If you're among the many players who expect a significant difference from the norm in their Wii games, Excite Truck is likely to please and disappoint in equal measure. Different it most certainly is, but for something as unconventional as a racing game where winning is less important than driving at great speed between trees, it's disappointingly, predictably familiar.
The objective in the main racing mode is to beat a certain points target on each track. You earn up to 50 points for winning but some courses won't be beaten unless you score well over 200. Holding a skid through a long corner earns up to five points, as does jumping for a long distance (like about half a mile), smashing into other cars, soaring through airborne hoops...
As you become more adept with the sometimes sticky controls, you find that there's little point zooming off into the lead. In fact, leading the race can be quite a disadvantage, because the other vehicles aren't actually racing you at all. They're simply mobile obstructions for you to ram into for points, with a 'rubber band' catch-up system that prevents you ever getting too far ahead.
Easy Does It
Equally, you can never fall very far behind. You can crash 10 times on the first lap and still be in the lead by the time you start the second. Or you can race three laps of perfection without ever seeing another vehicle only for two of them to come zooming past when you make a bit of a hash of the last corner. So the correct technique is to collect as many powerups and do as many tricks as you possibly can, no matter how risky, and treat crashing as an unexpected bonus. Blast through the field, taking out every other car on the way, and you'll see that a wipe-out can be almost as good as a victory. And in the end, no matter what happens, you'll probably still win anyway.
While Excite Truck doesn't quite have the competitive thrill of top class racing games, it certainly knows how to have fun. The sense of speed is great, especially when you grab an invincibility power-up and take an exhilarating tree-splintering shortcut through the woods.
The other power-up available warps part of the scenery ahead, creating huge jumps for you to catch some air or puddles to cool the temperature gauge of your nitro booster. Unfortunately you can't just use these anywhere - they're simply switches that, when driven through, activate a preset deformation. If you're lucky, you'll get to throw some of the computer cars off the top of your newly risen mountain, earning yet more points.
When the terrain changes to form different routes, it's briefly obscured by a cloud of dust. If you don't remember exactly what's about to happen you'll often wind up skewing your jump and sailing towards another part of the course.
Sometimes this works to your advantage. You might discover a huge shortcut or a hidden area strewn with trees and invincibility icons. Or you might end up in the water, where there's no telling whether or not you'll sink. Or you might just slide down a giant wall of yellow chevrons that spawns in front of you, ending up at the bottom of a valley, from where it's impossible to see the road. When you do get lost, the quickest route back into the race is to smash directly into the nearest tree and then wait for the game to put you back on track.
Supplementing the main racing action, there's a challenge mode that offers three simple minigames - driving through checkpoints, jumping through rings and smashing the other cars in a go-anywhere track freed from the constraints of those yellow chevrons. As enjoyable as they are, there are only two courses for each one, so they won't take long to finish.