Monster Truck Madness was a game released on the PC in 1996. That makes it a seven-year old game. To be honest, when it first came out, I didn't really know what the entire buzz was about. It was a fun, but not necessarily the most interesting racing game out there. There were deeper simulations available at the time, like Papyrus' IndyCar series. I still don't get the reason why we need to 'race' monster trucks around. It has its shock and awe just as funny cars and drag racing do at live events, but obviously this one has its crowd and if there's audience enough that someone has to make a portable version of it seven years later - I'll take it.
On the Game Boy Advance, as the old adage goes, all old tricks become new again. Monster Truck Madness leads the charge of Microsoft titles being published for the Game Boy Advance. Microsoft takes the route Sega did, but the resulting product is anything but a compromise for Nintendo's handheld. In fact, the piece de resistance of this game is the graphics engine.
The vehicles in Monster Truck Madness are full 3D models. They are sophisticated to a degree that you can see visible damage. There are, moreover, additional views to the racing, including in-car and various out of car views. The other objects, such as signs and houses, appear to be 2D sprites but they blend well with the environs. Furthermore, the pavement looks imperfect, used and textured. Put altogether, the environments are gorgeous to look at, and that's high praise for a Game Boy Advance title running on hardware that is not usually praised for its visuals. When you start putting the computer racers behind you, the thirty tracks provide some attractive scenery for sightseeing.
There are six trucks to choose from. Gameplay heavily revolves around a race mode. The race has half a dozen competitors with the objective is to come in first. Some of the tracks are closed circuit but there are plenty of road tracks. The other two modes include time attack and instant action, which is simply selecting one single race track. Monster Truck Madness, despite its panache for outrageous vehicles, stays the conservative course when it comes to the core racing.
If racing around tracks is all you're after, this is a good game with plenty of content to offer. Again, it takes the usual route in offering features that can be unlocked based on performance. However, the artificial intelligence isn't up to snuff when it comes to posing a challenge. This is one of those games where if you're going to win, you're going to win big. You can effectively put all the competitors behind you before the first lap is over. If you can't, you most likely won't be able to pull down last minute heroics in come from behind final lap wins.
Some of this is due to the fact that every artificial racer in the game is chained to the same logic. They don't chase powerups well and there aren't any visible differentiating factors between the racers you come against. This pretty much guarantees the crafty human player an edge. You can develop tactics that will crimp the opponent's style in every race outing.
Because of this, Monster Truck Madness' simplicity can work against itself. There aren't any extreme modes of racing available. Time attacks are good but they can never make up for the lack of competition.
Despite the spartan feature set, the developers did a good job in bringing Monster Truck Madness to the Game Boy Advance. I really liked the colors they used. A game like this could easily be a brown dustball of a mess but the terrain included is vibrant and really appealing. Visuals are definitely the strength of the game. Controls and audio would fight for second place. Variety, unfortunately, is last. If only this title were to feature a little more variety, it would take it from a decent product to a great one.