Some of you may remember Excitebike for the original NES, one of that console’s memorable titles. It provided great gameplay and innovative features, and two decades later Excite Truck attempts to be a spiritual successor to this classic.
There are several game modes, with Excite being the primary one. This is where most of the racing is done, and game progress made. In this mode you are required to accumulate a certain number of stars in a given amount of time, with several other AI trucks competing against you. Stars can be earned by performing stunts of various kinds, such as grabbing air, drifting, smashing into other trucks, and more. It is not necessary to actually compete with your opponents – your finishing place does not affect your completion of a stage, but does earn you additional stars, which can make achieving the target a lot easier. As you progress, the star requirements increase and you are faced with increasingly complex tracks.
Controls are a little sensitive to begin with, resulting in constant over-corrections, but once you learn the subtleties, your truck becomes a lot more responsive – it is truly satisfying when you do finally nail a jump perfectly and soar through the air at colossal altitude. Action is fast-paced and intense, presenting a palpable sense of speed. Much of the time it seems that your high-velocity truck is barely restrained and could careen out of control at any time.
Not going fast enough? Nail the turbo! This is not a bonus but a requirement – you’ll have a hard time completing many of the tracks without spending a good deal of time under boost. Fortunately, turbo never runs out, but will cause your engine to overheat, and must therefore be used judiciously. There is no speed indicator, but given the game’s arcade style this is not a major problem.
Tracks are varied and well laid out, with numerous alternative routes to keep things interesting. Terrain is also mutable – collect the right powerup and the flat route ahead erupts upwards to create a huge jump, or brings a building crashing down on opposing trucks.
Graphics in Excite Truck are average – it seems that detail has been sacrificed for draw distance, which is impressive given the Wii’s low-powered hardware, and provides an excellent sense of scale. Music on offer is woeful generic rock, the kind you’d expect to hear in a commercial for any product with “Extreme” in the name. It quickly becomes annoying, but fortunately you can turn it off or replace with your own tunes on an SD card. Nailing massive air to Ride of the Valkyries is truly epic!
Additional game modes include Challenge stages, where you have various time-extension tasks to accomplish, and Versus, 2-player split screen. 4 player would have been awesome, but is unfortunately lacking.
It is a shame there is no track editor included, as this was one of the best things about the original Excitebike. However, the complexity of tracks in Excite Truck makes this is understandable.