It’s commonly believed that most gamers grew up as trigger-happy children often blessed (or cursed) with a shy demeanor. That is, until Quake came along to inflate everyone’s egos. So what would you get if you tell a bunch of gamers to run around a closed circuit for a set number of laps? No, you wouldn’t get a race. You’d get pushing, shoving and all sorts of ‘cheap’ moves used to pull ahead into first place. That’s what Monster Truck Crushing is essentially about: a racing game, but with the option to smother your foes, quite literally speaking.
Crushing is an off-road racer but it’s based in closed circuits so you won’t get to drive off into the sunset like Baja racing. You are provided a choice of monster-sized trucks (four in total) in two primary game modes. The first is the classic bump and run racing. The second event is called crushing, where you crush old cars within a certain length of time. To be honest, I never really got into monster trucks or demolition exhibitions. Those things don’t really appeal to me but Crushing was simple and approachable enough that even a novice like me was thoroughly entertained.
The physics of the game partly contribute to this. These trucks are anything but nimble. So on rugged terrain, there’s a lot of sliding around. Moreover, these trucks aren’t invincible, despite their behemoth sizes. They’re very easy to tip over if you’re going over an obstacle incorrectly.
The vantage point of the game is not top-down or birds-eye. It’s at a slightly tilted angle. The camera isn’t configurable but on these short tracks, it achieves a good balance of letting you see what’s ahead while preventing the objects from being too microscopic. Often times, particularly PDA titles, the vantage point is either too short, preventing you from anticipating tight turns and obstacles. Or, the vantage point is too big, which makes any graphical splendor too tiny to be noticeable.
Unfortunately for Crushing, the developers have only included three tracks. They’re based on different terrain pieces. One, for example, is in the snow. Three tracks and two gameplay modes multiply for maximum of six total arenas (unless you start counting mirror image tracks) to duke it out in. Even at the $9.95 US price tag, I was looking for more. Considering, for example, the recently released Motocross Stunt Racer, has options for additional tracks and levels. Something like that would surely add to the longevity of Crushing.
In spite of this, Crushing has a lot going for it. Not only do the cars perform great but they sound and look good too. The terrain is rich and vibrant. There are a lot of subtle details that show a high level of care in crafting the game’s landscapes. The 3D cars are the best rendered objects on the field. They even have a little shadow effect going. The only significant animations are in the cars, which perform admirably. Some of the other items, like the old cars you’re supposed to crush, look more like static sprites. And I often wished they were rendered with flying parts, sparks or particle effects.
It’s all the more a pity that this game looks so good because you want to see more of it, which the limited number of tracks won’t allow. Off-road racing titles are quickly taking over in popularity. The success of arcade racers, started single-handedly by titles like EA’s Need for Speed, illustrates that the sim route may garner critical acclaim, but it won’t necessarily sell to the mainstream crowd. The off-road genre appears to be an offshoot of that and why wouldn’t it, when every arcade racer these days looks like a knock off of Need for Speed or the arcade standby, Daytona? Crushing may be tackling a niche audience but it provides much needed variety and choice. And hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come for handheld racing games.
[07/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve