I guess you could say the Excite series got started with Excitebike on the NES way back when. It was a fairly original motorcross racer with simplistic graphics and controls, but it had a track editor and it really stuck with everyone who had played it. Now a days we gamers take some of things that game brought to the table for granted. For the Wii launch Nintendo has decided to release a spirtual successor, and in the racing tradition of Excitebike, get ready for an exciting big-air racing experience with Excite Truck. You’ll rocket your two-ton truck across dynamically changing terrain in a nitrous-injected, high-flying racer for speed junkies. Excite Truck is a launch title built to really show the Wii Remote controller’s versatility, players tilt the controller on its side to turn it into a wireless steering wheel. What better way to kick off a system launch then to try and blend some old with a lot of new.

I have a feeling that Wii titles are going to be tough to judge graphically. How exactly are we supposed to go about it? Do we compare the titles against other Wii games, or do we compare them against the 360 and PS3? My own personal opinion is that you compare them against other titles on the same platform, for the most part. The Wii is more like a Mini Cooper compared to Microsoft and Sony’s Jaguars. Sure they’re both British cars but they’re not in the same class and really shouldn’t be compared. So with that out of the way, Excite Truck is clearly one of the prettier Wii launch titles. Screenshots truly do not do this title any service at all.

Eschewing a photo-realistic graphical approach the game’s developer Monster Studios has created a more over the top kind of look and feel. Think more San Francisco Rush than Need For Speed and you have a good understanding. All of the vehicles look nice, but they are definitely not meant to look true to their real life counterparts. The game runs at a healthy FPS with no noticeable frame drop, and this is with 6 vehicles, deforming terrain, and exceptionally large tracks. As well, I really liked the blur effects when you hit the speed boost.

There are several different environments that represent different countries and all have been recreated with a good aesthetic and charm that definitely fits what initially think of when you hear that country’s name. The Great Wall, a Scottish castle and white sandy beaches are some of the areas you’ll ride off road. Every stage has destructible parts and when you hit certain power ups you deform the terrain to your advantage. All of this comes together to make a fairly good looking package. If we were putting this game up against some of the 360’s offerings I wouldn’t be as optimistic, but I came away expecting to be disappointed graphically and was happy to see a lot more good than bad.

I was pleasantly surprised by the options and attention to the effects in Excite Truck. The original soundtrack for the game is nothing anyone will get too excited over. It’s actually generic for the most part, but what is great for Wii owners is the inclusion of custom soundtracks via the SD card slot. You can have up to 100 mp3 songs pulled from a flash card and played while racing. I’ve always been a big fan of custom soundtracks, and Excite Truck is one title that definitely gets a big bump for including it.

While the original soundtrack was nothing special, the in game sound effects are great and even take advantage of the Wii-mote’s built in speaker. When you hit boost, special items, or crash you get a neat little effect out of the speaker. At first I couldn’t figure out where these sounds were coming from until I listened carefully and noticed them coming from the controller. It’s a neat added touch, and great use of the functionality. Hopefully other games will use both the speaker and the custom soundtracks to good use like Excite Truck

Now we come to what the Nintendo Wii is all about. Changing the way we control, feel and experience games. Excite Truck is controlled by holding the remote sideways for steering and using the 1 and 2 buttons to brake and accelerate respectively. You turn the remote right to go right and left to go left. When you’re in mid-air you can tilt the remote forward and back to control pitch and yaw which impacts your landing. It

As I said earlier, Excite Truck is purely an arcade racer. Realistic physics are out the door, and there is something of a natural high gained by launching two-ton trucks hundreds of feet into the air. Roughly 20 races are spread out across several continents and countries. Each track has been designed so that the racers can have an impact on the environment as well as the race. By hitting specific icons you can terra-form the track thus opening short cuts and areas good for boosting for you; while launching your opponents high into the air only to come down in a burning heap of flames.

What arcade racer wouldn’t be complete without a turbo boost. In Excite Truck boosting strategy becomes vital to both placing well and earning stars. Why do I want to earn stars you say? Well you earn stars by performing actions like drifts, driving close to tress, and destroying your opponents. These stars then unlock the other tracks in the game. You can actually finish second and still collect enough stars to keep progressing. I like this mechanic because while you have an incentive to finish first, a 50 star bonus, it’s not necessary to win and move on.

On top of the races are varying challenges that you can complete like racing through checkpoints and earning a specific amount of stars before the timer runs out. All of those simply add to the regular racing, which unfortunately can be finished in a weekend’s worth of play. Normally online play or a fleshed out multiplayer would more than makeup for a short single player experience, but that is not the case here. Multiplayer is limited to split screen two-player one on one racing. That’s right you don’t even get to race against the computer with a friend. All is not lost though as the game is incredibly fun and enjoyable. In fact I think there is enough to warrant playing through multiple times, including a higher difficulty level and achievements. Lastly, it looks like the developer stole a feather from Microsoft Unfortunately for fans looking for a really deep racer Excite Truck will not fit the bill. It will satisfy those looking for a fun arcade style racer, and for people who like to get all the achievements. Unlocking the harder difficulty only amps up the stakes and adds more things to do, but it’s not enough. Multiplayer seems tacked on and forgotten about and that is a crying shame. I wait for the day we get an online capable sequel from Nintendo. So is the game really worth $50, well yes and no. For a launch title is has a little more value, overall Excite Truck would be a better deal at $30 or less.