Red Lynx, creators of the much celebrated motorbiking-physicsy-stunt-game Trials 2 have moved on from two-wheeled bone-breaking fun to four-wheeled non-bone-breaking fun with their latest release, Monster Trucks Nitro.
Working along the same lines as Trials 2, your objective is to travel - in a monster truck this time - from one end of an obstacled course to the other within a time limit. It's physics-based, foolish fun. Taking place on a familiar two-dimensional plane via the above-average three-dimensional graphics engine, it's something that fans of Red Lynx will likely snap up without a second's consideration. However, I would like to issue a word or two of caution...
Monster trucks plus jumps plus stunts plus physics plus nitro-boosts should amount to a game that is more fun than this actually is. It's a good distraction for sure, as long as you're content with racing the same twenty-something tracks repeatedly in order to gain medals through faster finishing times, but MTN slips below the addictive, biker-maming pleasure that was apparent with Red Lynx's previous product. Although a faster and more fluid game than its predecessor, it's in the lack of features that the problems lie (not to mention the unforgivable omission of a broken bone counter).
I will detail the issues in a way that the developers will surely appreciate:
There are no online leaderboards to spur you on once you hit gold for each course, so there's no reason to go back to them besides competing with yourself. This sort of thing can only provide so much entertainment, particularly when many of the fastest times are set due to good fortune on the track rather than the product of skilful precision.
The front-flips and back-flips that can be performed by the trucks are a simple pleasure and seem to serve little purpose other than to slow you down mid-air and evoke a cheer from an invisible crowd. Something as simple as a boost on landing a trick would have added another strategic layer for squeezing out the best times, but as it is I managed to play through the entire game without somersaulting once.
For the love of all that is holy, please provide us with a track editor for this game! I can only imagine what this could become with a huge community following, swapping tracks and time trials. There's a scope for complex and varied maps that just isn't expanded on satisfactorily in the game.
So, there you have it. It should be more exciting, the scale bigger, the jumps faster and it lacks the maming of a computerised puppet every time you accidentally (or purposefully) fail a jump. Perhaps if there were explosions and fireworks every time you made a wrong move it would be more appealing, but as it is, MTN sits firmly in the middle ground awaiting evolution and expansion.
I can only hope that Red Lynx will see to updating this game with some simple adjustments in the near future because the bare bones of a classic indie time-waster are present. They just need to be expanded on or, dare I say it, broken in several places...
VERDICT: Currently at half-price on Steam, it's worth a pop.