When you think of monster trucks, you think of car crushing, high-adrenaline action. You think of destruction, big engines, and trucks with malevolent names like Grave Digger. But monster truck drivers will also tell you that the activity requires a great deal of finesse, and a wrong move during a stunt can spell disaster. Monster Truck Nitro emphasizes this nuanced nature of Monster Truck rallies by tasking the player with guiding a truck through a series of elaborate off-road obstacle courses.
Eschewing raw power and the destructive nature of monster truck rallies for timing, skill, and nuance, Monster Truck Nitro is a different kind of monster truck game. RedLynx is most known for developing Trials 2, a retro-style motorcycle platform game. Like Trials 2, Monster Trucks Nitro has 3-D graphics but operates on a 2-D plane. You guide your truck through a series of obstacles towards an end goal. Each mission presents new challenges and is a race against the clock. If you earn a bronze medal or better, you unlock a new mission to try.
There are about 25 missions in all. They vary from cliff jumping missions to obstacle courses involving moving bridges and falling rocks. Power-ups litter certain courses and are essential to success. One of the coolest moments in the game is utilizing nitro boosters that grant you a short speed burst so you can jump over a line of school buses.
The environments are uniformly desert-centric, but differ in their terrain and layout. There are only two trucks to choose from initially and they differ only slightly in how they drive. If you complete all courses with gold medals, you can unlock a third truck.
The game lacks a tutorial proper, and instead relies on signs to explain the controls and give the player hints during critical parts of certain missions. The early signs will explain how to toggle the cameras, brake, and put the truck in reverse. The later stages will feature signs that explain how to guide a rock over a passage or how to jump a specific obstacle. Sadly, whatever tricks you pull off (like backflips, for example) aren’t rewarded by the game because they do not impact your time.
Similar to the inclines of the terrain, the difficulty curve gets progressively steeper as the missions unfold. If you get stuck in a lake or a ditch, you can jump back to your last checkpoint. The drawback of restarting at your last checkpoint is that the clock doesn’t stop. The later missions don’t offer enough time to spare to restart any part of the course, so if you don’t execute a stunt perfectly, you’ll likely have to restart the course from the beginning. This makes the game very challenging and will likely spur some players to keep retrying until they receive gold medals for all of the courses.
There is a dearth of unlockable content and no real singular goal to work for. The ability to create your own obstacle course is a noticeably absent feature. Even given the game’s difficulty, the replayability and length of play are frustratingly short.
Macworld’s buying advice
Monster Truck’s short playing time and lack of multiplayer make it one of the thinnest gaming experiences I’ve had in a while. Fans of racing games who want something a bit more of an “all-terrain” feel may enjoy this diversion, but one gets the impression that the game could have been made using dune buggies or motorcycles just as easily as “monster trucks.” Gamers expecting Monster Truck Nitro to offer the iconic destruction of monster truck rallies will be disappointed. But fans of old school platforming who enjoy challenging timed missions and tight gameplay will want to check out this game.
[Chris Holt is an assistant editor for Macworld.]