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More and more, racing games on the Game Boy Advance are coming to resemble racing games made for the original PlayStation. This observation isn't meant as an insult to the GBA's processor, but rather to highlight the fact that 3D hasn't historically been the system's strong suit, and that this trend is changing for the better, thanks to games like Drome Racers and THQ's latest, Monster Truck Madness. There are plenty of other racing games available for the GBA, but Monster Truck Madness is one of the most impressive ones yet. Too bad there's no link-up mode for multiplayer racing.
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.
Unfortunately, Monster Truck Madness' sound is functional at best, offering forgettable intro music and no in-game background music. Sound effects are well-done, punctuated by the occasional exclamation (“One more lap to go!), and the player has the ability to initiate a satisfying “Yee-haw” or a musical horn by pressing the shoulder buttons. However, for the majority of gameplay, all players will hear is the sound of their engine.
Monster Truck Madness is loosely based upon the design originally brought to market on the PC, and later on the Nintendo 64 console. The GBA title, developed by Australian studio Tantalus, is a carnage-encouraging racing design featuring a line-up of ten different and licensed monster trucks and ten different tracks of varying terrain. The idea is to come in first after three laps or checkpoints, a task which will unlock and give players access to previously unaccessible trucks and tracks. To pull this off, players will have to collect power-up icons that will temporarily affect the player's or computer opponents' vehicles; some will give a temporary boost of speed or super traction, while others will cause the opposition to explode in place or shrink to half their size. The game also encourages destruction by having a "rampage" power bar; every time the player runs over a track-side obstacle, the bar increases. Top it out, and the vehicle powers up with an insane boost in speed.
It’s no secret that the GBA suffers from an overabundance of racing titles and Monster Truck Madness certainly stands out above the rest, at least for the short term. The lack of multiplayer is the only thing keeping this game from true greatness. If you are content to race alone you won’t find a more challenging truck racing game out there. The graphics are excellent, the game engine and physics are flawless and fun and Monster Truck Madness is simply a blast to play.
In such a small package, Monster Truck Madness offers an entertaining racing experience. A real surprise is how smooth the game plays, since Monster Truck Madness is a 3D racing game. There is even an in-truck view available in the game. Another impressive bonus is the real time damage that occurs to your truck. The damage isn’t enough to destroy your truck, but it adds to an already impressive game. However the controls can take a while to get use to get comfortable with. The trucks seem to float around the track at first, but it shouldn’t take long to get comfortable with the controls.
Monster trucks control like rally cars; at least that’s what this game has taught me. It has also taught me that 3D graphics and lots of tracks don’t prevent me from wanting to put this game in a shallow grave after my first lap. The most – and perhaps only – fun I had was hitting the shoulder buttons to either make my driver scream "Yee-haw!" or honk my horn. Who will Monster Truck Madness appeal to? The vehicles don’t act how they would in real life and it’s so short on thrills that it needs to sit atop a stack of phone books to see over the dashboard.
Monster Truck Madness is easily one of the best-looking racers for the GBA, but its gameplay is ultimately unsatisfying, and once you've unlocked all the tracks and trucks in a day, there's no multiplayer action to extend the longevity. (At least you'll always have that wonderful "Yee Haw" button with which to torture your friends and neighbors)