Excite Truck Review

By Brendon Lindsey, GN Senior Editor

Any gamer who was a fan of Nintendo back in the day remembers the game Excitebike. The whole concept of the game revolved around jumping dirt bikes on ridiculously steep hills, and it was fun. Sadly, the Excite series never caught on after the NES classic (which is a pity, considering Excitebike 64 is one of the best racing games ever made). Searching through their past library of games, the Big N found the Excite series, and made the decision to try once again pushing it towards the customers. Launching with the Nintendo Wii this Sunday, Excite Truck is a next-gen racer borrowing heavily from the "go big or go home" mentality of its NES predecessor. Of course, Excite Truck isn’t exactly the same as Excitebike, but it is an arcade racer which will excite you to the same degree.

As a launch title for the Wii, the game relies heavily on using the Wiimote in its gameplay. This is done in a slightly different way than many of the games featured on the commercials you’ve been seeing for the Wii (most noticeably Red Steel). Rather than pointing the remote at the television, you turn it horizontally and hold it like a steering wheel. When holding it, the 2 button accelerates, 1 brakes and any d-pad direction activates your turbo.

For the most part, the game handles surprisingly well. After you’re acclimated to the control scheme, it starts feeling like normal steering on a typical Sunday drive rather than quick jerks back and forth to compensate your overturning. Since this is an arcade-inspired racer and part of the Excite series, the controls don’t stop when you leave the earth. While airborne, you have several options to choose from. You can either just let gravity do the work for you, turn in the air by tilting the remote sideways, or increase/decrease your distance by flipping the remote forward or backwards. Like the original Excitebike game, tilting forward or backward can make or break you in certain jumps, as you may find yourself stranded on the incline of a hill, struggling to make it over the top while your opponents whiz by. You also have the option to hit the turbo button just after you launch off of a jump, which makes you transition into a turbo jump. These jumps send you flying hundreds of feet further than normal jumps, and if you can time it right and hit a big ramp, you may be flying for more than five seconds.

Other than the new Wii control scheme, Excite Truck doesn’t really do a lot of new things for a racing title — but the things it does add are fun. While racing, you’re able to hit different markers on the course which will either alter the terrain, or power up your vehicle, allowing you to crash through trees for more stars (points). The terrain-altering is a blast to watch as it occurs in realtime, and can help you in two ways. First, it usually leads to either a shortcut or an opportunity for a huge jump; the jump may have floating rings offering an opportunity for a higher point total. Not only can the altered terrain help you, but it can also really screw your opponents if they happen to be on the portion of the course which was altered. This also gives you extra points, but it’s really more of a matter of luck since you have no way to make sure vehicles are on the spot about to be altered. Powering your vehicle up is also fun, as you’ll definitely have a bone to pick with the trees if you’ve put any extensive time into the game. Hey, it’s hard to avoid a tree when you’re coming down to earth above a forest.

The boosting options in Excite Truck are another series staple reimagined. In Excite Truck, you can boost either by landing perfectly on four wheels after a jump, or by tapping the accelerate button quick enough after you crash into a tree, another car, a rock or the ocean. These boosts add some entertaining speed to the game, especially when you’ve used all of your turbos.

Speaking of turbo, don’t get too out of hand holding the d-pad. Holding it for too long will cause your vehicle to overheat, which may cost you the race. Most of the strategy in this game involves knowing when to hold down turbo, and knowing where you’ll be able to cool your car down quicker in a pool of water. Still, hitting turbo after a crash helps you forget all about your misfortune.

As expected, the graphics are decent looking, but not quite up to what you would want to see on the Wii. Of course, it is a launch title, so it’s by no means indicative of the Wii’s power. The choice of vehicles is also rather uneventful, as the first half or so may have different stats, but play almost identical to one another; the big difference is in the aesthetics department. If you want to use a big SUV, use that. If you want to use a traditional dirt-car, use that. The types of vehicles vary, but until you get about halfway through the unlockable list their performance is so similar you may not even notice what your vehicle’s specialty is.

While the gameplay is incredibly fun (just like in the other games in the Excite series), the amount of courses and ease of winning makes for a relatively short career. Some saving grace does come from the way the previously mentioned point system is used in each course, meaning no matter how many times you’ve played a course you can always improve the score. Of course, once you’ve earned an S on every race and have unlocked Super Excite mode, almost all of the reason to keep playing the game is gone. Multiplayer can add some life to the game, but honestly, it’s more fun playing this game with one Wiimote and a group of friends, taking turns racing and laughing as your pals launch themselves skywards in an attempt to beat your total.

Don’t get me wrong: Excite Truck is a very fun title, and I had an absolute blast playing it. The only problems with the game stem from the fact that it seems as if it were pushed out just to show off what the Wii can do, rather than show off what a good racing game should be. Given the way gamers seem to be forgetful of the Excite series, it would have been nice to see something more akin to Gran Turismo or Burnout in terms of quality rather than a game better suited for short bursts of play in an arcade. If nothing else, the game is a great showcase for what future racers can do on the Wii. Excite Truck lives up to its name–the only problem may come in how long you find it exciting.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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