Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monster Trucks Nitro Review

Monster Trucks Nitro, developed and published by RedLynx.
The Good: Moderate difficulty, simple controls, nice graphics
The Not So Good: No level editor, short
What say you? More user friendly due to lowered complexity, but not enough content: 6/8

One of the more difficult games I ever played was Trials 2 Second Edition. This stunt physics-based casual game let you control a motorcycle through crazy maps and attempt to reach the finish in time; it was very hard. Developer RedLynx is back with Monster Trucks Nitro: the vehicles have gotten bigger and the challenges have lessened, hopefully allowing the game to appeal to a larger audience. Warm up your best monster truck rally voice (Sunday Sunday SUNDAY) and see if Monster Trucks Nitro brings the goods.

Much like Trials 2 Second Edition, the graphics of Monster Trucks Nitro are top-notch, especially for what a lot of people would consider to be a casual game. The engine still looks great and delivers fantastic visuals. The game is played in two dimensions (left, right, up, down), but the 3-D outdoor environments look very nice and are even more varied than the indoor facilities in Trials 2 Second Edition. There are nice details in both the backgrounds and the racing track, with plenty of over-the-top explosions to mark your progress. The two vehicles are nicely detailed, with great suspension systems that react just like their real-life counterparts. The sound effects are basic, but they get the job done: the throaty engine sounds are accompanied by explosions, crashes, and the occasional quip by the announcer. Overall, a very solid package.

The goal is simple: reach the finish line fast. Preventing your expedient escape are various objects, such as ramps, logs, boulders, and cars, that have inconveniently been placed in your way. Success in Monster Trucks Nitro involves flying over or through these objects and rotating your vehicle in the air so that it lands on all four wheels at the same time. Controls are simple: go, stop, and rotate. You are also occasionally given canisters of nitro (the game’s title hinted at this) that grant momentary boosts in acceleration for especially long ramps and jumps. The levels are well-designed, striking a nice balance between challenge and pity: a good time requires skill, but everyone should be able to get the bronze medal on the first attempt. This significantly cuts down on the frustration felt while playing Trials 2 Second Edition; I consider this to be a good thing. Unfortunately, Monster Trucks Nitro is over before you know it: the twenty-five levels can be easily completed in a matter of hours, as each level only takes 30 to 45 seconds to finish. This would not be as much of a problem if the game came with a level editor, but Monster Trucks Nitro does not. Given the 2-D design of the levels, the lack of an editor is a flabbergasting omission. Monster Trucks Nitro is definitely fun while it lasts, but the fun is over too quickly.

Monster Trucks Nitro takes Trials 2 Second Edition in the correct direction: easier. This is a game that is extremely easy to learn but hard to master, but not at the same insane level as its predecessor. This ultimately makes the game more enjoyable, as the tracks are less severe and the vehicles are easier to handle. The game strikes the right balance between precision and forgiveness, something Trials 2 Second Edition lacked during its more difficult levels. The graphics continue to be quite strong as well. The only shortcoming is the game’s length: Monster Trucks Nitro comes with a paltry twenty-five levels that can easily be completed in under two hours (around 30-45 seconds per level). While the levers are cleverly designed, they simply fly by too quickly. Monster Trucks Nitro is a game in desperate need of a level editor: it would seem to be easy enough to execute because of the 2-D nature of the levels, so I am at a loss explaining why this feature is still not here. Allowing user-created content would elevate Monster Trucks Nitro into the “must have” category of gaming, but it is still a very solid intricate arcade game.