Review: Monster Trucks DS
Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 18:10 by Javid
Well they are big trucks but, I think it would've been more adequate if they were referred to as large trucks that merely 'attempt' to be monster trucks in light of this game. Yep, monster fans, put your foam fingers away, this one will disappoint…
All seems well when reading the games features; 25 tracks available, 8 different trucks to master, a performance shop to upgrade our machines in between races and a 4 player multiplayer option to boot. With all that said you feel quite in the mood to kick up some dirt, rev up those engines, crash over hills and leave some seriously big tire tracks. Little do you know however of the unfulfilling experience that it encompasses…
It's a great idea; we all love a bit of off-road action and that extreme sport twist to our standard racers. Many a game has pulled it off successfully in the past, perhaps most exemplary being the delights of ExciteBike64 some years ago. Monster Trucks however seems just to tarnish the good nature of the genre, almost relying on this type of games reputation without supplying the goods.
It's not that the game is terrible; it's just really bad. Almost everything in the game could've and should've been done better. Let's take the graphics first for example; now, I'm not one to prefer games because they look fancy but, Monster Trucks really does raise a few eyebrows. We've seen that the DS can handle a lot better, even in terms of racers. What's really unsettling and down right annoying about Monster Trucks though isn't that it looks meek and bland; it's that its graphical problems affect how it plays. I can get over the pixel blocky terrain, the dodgy looking trees, the flat motionless crowd, the impedance of your view from trucks in the way, even on the starting grid! I can even get over the fact that the trucks wheels barely seem to be in motion half the time. What I can't forgive however is the pop up scenery.
It's not acceptable to be racing along and literally be left guessing where the track is going to wind and weave as it steadily emerges in your approach, it's just not on. It makes for some ridiculous sightings too, like with your opponents trucks for example, if they are near the horizon ahead they'll appear to be floating on air since the terrain beneath them isn't generated in your view yet. Seriously, they float… floating monster trucks!
Expect to be taking the wrong route on countless occasions because of it too. The game seems persistent in urging you to go down the wrong path as well, having you arrive a short distance before it and see some trees or rocks generated in front of you from thin air. It's shocking. Getting lost isn't a whole lot of fun either. Sure, there's a directional pointer on the lower screen of your DS that points to the direction of the track you should be on, but we wouldn't need it had it been more discernable where to go in the first place!
Don't get me started on the physics of the game either. If you thought floating monster trucks were bad, wait until you see monster trucks flying, bouncing, flipping and sliding every which way desirable when you traverse over the rocky terrain of the tracks. There were occasions where it seemed as if the truck was bobbing in water that was nearby whilst blatantly on land. Basically, any feeling of driving a meaty monster truck is taken away from you at every possible chance because of the terrible physics. I want to be able to crash through trees and road signs, I want to at least be able to run over traffic cones, but no, drive into such said sceneries and it'll be your truck that is stopped in its tracks! Now that's not right, surely?!
Sound effects won't help the situation either; the trucks sound like mediocre construction site equipment. And when they crash? It sounds like construction site equipment breaking. No manly revving, no gurgling menacing engines, just lawnmower like humming and clishy clashy collision effects.
But the modes are there right? Well, no, not really. The game hosts a practice mode, which is about as pointless as a cactus in a rainforest, a quick race mode, which performs the same function as selecting a track from the championship mode anyway (what's up with that?), and a multiplayer option. Unfortunately I was unable to try this out, it takes 4 DS's and 4 game cards, there's no download play here and, quite frankly, I think I'll be hard pressed to find others with the game as it is. The championship mode is the only redeeming factor left then, and despite a pretty pointless performance shop (you'll have won enough money in races to buy everything by the time you're barely half way through the tracks, oh and not that it makes much noticeable difference to the trucks anyway, weird) there is some joy to be had.
The games faults ultimately become the games most enjoyable challenge. It's not much to say for the game but, beating the pop up scenery, keeping on the right track and not over-speeding to go flying up and over hills is actually fun, if only slightly. It almost feels like you've mastered it, you can't just punch the accelerator and turn; you'll go shooting off over hills (quite hilariously I might add), so you have to tap and manoeuvre to keep 4 wheels grounded. Is it what you bargained for? No. Is it what you expected? No, but, it's all you'll get.
Trucks all handle the same as far as I could tell and tracks were remarkably similar to each other, in fact they even taken place in the same locations just using different pathways. Some 25 tracks you gave us there guys! The game will amuse you for all of 2 hours, and that's if you can find it in you to humour it for its un-expected challenge. And of course, if the music doesn't take your mind away to thinking you're waiting for a movie to start at the cinema (the old school, almost techno like and sometimes guitar esque themes just have that essence about them).
Overall though, if you're looking for an off-road racer on your DS, you're pretty short for choice I'm afraid. In that light, get this if you're desperate and love trucks (it is cheap too) but, I'd say wait for Excite Truck on the Wii for your off-road trucker needs and head for some of the many decent other racers for the DS in the time being. You deserve better. A lot better.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A clumsy attempt of bringing off-road action to the DS, its only joy being strangely a result of it's flaws.
Beat the pop up scenery!
The boxart is nice...
Play affecting graphical flaws.
It's quite slow.
Tracks very similar.