Monster Trucks DS ReviewCain Dornan
While Monster Trucks DS may not conform to our prejudice expectations in the form of providing car-crushing, big-time destruction that one would usually associate with the huge-wheeled beasts, it does manage to come through and stick to one clear expectation that we had of the game as we unwrapped the games box from the shrinkwrap: that this budget-developed title will provide little more than five minutes of enjoyment.
Well, maybe we are being a little too harsh. The truth is, though, Monster Trucks DS suffers from a wide variety of problems that prevent it from being a truly enjoyable title. From the clunky, confusing and poorly designed menu system through to the painstakingly slow-paced, bland gameplay and the moderate visuals, Monster Trucks DS reeks of being a game that has clearly been thrown together with little thought and consideration put into its design and execution. Its not exactly the worst game on the Nintendo DS, but it is also quite far from being the best.
One of the first problems that plagues the game is the menu layout, which is one of the poorest and confusingly designed menu layouts that we have endured in some time. While selecting a mode is performed easily by surfing through the appropriate icons that are clearly listed, the post-game menus is where it becomes truly confusing. If playing through the Championship mode, you are offered the ability to either continue on directly to the next race or add some additional parts to your truck. Although you are informed that you can access the garage to customize your ride by simply tapping the Select button, it does not provide even the slightest hint on how to move onto the next race. Initial attempts at locating the next race will find yourself back at the starting menu. It was only after some trial-and-error that we finally discovered that moving onto the next race is achieved by pressing the Start button in the post-race menu.
Once youve managed to make your way into a race, of which consists of a quick race, training, multiplayer or championship modes, youll soon find further flaws that the game suffers from. Firstly, the game is, to put it simply, a bore to play. The speed in which the trucks travel at feels disappointingly slow especially during the early portions of the game before you have made any upgrades to your trucks. As such, the game lacks any form of thrill or excitement as you play, with the 25 courses on offer lacking any significant variance between each other. These 25 courses are divided into four different locations that determine the environment in which you are racing in, whether that be arena, desert, country, swamp or lakes. The selection of five courses within each of these areas offer little variation between each other, and it is often difficult to tell them apart immediately. Add to this the lack of any urge to unlock all of the truck upgrades and levels which can be done in under an hour and youll find it hard to spend enough time with the game to make it a worthwhile purchase.
If you do manage to find someone else with a copy of the game, you can participate in four-player multiplayer matches through wireless play. Considering the excitement level that the gameplay consists of, we cant really picture anyone making much use of this mode to any extent.
But one of the most annoying problems that the game suffers from is the extremely unintelligent and annoying computer-controlled AI. Your competitors appear to be brain-dead lunatics that swerve sharply, readily drive straight of the track and, at times, in the wrong direction. As such, the AI usually poses no competition, adding to the bland feel of the races as youll complete almost every event first try with little effort. But the plain stupidity of the AI can also cause to be an annoyance during races, as theyll regularly crash into you, block roadways by going in the wrong direction or cause you to roll when your three competitors perform one of their regular pile-ups, which disrupts the flow of the game.
Monster Trucks DS offers some rather average visuals, with a mixture of solid vehicular detail and minimum environment presentation. The majority of the levels offer largely barren and featureless sights, apart from the occasional sign pointing you in the correct direction and the track markers that you must follow. Furthermore, the draw distance is anything but impressive, with only a few meters surrounding your vehicle being viewable at any one time. The games soundtrack doesnt offer any noticeably good tracks, although, on the same note, there arent any that are plain annoying. The sound effects have been kept to a minimal, with only a small collection of engine groans and crash sounds available.
What we would have liked to have seen offered in Monster Trucks DS is more of the destruction-filled mayhem that the vehicles have become renowned for. Im sure everyone has seen the towering monstrosities crashing and crushing their way through pileups of cars and caravans, or witnessed as these heavy vehicles manage to get airborne off ramps. While we appreciate the fact that the game has been designed as a racing title, not a destruction derby, we cant help but feel disappointed at the blandness of what is on offer.
Its clear that Monster Trucks DS was developed on a strict budget, which shines in virtually every aspect of the game. The bland gameplay and the ability to complete the game within an hour simply does not justify spending your hard-earned cash on a purchase that will keep you occupied for thirty minutes at best. Although there isnt an abundance of racers currently on the Nintendo DS, there are certainly better offerings currently available.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.