Excite Truck is a spiritual successor of sorts to the classic NES motorcycle racing game, Excitebike. This fast-paced Wii truck racing game takes a few of the mechanics from the original game, but it largely strikes out on its own. What it gives you is a solid sense of speed and the often-thrilling feeling that you're just about to lose control of the truck and go flying off the course or slam into a tree. What it doesn't give you is a lasting sense of value, because unless you're bent on tracking down every single unlockable truck and racing against your previous scores to improve your rank, Excite Truck doesn't offer enough variety to keep you playing for very long.
The interesting part about Excite Truck is how it controls. You'll hold the Wii remote sideways, with the D pad accessible by your left thumb and the 1 and 2 buttons near your right. The 1 and 2 buttons serve as your gas and brake, and you steer by tilting the controller left and right. Hitting any direction on the D pad kicks in your turbo boost. If you hit the turbo as you leave a jump, you'll catch more air. In the air, you have pitch control over your truck by tilting the controller forward and back. If you lean the truck back, you'll go higher and longer. If you pitch forward, you'll come down sooner. You can also steer yourself around a bit in midair. The controls are easy to wrap your mind around, but they never feel very responsive. That leads to the game's over-the-top, out-of-control feel, which is exciting at times, but the stunt controls feel positively dead, and the handling for mid-air turns doesn't feel consistent from jump to jump. The main idea is to turbo jump, fly through the air like a maniac, and then come down on all four tires, which gives you a landing bonus--more free boost. While you can boost at any time, if you ride the boost too much, your truck overheats, slowing it down while it recovers. Flying through the air and driving through water cool down your engine, so the idea is to stay in the air a lot to keep cool and land properly for more boost. But your overall goal is to earn stars.
Your finishing place comes secondary to the number of stars you earn, but they're linked, as a higher-place finish nets you more bonus stars at the end of the race. In the main single-player mode, you go through four different sets of races, each with four or five tracks in them. Each track has a minimum number of stars you must earn to clear it. When you clear all of the races in a set, the next set opens up. You earn stars by doing just about anything. Catching air, drifting around corners, smashing hard into other trucks, slaloming through sets of trees on the sides of the course, and so on will all work. Just hitting the star limit will net you a B ranking, but you'll need to go above and beyond to earn the S rank, which is the only way to unlock the game's harder difficulty setting. Getting S rank in every track is a bit of a chore, one that's so repetitive that it doesn't feel worthwhile.
The tracks you'll drive on throughout the racing modes have icons that you can collect to terraform different parts of the environment, usually so that you can cause huge jumps to rise up right in front of you, though some of them also cause obstacles to drop, ideally right on top of anyone that's up ahead. If you're racing on a patch of land that gets altered, you'll be thrown up into the air and sent tumbling, but since the computer-controlled trucks can't collect those icons, this only happens in multiplayer races.
In addition to the main mode, there's a separate challenge mode that gives you a few extra tasks to perform. One has you launching through scoring rings in an attempt to get as many points as possible. Another puts a bunch of constantly narrowing gates on the course that you have to drive through to continue the challenge. The smash event is probably the most satisfying. It lets you drive anywhere as you chase down other trucks and attempt to slam them. Like the main mode, the challenge mode has more waiting when you clear the stages. But the core action is the same regardless of the mode, and additional difficulties don't add much to the game. There's a multiplayer mode, but it's limited to a two-player split-screen. Four-player, obviously, would have been more interesting, but given that the Wii does have some sort of online capabilities, it's disappointing that you can't take Excite Truck onto the Internet and find more competition there.
The visuals in Excite Truck aren't very pretty up close. The road textures are poorly defined, and the truck models are decent without really standing out. Additionally, when you're playing at 480p resolution, the game actually looks a little worse. Everything gets too sharp, making jagged edges really stick out and causing some weird horizontal banding to show up on smoke and a few other objects. What this game does have, though, is a great sense of speed. You'll be moving at a breakneck pace throughout most of this game, and it runs smoothly, which is nice. The truck audio is OK, and the tinny Wii remote speaker is used here and there, most notably for an explosion noise when you overheat your truck. There's also a nice wind effect, where the music fades out when you catch a particularly mammoth amount of air. The game's music is an avalanche of cheesy guitar rock and generic funk, like someone locked G.E. Smith into a room and told him to overplay his guitar for a few hours. Once the soundtrack drives you mental, you'll be happy to know that Excite Truck lets you put MP3 files onto an SD card and use those for the soundtrack.
Excite Truck's control and speed give it a good amount of potential, but there just isn't enough of a game here to keep you excited for very long. Ultimately, it feels more like a tech demo than a full-fledged game.