The races are completely crazy, chaotic, fast and a lot of fun. The downside is the lack of a real multiplayer mode.
Excite Truck is an arcade-style racer, where you race through a series of off-road courses with dynamic terrain.
To control your truck, you hold the Wii Remote sideways and use it as a steering wheel. Tilt it left or right to turn, use Button 1 as your brakes and Button 2 as the gas. It's very simple to use, and everyone can pick it up and race right away, even someone who has never played a videogame before, my father-in-law included (he had no problems hopping right into a race).
It takes a bit getting used to to find out how much to tilt the remote to turn properly, but it's not that big of a problem. Besides, the game offers a series of short tutorials ranging from basic to advanced so you can get used to the game.
More advanced controls include the D-pad for turbo boosts, tilting the remote back to get more air time and tilting it forward to get all four wheels to land at the same time. You can also turn your truck and control it (to a certain point) during air time. Why is this important? Because these little stunts are what get you stars to accumulate the score you need to pass each race. So, to summarize it, here are the "moves" that get you stars: air time, drifts, racing close to trees, turning while in the air, consecutive jumps, crashing into opponents, crashing on your own (it's only one star, but still), driving through rings and tossing your opponents in the air with the dynamic terrain.
Now this is where you ask, "what is this dynamic terrain you keep talking about?"... While racing, you will come across certain power-ups. One of them gives you a speed boost and makes you invincible for a little while (you will hear sirens when it happens) allowing you to go through trees. The other is represented by an exclamation mark, and it changes the course. Sometimes the flat path ahead of you becomes sided by hills, other times a series of puddles appears, and many times the ground will raise forming a ramp to launch you high up in the air. I particularly like watching the ramps form, since you sometimes see other vehicles being knocked off or lose control while the terrain rises. And no, AI opponents can't collect these power-ups.
All these track alterations keep you on your toes, and allow for use and abuse of your truck's "powers". For example, abuse the turbo while racing through puddles, since you don't overheat. Use the turbo as you jump off a ramp for extra stars, then do a perfect landing for even more stars. And get used to doing these last two, cause you will need them to win. You get bonus stars when finishing the race as well, but only if you are one of the first three to cross the finish line.
When you crash (and you will, because the game gets that hectic) a meter shows up and you have to press 2 as quick as possible to get back on track with a turbo boost, so you don't lag behind too much.
The game offers three modes of gameplay. In Excite Mode you go through series of races around the world, from deserts to tropical islands and ice floes, and unlock more races and vehicles as you win. This is where you will spend most of your time in.
In Challenge Mode, there are three mini-games where you can test your driving skills by flying through scoring rings, smashing other cars and a sort of checkpoint race. In Versus Mode, you can race against a friend in split-screen, but that's as far as multiplayer goes. I would expect at least a four-player split-screen race.
Graphically, I enjoy the look of the game. It's bright and colorful, the different areas of the world are well represented in landscape and weather. The soundtrack reflects the fast-paced rhythm of the game, but if you want something else, you can always use your own MP3s by inserting an SD card onto the Wii and changing the sound options. The sound effects are pretty good too, and some of it reminds me of SSX, during big jumps, where you can hear the wind and the music fades out. It's really cool.
Keep in mind this is not supposed to be a realistic experience though, and I think that is why I like it so much. The races are completely crazy, chaotic, fast and a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the major downside of the game is the lack of a real multiplayer mode, which is a shame, since the system has online capabilities. But Excite Truck is a strong launch title for the Wii, and it does lay good grounds for more Excite Trucks ahead, and that sounds pretty exciting to me!
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