Monster Truck Destruction iOS Review
As a child I was fascinated with monster trucks. I loved to see them driving over anything and everything, the way they bounced around in an almost cartoon manner like they eluded what would be normal gravitational pull for any other vehicle. In fact, one of my first remote control cars was a monster truck, a fantastic little thing. It bounced along and I was thrilled beyond belief. Many years have passed since then and nary has a thought with the large, bouncing vehicle come to mind…until now. There have been many monster truck games released over the years (Monster Jam on the Xbox 360 springs to mind) but they haven’t necessarily set the genre on fire. Monster Truck Destruction from ODD Games is their attempt at bringing the experience to the portable devices, but does it succeed?
The mere mention of monster trucks to many of you would most likely not even register a blip on your interest radar, and you would be forgiven for feeling that way. Monster Truck Destruction is the epitome of the American outlook on sports entertainment – that is, if you can call this a sport, and not wanton destruction. With big, loud, brash, fuel-guzzling trucks on oversized wheels in an arena setting, ODD Games are going for authentic replication of this fuel-burning pastime, and they have to be commended for their attempts to bring such an experience to the iOS platform. Monster Truck Destruction comes replete with a choice of 30 licensed vehicles, 16 arenas and two game modes (Single Event and Championship); Drag and Freestyle make up the events featured in the game modes. Drag is pretty self-explanatory: you race against another competitor over a set distance. This is generally made more difficult by the addition of car ramps and sudden u-turns to a finish line. Freestyle places your truck in an arena with various ramps, vehicles and obstacles, and you have a set amount of time to amass as many points as is possible within a set time limit.
It makes sense to spend some time in the Single Event mode, if only to allow yourself to get to grips with the controls of the vehicles. Huge and lumbering, they are initially easy to turn until you hit any type of gradient or dip in the arena. The suspension on this game is extremely light to recreate the bounce of real-life monster trucks. Having seen some monster truck events on TV (and YouTube), it’s easy to draw the similarities in handling and the recreation of the cars on the small screen. The damage has received the same care and detail as well, with scuffing (more noticeably on the iPhone 4S & 5 models), visible dents, and eventually when enough damage is done (which is in no time at all), panels and wheels can be ripped off completely. Damage carries over to elements of the arena. You can soar through the air from a ramp obliterating a row of caravans in a way that would have Jeremy Clarkson chuckling to himself with glee.
Once you get into the Championship mode, you partake in elimination-based Drag races and Freestyle events to accrue money. With your winnings you can upgrade and tinker with many elements of the monster truck and upgrade them in various ways, from the engine to air intake, shock absorbers and exhausts. Customisation is fairly comprehensive and will satisfy the mobile monster truck obsessive. All this comes with the option to boost your engines with an IAP (in-app purchase) and, in doing so, forgo the efforts of working your way through the races. I have said my piece on IAPs before – I do not necessarily have much of an issue with IAPs, as long as they are not implemented as a shameless money grab in an attempt to relieve the player of more funds. ODD Games have tempered this well – you do not really need to pay for the IAPs, and if you do so, it merely speeds up your progress.
Controlling the trucks is pretty responsive, although at times it feels as though you are wrestling to just keep the vehicle on all four wheels. Also worryingly, sometimes the screen isn’t as responsive to your attempts to steer – on many occasions the on-screen button did not register attempts to turn. This can be quite irritating and really doesn’t endear the game, as more often than not you are battling not just the overly floaty suspension (which can be upgraded, however my point stands), but the non-responsive buttons which are still highlighting the previous direction as you try to turn another way. When such failure to respond quickly enough to directional changes loses you a race, or the car’s lack of weight causes you to flip, it honestly puts you off the game. There were moments when I would just put the game down for hours or days because I’d had enough of the lack of response or the overt weightlessness which ruins many attempts at immersion. Putting that growing gripe to the side for the moment, it’s refreshing to see the AI (artificial intelligence) also make the same mistakes. That’s often the weightlessness of the cars causing them to flip erroneously, but it evens things out somewhat.
Visually, the game looks pretty good, especially considering it’s running on hardware in your pocket. Clearly lots of attention has gone into recreating the licensed vehicles and they do look good. The look of the arenas is functional, and I am sure it is true to its source, but it just seems really bland and dour much of the time. The crowd is enlivened via camera flashes and that’s about it, which isn’t exactly bringing the whole occasion to the fore. Sure it is a mobile game in essence, but there is still lots of untapped power under the hood (sorry) which simply isn’t being harnessed. Then again, it does scale well.
To go with the bombast of such an outrageously over-the-top vehicular event, the game is scored with a suitably apt soundtrack of heavy metal music, which is generally the choice of audio at said events. Personally, I am not a fan, and after a short while I continued muting the audio. Vehicle sounds, however, are recreated quite well and do sound rather throaty, even from the iPhone speakers.
I’ll admit, much of the time I do sound quite negative about the game. I don’t mean to be. It’s a solid, faithful and lovingly crafted recreation of the sport for your phone tablet. That is all fair and well if you are already a fan of the pastime. The game is only 69 pence, and for your money you definitely get your worth. IAPs may push up the price somewhat, but they too are low-cost and reasonable. This is a game made for fans of the sport, and hopefully it will entice some more into the realm. But personally, it’s not a game I would have chosen, purely because the child I used to be moved on from monster trucks, and if I am to play any vehicle-based game on my phone, it would be something more arcade-like.
Monster Truck Destruction is the best monster truck game you will get on the App Store. It is not the best racer, but if Carlsberg made monster truck games for iOS, this is probably close to what it would make. Going from the blurb on the App Store you may think it is all torque and no action (sorry once again), but there is action once you get your head around the sometimes unresponsive controls. If you fancy just driving over things and crushing cars, buses and caravans, give it a go.