It's not the most glamorous launch game in history, but Excite Truck's high-octane action succeeds on many levels. The hilly, morphing terrain and spectacular crashes provide a sense of speed that'll grab the attention of casual gamers everywhere, while unlockable cars and secret paths reward players who've got a better handle on this whole "video game" thing. A customizable soundtrack (courtesy of Wii's SD card slot) sweetens the deal even more, letting you toss in your favorite mp3s and soar gracefully through the air as a half-ton piece of road-ripping machinery.
The premise may be exceptionally blatant, but there's a surprising amount to do on each course. As the name implies, Excite Truck is all about big air and going as fast as possible at all times - this comes through in gameplay as a star-collecting system that awards points for cooler, longer performances. Drift through a turn, get a star; hold that drift longer and the number of stars goes up. If you hit a ramp and jam on the turbo button, the resulting nitro explosion hurls you in the air for even more stars... you get the idea. This constant stream of accolades makes the already scenic and intense racing all the more enticing.
But it's not just a matter of coming in first. You also have to meet star goals for each track and pass with a B ranking to proceed onto the next circuit. Trying to secure first place and nail a truckload of tricks as the environment dips, shifts and heaves around you is tough, but oh-so, well, exciting.
The mechanics make the game sound fun, but in the end it's always going to be the control that decides whether the experience is fun or not. As a tech demo for Wii's sensitivity, Excite Truck nails it. After a brief learning curve, we had no trouble at all tearing around corners, flipping the trucks in midair or slamming into other drivers for extra stars. Titling the remote forward and backward also factors in, leveling off your truck as it glides towards the treacherous ground below.
As balls-to-the-wall as the racing is, there's still something to harp about with the visuals. Yeah, we get it, Wii's not about graphics - for what it's worth, they're fine. What's not so cool is the fact that the insane speed starts slopping up and chugging when there's a lot happening on the screen.
The only reason we bring it up is its effect on gameplay. When you're ramping off of huge hills, essentially trying to thread a needle in between two palm trees below, you need things to be smooth. Once everything stars choking, that's hard to do. The whole game should just run cleaner.
With no online play and only two-players a time, there's little chance people will still be revving up Excite Truck in a few month's time. As a launch game, it can easily tide you over until the next big thing (or when a dungeon in Twilight Princess has you pulling your hair out), but to expect anything more is a bit naïve. What you see is what you get, but at least you'll have a few fond memories of the game before it's forever placed back on the shelf.