For those who can recall it, Excitebike
was one of the must-have games for the NES in its heyday. In a time when the only decent racing games lived in arcades, Excitebike
brought a deep and, ahem, *exciting* racing experience home. No longer were you left to hammer on the gas and just tap left or right. Now the pitch of your bike, as you soared off a jump and crashed back to earth, made a huge difference. Multiple lanes with several competitors at once allowed for some very tense close calls. Add to that two player split screen and the ability to design your own courses, and it?s easy to imagine why any self respecting 8-16 year old at the time just HAD
to have it.
Enter Excite Truck
, a spiritual successor/brand cash-in that at first glance features generic design and just enough Excite
features to bear passing resemblance to its pedigree predecessor. Not to sound too harsh, but we?ve come to expect a certain level of quality from Nintendo, especially when reviving a classic franchise, and we are sad to report that the look of Excite Truck
just doesn?t hold up.
So, aside from the so-so design aesthetic, how does it play? That is, after all, what the Wii is all about, right? Well, it?s controlled simply enough by just the Wiimote - no Nunchuck required - and held in the 'Classic' position (sideways like a NES pad). Steering, rather than being mapped to the d-pad, is controlled by tilting the pad to the left or right. That?s tilting, not spinning like a steering wheel as many people seem to assume.
What's more, tilting it forward or backwards toward yourself controls the pitch of your vehicle, which allows you to better control the distance and speed of your jumps. Braking and acceleration are handled with the 1 and 2 buttons, and boost is mapped to the d-pad (any direction will do). That?s it, really. Simple, functional arcade racing, with no gears or E-brakes to contend with.
The motion sensing controls perform admirably, allowing you to finally be able to turn the car more sharply by tilting the pad, just like you?ve been doing all these years anyway. Unfortunately however, I don't enjoy the response said controls creates. This is not meant to slight the Wii Remote's responsiveness, but rather to express disappointment with the loose handling the developers chose for the game. It?s sort of like the San Francisco: Rush
team decided to make a rally game. (NB: I don't enjoy the Rush
series of games at all). Some may find it rather enjoyable. I do not.
Thankfully, the game does have some play mechanics that help it stand out a bit. The obligatory 'boost' is not controlled via power ups or arrows on the ground, but is instead constantly available, to an extent. Utilising the classic Excitebike
system, you can boost as much as you want, as long as you don?t let the engine on your truck overheat. This will stall your vehicle and amount to a good bit of lost time. Another feature borrowed from its bike ancestor is the ability to control the angle of your vehicle in mid-air, a feature that makes a good deal less sense on trucks, but is still fun. Tilt the controller back to gain air and clear obstacles, or tilt down to abbreviate your jump in case a sharp turn is coming up.
Another feature of the game - one that didn?t get lifted from its namesake - is deformable terrain. Not the kind of ?leave grooves in the mud? kind that PS3 owners keep talking about, but rather the ?hit a power up and the world around you changes to form a chasm big enough to put a football stadium in? kind. While this can be a bit disorientating at times, it can also be a tool of evil, and therefore fun. If timed properly, unsuspecting opponents can be 'thrown' by the sudden change in landscape. Sadly, as the game only features two-player split screen, you?ll most often be throwing computer opponents. More on that shortly.