Monster Trucks DS
Monster trucks are a cool and uniquely American pastime. I donít think anywhere else in the world would understand the American preoccupation with gigantic, pollution-spewing, car-crushing machines with tires taller than most men. I think itís encoded into my DNA that I be entertained by them. I know that a giant truck running over a small car shouldnít be entertaining, but for some reason whenever I see monster truck footage, I canít help but stare impressively and cheer, either to myself or with the people that are watching it with me. I canít say that Iíve ever attended a live event, but if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldnít turn it down.
What this all means is that I had higher-than-standard expectations for Monster Trucks DS. Iím not saying that I expected Half-Life 2,Metal Gear Solid 3 or Shadow of the Colossus, but I did want an entertaining, high-octane, white-knuckle racing experience. That didnít happen. Monster Trucks DS does some things right, but ultimately, it just canít recreate the thrill and excitement of monster truck racing.
Monster Trucks DS makes it rather simple to pick up and play the game, which is a plus. There is virtually no loading, and simply pressing start on the ďQuick PlayĒ menu almost instantaneously launches you into a race without having to make a single selection. It should be pointed out that this is strictly a racing game against three computer controlled opponents, with no car-crushing in sight.
Of course, you can always go through the menus and make your own selections. You can pick from eight different trucks, each with supposedly different advantages (some accelerate better, handle better, etc.), but none of these advantages are really noticeable. You then can choose from a variety of environments to race through, like deserts, forests and swamps. Each environment has a handful of tracks to choose from for a total of twenty different tracks.
While that may sound great, most of the tracks are completely forgettable, and the ones that are memorable are only memorable because of certain frustrating points. For some reason which is entirely beyond me, the designers of this game decided that your giant monster truck would not be able to overcome minor obstacles in its path. If a small bush no bigger than your tire is ahead of you, youíd better watch out, because instead of plowing through it like a real monster truck would (and should!), it will stop you dead in your tracks, or worse, flip you over.
Fortunately, despite this asinine design decision, it will rarely pose a problem in most races if you get stopped and flipped three or four times because the competition is so lacking. As long as you can survive the first lap without flipping, your opponents will be so far behind that even with colossal mistakes, youíll still safely finish first. This lack of excitement is complimented by the fact that youíll never even come close to achieving your top speed thanks to lots of quick turns and incredibly short tracks. Even when you use your nitrous to get a turbo boost, the sense of speed just isnít there (and will often send you out-of-bounds thanks to some stiff controls).
Maybe this lack of excitement is the graphics engineís fault. The game tries to have expansive 3D environments, but the DS just canít do it very well. On the PSP, this game might have a chance, but the DS just lacks the power to handle complex 3D environments. What you get here is an incredibly limited draw distance and bland, repetitive textures. There also seems to be a number of problems with the size of objects in the environments. On some tracks, my monster truck was taller than what appeared to be full-grown trees. Later, my monster truck was dwarfed by giant road cones. Iíve never come across a road cone that was taller than a full-grown tree in my life. This is an almost comical error that had me scratching my head for a part of the game.
As you can see, this isnít a very good game. Itís horribly unexciting thanks to a total lack of speed and absolutely no challenge from your computer controlled ďopponents.Ē Really, itís kind of a shame because a Monster Truck game on the DS could have been cool. Maybe a future version would improve the graphics engine, make some use of the stylus (you never need to use the stylus), and add in some customization options (design logos for your truck, for instance) to add some personality, but as it stands, this is not a game Iíd recommend you spend your money on, no matter where you find it in the bargain bin at your local game store.
Three out of ten
- Loads really quickly
- The developers did try to make a 3D graphics engine...
- ...but though they tried, the engine is terrible and too much for the DS to handle
- No sense of speed, customization, or excitement