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Review: Excite Truck

Posted Sep-02 2007 by ron
For Wii

Trucks aren't the first things that cross the mind when you think about racing, but in Excite Truck they not only manage to go absurdly fast, they can even fly. And while flying, they can spin. Realism has been thrown out of the window (the strength and aesthetics of the throw have been rated five out of five stars), and today we'll try to find out if something else is there in its stead.

Excite Truck rolling title

If you always thought the most exciting application for a trucks was to get a dozen of pigs across the country, you're in for a few minor surprises.

Excite Truck follows the recommended structure of a racing game: there are multiple "cups", where each cup features multiple racing events, each against five enemy trucks. If you perform well enough in all races of a cup, you qualify for the next, more difficult cup and so on. Along the way you also unlock new trucks with different balances between top speed, handling etc, new paint jobs and earn trophies for bragging rights.
That's all solid standard work, but it's certainly not outside of the races that Excite Truck, err, excites.

Excite Truck start of a Fijii race event

Excite Truck features race tracks in six different locales, with some variation of weather on top of that. This is a Fijii track during light rain.

Excite Truck sets itself apart from the usual racing games by rewarding all manner of stunts during the races. It's not obvious in the first few races – you'll be too distracted by your own adaption to the motion sensing controls – but the game isn't even about your time on the track. To beat a race you have to score a certain amount of points (stars), and even though finishing first nets a healthy bonus, there is a lot more you must do to get past the later challenges.
The most basic stunt you can do is to drive over ramps to jump, where the longer you stay in the air, the more points you will get. To that end you have some air control, allowing you to not just balance but actually steer your truck around in mid-air. The game also rewards you if you align your truck so that all four wheels touch the ground at once when you land.
There are still a lot more ways to earn points though, such as spinning around in the air, drifting, driving very close to trees without crashing into them, though spectacular crashes are rewarded as well, or jumping through hoops that hang in the air.

Excite Truck race in Scotland locale, shows a bonus notification

This "Super Truck Smash" overlay informs us that we have been awarded a big bonus for ramming an unfortunate rival's truck pretty hard.

These little tricks do not net you only points. Excite Truck also features a nitro system, where you can give yourself a speed boost at will, but have to apply that strategically to avoid overheating your engine. The twist is that you can get a free boost, unencumbered by the heat management, by landing well from a jump. On the other hand if you initiate a boost just as your truck leaves a ramp, that will cause a faster, longer boost jump (you can even combo these for yet more bonus points).

A boost jump through a series of hoops

This is how the in-air hoops look like. Because we have boosted at the right time, this jump would have been far and high enough to reach them, if we had just steered a little more to the right that is.

Stunts and nitro boosting still sound familiar? How about this then: in certain spots on Excite Truck's tracks, there markers that will cause a part of the terrain to deform when you drive over them. The most common effect is that a ramp will form slightly ahead to allow a nice jump, at times a few hoops will pop up as well, but at other times a building will fall over crushing anything below it, or a section of the terrain will sink below water level. Launch an opposing truck into the air with such a deformation is yet another source for bonus points.
The other on-track pickup is rather mundane in comparison: for a short amount of time you'll get an extreme speed boost which allows you to smash right through trees, allowing for some serious shortcutting.

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