Rumble Trucks Review—Get Ready to Truck
Rumble Trucks is one of those Minis that popped up out of nowhere, from Playerthree, the makers of the side-scrolling shoot ‘em up Apache Overkill. This is also a side-scrolling game, but other than that, it is almost completely different. It’s a racing game of sorts, where you drive a truck over an obstacle course. What’s unusual is that it’s a sidescroller, but it uses 3D (polygonal) graphics and is physics-based.
This physics-based driving aspect gives Rumble Trucks a fairly hefty learning curve, as you need to learn how to drive the truck correctly, because the gravity seems more like you are on the Moon or perhaps Mars than Earth. Indeed, as I started to play, I recalled the first part of the first John Carter of Mars novel, where he struggled to learn how to walk on Mars due to its much lower gravity. You’ll find it difficult at first to even get your truck up a hill.
This is not helped by, as near as I can tell, a complete lack of any instructions whatsoever, including what buttons do what, or what the symbols on the screen even mean. Oh sure, figuring out that X moves your truck forward and O backwards is obvious. But with just those, the game seemed almost impossible until I noticed that pressing the right shoulder button made the yellow bar go down. That made it easier when I realized it seems to make the truck go faster (though not dramatically so).
But even so, it was not until I realized that moving the D-pad back and forth rotated the truck, even while it was on the ground, that the rest of the puzzle finally filled in. I have no idea why this isn’t explained. At first, I thought there just must be a software manual, which a few Minis have. But nope. It strikes me as such a strange thing—you go through all the trouble of making a game, then don’t explain any of it, not even just a screenshot explaining controls.
Once you figure things out, though, the game is pretty fun. Courses have hills, jumps, and objects that you must navigate the truck over or around, while grabbing golden stars along the way (which don’t seem to do much except take a second off your time). There are three different terrain sets, War Zone, Jungle, and Cemetery (misspelled as “Cemetary,” unless that’s a UK variant spelling), and several courses per terrain set. They start off fairly straightforward but can get complicated as you go further into the game.
There are nine different trucks you can unlock, though how you unlock them isn’t explained, either (shocking, eh?). But they are themed along with the terrain: Army Jeeps for War Zone, Rovers for Jungle (and the driver wearing a pith helmet), and monster-driven broughams for Cemetery. These have different stats as well as looks—top speed, how much boost they have, and how much damage they can take (which happens when you don’t jump over a pit properly).
While Playerthree might not have explained anything, they did go out of their way to add in game achievements. Most of these are earned for unlocking stuff, but there are some for doing tricks, collecting coins, crashing, and so forth.
Besides instructions, one thing I really would have liked to have seen is a way to restart a level. Sometimes you screw up and get stuck, so your only recourse is to quit and start again, which means you have to wait though a fairly lengthy loading time (almost twenty seconds from course/car selection to the race, which is worse than many UMD-based racing games).
The graphics are surprisingly good. I say that because I am a fan of sprites for 2D games, and usually when 3D graphics are used in Minis, they can look like, well, PS1 games. But here, they have a very nice level of detail, especially the trucks, and fit the game quite well and give it a fairly distinctive look. And, they presumably have an impact on how the game plays as well, as I don’t think many of the tracks would have been possible with sprites.
The music is quite dramatic and good, while the sound effects can get a little annoying, and the tires make sort of a squeaky noise that started to grate on me after a bit.
While I wouldn’t say Rumble Trucks is a great game, it is a fun game. It reminds me vaguely of a motorcycle game I used to have for the Game Boy, Motocross Maniacs, and even more vaguely of the classic Excitebike, but both of those featured a more zoomed-out view (and longer tracks) and, well, were a lot better. Then again, they were also full price titles.
Although it’s almost a completely different type of game from their previous Mini, Apache Overkill, which was a side-scrolling shooter, it’s the same in that both are fun but needed more polish, though the in-game achievements were a good step towards that. On the other hand, the slow loading of races and the annoyance of not being able to immediately retry a track take their toil on the fun factor.
Still, Playerthree gets the most important part of a game right, making it a blast to play. It is a bit challenging, though; it took me a long while to even get past the first stages, until I fully got used to the controls and the somewhat floaty physics.