Friday 5 July 2019

Powering Off The Line With Excite Truck

Back in 2006, I was an eleven-year-old looking for a new video game console to get for Christmas. I was looking through the Argos catalogues and seeing what sort of games I could get for each system. Being completely unknowledgeable about the inner details of video game systems, I’d settled on the original Xbox. Yup, even though the Xbox 360 had released the previous year, I was going to put the soon to be discontinued last generation machine on my list instead. From memory, it was purely down to seeing that it had a Spyro game on it, as well as a Crash racing game.

But then my dad bought the Official Nintendo Magazine, and I was introduced to my first proper understanding of the video game industry. I’d had a Game Boy, then a GBC and a GBA after that, though those were mainly for Pokémon games. We’d had a PS1, where I’d first encountered both Spyro and the first Crash racing game, and a PS2, that held many memories of various games both good and bad. There was also the Gamecube, in which I had recognition of a variety of Nintendo brands thanks to Super Smash Bros. And it was the console that kickstarted my love of Sonic the Hedgehog. But I’d never had the understanding of who owned what and the distinctions between various platforms.

But with ONM, I finally started to gain the understanding that would draw me to the likes of Neoseeker and CVG. And of course the ONM Forums. But it was that first magazine that made me aware of something new. Something that would give me hundreds of hours of delight and plenty of new experiences. The Wii. And within that Nintendo magazine was a lot of information about it, along with a game called Excite Truck.

I was already a fan of racing games, having Mario Kart: Double Dash on the GCN, as well as playing a few Burnout games (and The Italian Job game that I cannot remember a single thing about, except it featured Minis). So to see this racing game, and one that looked like it offered another interesting take on racing, was one I wanted to play. I immediately changed my mind on that console of choice, recognising that the original Xbox wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go. It was to stay with Nintendo, and the brand that I’d already got plenty of recognition with even if I had failed to see it.

After seeing the game pushed from launch in Europe to January, then to February, I finally had it to experience. I loved it. The steering took a bit of getting used to, as it was very twitchy and the slightest motion would have the vehicle start turning in that direction, but the game had tutorials to get through that allowed me to get used to it. After that, it was onto the full game.

What I liked about it most was that winning was not the end goal. Sure, it certainly helped to have a 50-point boost to the ending total, but if you were skilled enough, then you could reach and even exceed that total even if you were last. The tracks themselves are based on six locations, with 20 tracks in total. That number also includes a Super Excite difficulty exclusive track, which is a great one to race on. Points accumulate through actions such as air-time, drifting, tricks, and smashing into the other trucks, and you also have the boost gauge which adds another factor into all that. You don’t want to overheat your truck, after all.

I enjoyed the music, though it can start blending together after a while. I enjoyed the car selection, with plenty to unlock that offered a few stats that affected how each would control. But mostly I just enjoyed powering around the courses doing stunts and silly stuff. It would take me a long age to get all those S-Ranks – particularly on that Super Excite exclusive track. But no matter what I kept coming back to it. Even when Mario Kart Wii released more than a year later. There was a charm to the game that I always wanted to experience. Sure, it doesn’t look particularly impressive graphically these days, but it is still super fun to play.

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