Excite Truck was a very early release for the Wii. It was developed by Monster Games and published in 2006 by Nintendo as a spiritual sequel to the Excitebike series. Although it was published by Nintendo and carries the “Excite” name it’s only tenuously connected to the earlier games in the series.
It’s quite a departure from its predecessors. The most obvious change being that you’re driving a truck rather than a motocross bike. The only things that really connect it to previous games are a boost overheating mechanic and having lots of jumps in the courses. Otherwise it’s just like any other budget off-road racing game.
Excite Truck has a dual emphasis on both racing and performing stunts. To progress you need to earn a certain number of stars which are awarded both for your finishing position and for the tricks you perform during the race. Quite often you don’t have to actually finish first to get the highest grade, but it helps. Outside of the main “Excite Race” mode there is also a challenge mode which is a bit dull compared to the racing but it’s there if you like jumping through rings.
The environments you race in are the usual generic selection of forest, jungle, desert and snow, each having a few different circuit layouts. Re-using the same maps would normally get a bit dull but the deformable terrain helps add a bit more variety. At certain points around the course there are icons to collect which will alter the terrain ahead, usually sticking in a massive jump. This helps to squeeze a bit more mileage out of the tracks and is a big part of what makes the game fun.
Like all early releases for the Wii, you would expect Excite Truck to have some motion controls shoehorned in somewhere; that’s actually all you get. There’s no nunchuck or classic controller support, just wiimote steering. The controls are quite squirrelly but I don’t think that really hurts the game as much as it would for a more serious title. The racing in Excite Truck is quite hectic and you’re not punished particularly hard for crashing so not having absolutely razor-sharp controls isn’t an issue.
It’s surprisingly hard to really sell Excite Truck as a game worth playing because it’s so simple that there isn’t an awful lot to say about it and on the surface it just looks a bit cheap. The graphics are nothing special even for the Wii, the frame rate is less than stellar and the soundtrack can best be described as “budget game rock” but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s a game that looks generic on paper but when you play it you’ll find it punches well above its weight when it comes to entertainment value. It’s the kind of chaotic seat-of-the-pants type of racing game that we’re quite short of these days. You’re going to spend a lot of time in the air and when you’re on the ground, chances are you’ll be going sideways.
It reviewed quite well on release with most outlets praising it as a good arcade style racer but being critical of the lack of features . Today when used copies are so cheap it offers much more competitive value for money and is definitely worthwhile for any Wii or even Wii U owners looking for some casual thrills.