash up the opponents. There is a slalom type challenge with gates to pass through at certain areas of each track. And there is a jumping game where there are strategically placed rings near jumps that the player needs to jump through.

The lack of game options and relatively low amount of tracks make Excitetruck a fun but somewhat shallow experience.

Story Rating: 3/10

Excite Truck is at its heart an off-road racing game, with a variety of trucks riding on dirt roads and obscure paths. The trucks are fictional, but there are a variety of models that come in a variety of colors and paintjobs. They appear ok, but compared with, say, the MOtorstorm PS3 demo, pale in comparison. Even compared with the graphics in Need for Speed Carbon also on the Wii, Excitetruck comes up a bit short.

The game does speed along at a very high framerate, and rarely if ever slows down. I noted a bit of slowdown a couple times when the terrain change was vast, such as the avalanche, but overall the speed is well represented. The various means of using turbos also send the game into overdrive with an even greater sense of speed. The game engine does an admirable job of creating a frenzied pace for the races that live up to the Excite name.

The environments around the tracks are somewhat limited, and there are usually only a few trees or obstacles visible. There is no notable draw in, and the tracks sometimes have far sightlines that reveal later parts of the track.

All in all the graphics are underwhelming and unspectacular. The emphasis is clearly on gameplay in Excitetruck, and although the visuals are inoffensive, there aren’t many bells and whistles even compared with comparables games on Gamecube.

Graphics Rating: 3.5/10

3. Sound
Excitetruck has a guitar-driven soundtrack that fits the game’s style and action nicely, if not a bit annoyingly. Sometimes it will be necessarily to turn down the sound on the music, or add your own MP3 soundtrack using an SD memory card.

The sound effects are pretty straight forward, with truck and engine sounds, as well as explosions when the trucks collide with each other or obstacles. Using the speaker in the Wii Remote, some explosions are heard on the controller, which adds more of an immersive quality to the game.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay
Excite Truck takes the Wii control to heart, requiring only the Wii-mote and not the nunchuk to play. Instead of holding the controller as a remote, it is turned on its side, similar to an NES controller. However, the D-pad is not used to steer, instead the remote can be tipped from side to side to simulate how the car turns. This is an intuitive and fun way to control a truck in a racing game, and you will often find yourself moving your whole body from side to side with the control to will your car to turn the way you intend. There is a subtly to turning the right amount, although that can be mastered after only a few races.

Each race in the single player mode is competed against 5 computer controller racers, and the dual goal of each race is to earn stars and win the race outright. However, winning the race only really serves as a way to earn extra stars, 15 for the win and then additional stars for each second the other racers take to finish the race. The real winner is determined by star rating, so a second or even sixth place racer that performed the most stunts will end up the victor.

Besides the actual race, there is a large emphasis on CrAzY driving, with star ratings that accumulate throughout each race. Each truck has a turbo meter that refills automatically throughout the race. It can be used at any time, but like in Excitebike, the truck can overheat with excessive use. The turbo can also be bolstered by performing various tricks, like timed jumps and getting big air.

There are a few types of powerups available on the track. The POW icon results in yet another type of turbo boost. There are Exclamation points that create a change in the track itself, lowering the terrain into the water or changing one area into a jump.

There is a trick system that mostly consisting of taking huge jumps or taking shortcuts through forests or other off-track terrain. The most stars are earned from crazy crashes that end up with the truck back on its wheels, or huge air that sends the truck careening through the air with little or no control from the player.

Excitetruck’s races become adrenaline-filled romps with strategic (as much as possible) use of turbo and jumps to keep the truck moving as fast as possible while earning stars. It’s pretty straight forward, but factoring in the creative new controls, it ends up being a lot of fun.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7.5/10

5. Replayability
The single player game is pretty short, and there aren’t a ton of tracks, but there are some unlockables. The Super Excite mode, unlockable after beating all of the levels with an “S” rating, adds some extra excitement and speed.

The game’s multiplayer mode is extremely fun and exciting, and should keep players coming back to Excitetruck for a while. The 2 player split screen is split down the middle (as Wii Sports is) and there is little or no loss in quality in the split screen. The game still speeds along well, and the 2 player racing battles are where the replayability lie in Excitetruck. Racing against only one other racer makes winning even less important than earning stars.

Replayability rating: 5/10

6. Balance
Like Wii Sports, Excitetruck almost seems like a primer for new gamers playing the Nintendo Wii rather than a deep game that rewards gameplay expertise. The single player game is on the easy side, allowing for most players to get through it without much trouble. The multiplayer remains balanced as well, because even terrible racers that crash constantly and go off-road into the forest will get bonus stars and stay competitive.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality.
The beauty of the Nintendo Wii is that even games and genres that have grown stale are reborn using the Wii Remote. Rather than this being a bare bones off-road racer, it presents a totally new gameplay experience with its motion based control system.

The mini games are a nice touch as well, as they add a nice diversion from the normal races. There are only three, which is disappointing compared with the mini games available in other Wii titles, but the ones that are there are fun and make good use of the controls.

Originality Rating: 7.5/10

8. Addictiveness
The races are generally short and action packed, with very little room for boredom or tedium. The computer racers don’t pose a huge challenge, but the real challenge lies with the star and time goals on each level.

And while the multiplayer mode is limited to only a one on one race, the gameplay is such that anyone can jump in and play, making Excitetruck a good game to whip out for casual gamers that might be sick of Wii Sports and want to try something more substantial.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor
There are a number of racing games available at launch for Nintendo Wii, but obviously none are first party Nintendo games. Nintendo fans know that first party games are usually high quality, likely making Excitetruck near the top of the most wanted list for Wii launch buyers.

However, unlike many Nintendo first party titles, Excitetruck just doesn’t have enough meat to make it seem like a full featured game. It is a fun racing experience but doesn’t offer much different throughout the game than what is experienced the first time through the first track.

Appeal Factor: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous
One thing that set Excitebike apart was its feature to create tracks from a variety of different options. This option was never expected to be in Excitetruck, but there is really nothing special about Excitetruck that sets it apart. It has some trucks, and some tracks, and a basic trick system to earn stars, but there isn’t a lot of depth and the racing gets somewhat repetitive.

The box is pretty straight forward, with a large dynamic logo and a truck bursting through. The instruction manual is full color and well detailed, as Nintendo makes the best instruction manuals in video games.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

The Scores
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 3.5/10
Sound: 3/10
Control & Gameplay: 7.5/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 7.5/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score 61.5/100
Final Score: 6

Short Attention Span Summary
Excitetruck bears the name of an NES classic, but doesn’t deliver the same experience. It’s a fun game that makes simple but fun use of the Wii Remote, but never really reaches the next level. It feels like it was a racing tech demo for the new controller that was fleshed out with a few more tracks and trucks and put out on the market. The best first party software is still to come, but Excitetruck is fun enough to warrant some time before that happens.



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