Monster Trucks Mayhem
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-02-03 GBA Racing E (Everyone) DSI Games / Apex Designs

If you've ever wanted to get behind the wheel of a 10 foot (roughly) monster truck, this is your chance. Published by DSI Games, Monster Trucks Mayhem takes all the carnage and Bigfoot-ness from the arena and shrinks it onto your handheld. With a racing backbone that mimics the likes of Need For Speed Underground, Monster Trucks Mayhem is the perfect starter title for the junior mechanic in your life.

Gameplay is simple ?‚™ you choose from four trucks (differing only in color) and make your way through a career of circuit and "destroy everything" races. The circuit races differ in track design and length, as do the open arenas where you are challenged with destroying more cars than any one of your three opponents in a certain time limit.

In the circuit races, you will find yourself jumping dirt mounds and going around banked corners, all the while keeping an eye on your opponents' progress. You also must avoid random obstacles that are placed in your path, like wrecked cars and poles, both of which slow you down tremendously if hit.

It's not hard to get into the lead in races, but it is hard to stay there, as the AI trucks seem to be much faster initially than your own. However, after you?‚…ve won a race and have earned some serious money, you are taken to the garage, where you can buy upgrades in five departments: engine, tires, shocks, turbo and nitro. These upgrades are a real blessing in later races, which can last for upwards of five minutes.

Other than the basic events, there isn't much in the way of extras. You can either play through the career until you've beaten all the races (keeping track of your progress by way of passwords), or you can choose a single race from the menu for a quick romp with the title.

While the gameplay is fairly decent once you look past its repetitive nature, the graphics are the exact opposite. The game looks like something off my SNES, or maybe even its predecessor, the original Nintendo. The wheels on the trucks are nothing more than black stripes on the screen that don't spin. Your truck turns in 45-degree angles instead of curving around corners, and the track itself looks like brown crayon that's been scraped off the paper (try it and you'll see what I mean). Let's just put it this way: even games at the beginning of the GBA's life cycle looked better than this. And the sound department doesn't fair much better either.

When it comes to listening to the game, it is apparent that realism was the goal, with noises for almost everything happening all at once, with "all at once" being the key phrase in that sentence. While the idea of realistic audio is appreciated, the presentation is not so hot. The soundtrack is hard rock in nature, and although garbled, sets the right mood for destruction. Mix that with the chants and screams of the crowd plus the engine roars and the sounds of metal crashing against metal, and you get an almost unrecognizable jumble of sounds coming out of your handheld's little speakers.

In the end, Monster Trucks Mayhem is definitely not Racing Game of the Year, nor did it even try to be. This title will probably not attract any hardcore racers in the industry, but that's ok, as it's not aimed at them anyhow. When looked at for what it is, a children's title, it becomes a lot easier to understand the terrible graphics and screwy audio.

The overall pick-up-and-play aspect is there for kids who will, in turn, appreciate a game aimed at them. Plus, when you look past the graphical appeal, or lack thereof, the actual gameplay underneath is pretty good. So while this will in no way pose any sort of threat to the big racing franchises in the industry, it shouldn't be looked past when searching for a beginners racing game for the youngest gamers in your life, especially when searching for games on a budget.

Special thanks to Alison Kain and DSI Games for providing a copy of this title.