Ah, monster trucks. Sitting somewhere between professional wrestling and NASCAR events in American culture, it sees over-sized vehicles powering around arenas, over cars and through caravans in a motor-fuelled orgy of engines and manly-ness enough to excite motorheads and thrill-seekers alike. Although an impressive spectacle to watch live, it’s not exactly a format that lends itself to gaming, with this generation’s Monster Jam effort not only slipping under the radar but borrowing miles beneath it. Developers Odd Games attempt to change this by bringing the mayhem to iOS with Monster Truck Destruction.
With official Monster X Tour branding and 30 vehicles modelled on real life trucks, it’s a faithful rendition of the sport (is it a sport? we’ll call it a sport) that will certainly please fans. There are two game modes on offer, drag racing and freestyle, both of which are realistic trucking events. Drag races are simple enough; short blasts of weaving around the arena facing off against another truck. You aren’t competing directly against your opponent; just being in the top half of the times sees the player through to the next round until the final.
Freestyle sets the player loose on these tracks, giving them a minute to pull off tricks and combos, racking up points Tony Hawk-style. There are plenty of tricks that can be achieved, but without a skill button to pull these off freestyle events can be largely hit and miss. Scores topping 1 million points can be reached without really knowing what is going on, accelerating and spinning into ramps rather than trying to skilfully execute different tricks.
There are sixteen different tracks in total, split into two different Monster X Tours (East and West) with each tournament featuring sixteen events apiece (drag and freestyle on each level). What starts off simple – such as a plain there and back drags – turns into more intricate designs with ramps and jumps. These levels can be replayed by themselves at any time in the single event mode. Each level has been designed by Jason Brander, creative director of Monster X Tour, so expect faithfully realistic trucking fun.
The level of realism, whilst impressive, also brings about a large downside. Trucks are not only aesthetically similar to the real-life counterparts, they also share their raw power and unpredictability. Controls are, to put it lightly, extremely difficult. One turn too sharp and you’ll find yourself spinning wildly out of control, flipping and facing the wrong way. This isn’t much of a problem in freestyle, in fact it racks up points – although lining up big jumps off ramps can be difficult.
In drag races that often last less than fifteen seconds, these mistakes can be costly. Veering too far off course will teleport you back the right way, but those precious seconds have already been lost. There is an ability to restart the run, yet you’re put all the way back to the first round of races, making a wrong move in a final all the more annoying. It makes the drag racing a frustrating experience and much more difficult than the freestyle events, which can be won at ease.
By winning events (and eventually tours) the player earns cash that can be used to buy new trucks or upgrade existing ones. Each part of the truck’s innards can be improved, from the engine to transmission, exhaust and more. Disappointingly though, changing different parts don’t improve separate stats, they just add to the collective ‘PWR’ total. It would have been nice to be able to do some more fine-tuning, though you could argue that all monster trucks need is MORE PWR *insert manly roar*
Monster Truck Destruction is a good looking game. Although it’s certainly no Infinity Blade, each truck is modelled nicely and has a realistic(ish) damage system, as well as crowds being well detailed. There are some downsides, however, as arena textures could be better and the game suffers from occasional frame-rate issues (although this is something that would probably be sorted in future updates). Different camera angles show off the graphics but these are largely for show, rather than practical purposes; the GTA IV-style roaming tele camera and cockpit view make gameplay almost impossible.
Let’s finish with a question: which is better, Bigfoot or USA-1? If you understand that question and have an answer you’d argue passionately for, you’ll love this game. Fans of monster will be at home with the recognisable trucks, events, tricks and course layouts in what is as accurate an iOS game as monster trucking can be. Those who think the question is like comparing a sasquatch with a country may find the difficult controls and lack of events tough to stick with. The two tours can be played through in a couple hours and there is little incentive, other than getting enough cash to buy more trucks to carry on for more.
+ Realistic trucks, events and designs
+ Good amount of tracks
– Punishing controls
– Only two events
+ Great truck design and detail
– Textures are underwhelming
+ Good, relevant, metal music