Excite Truck is a spiritual successor of sorts to the classic NES motorcycle racing game, Excitebike. This fast-paced Wii truck racing game takes a few of the mechanics from the original game, but it largely strikes out on its own. What it gives you is a solid sense of speed and the often-thrilling feeling that you're just about to lose control of the truck and go flying off the course or slam into a tree. What it doesn't give you is a lasting sense of value, because unless you're bent on tracking down every single unlockable truck and racing against your previous scores to improve your rank, Excite Truck doesn't offer enough variety to keep you playing for very long.
Much like Excitebike, you need to pound a button after you crash.
The interesting part about Excite Truck is how it controls. You'll hold the Wii remote sideways, with the D pad accessible by your left thumb and the 1 and 2 buttons near your right. The 1 and 2 buttons serve as your gas and brake, and you steer by tilting the controller left and right. Hitting any direction on the D pad kicks in your turbo boost. If you hit the turbo as you leave a jump, you'll catch more air. In the air, you have pitch control over your truck by tilting the controller forward and back. If you lean the truck back, you'll go higher and longer. If you pitch forward, you'll come down sooner. You can also steer yourself around a bit in midair. The controls are easy to wrap your mind around, but they never feel very responsive. That leads to the game's over-the-top, out-of-control feel, which is exciting at times, but the stunt controls feel positively dead, and the handling for mid-air turns doesn't feel consistent from jump to jump. The main idea is to turbo jump, fly through the air like a maniac, and then come down on all four tires, which gives you a landing bonus--more free boost. While you can boost at any time, if you ride the boost too much, your truck overheats, slowing it down while it recovers. Flying through the air and driving through water cool down your engine, so the idea is to stay in the air a lot to keep cool and land properly for more boost. But your overall goal is to earn stars.
Your finishing place comes secondary to the number of stars you earn, but they're linked, as a higher-place finish nets you more bonus stars at the end of the race. In the main single-player mode, you go through four different sets of races, each with four or five tracks in them. Each track has a minimum number of stars you must earn to clear it. When you clear all of the races in a set, the next set opens up. You earn stars by doing just about anything. Catching air, drifting around corners, smashing hard into other trucks, slaloming through sets of trees on the sides of the course, and so on will all work. Just hitting the star limit will net you a B ranking, but you'll need to go above and beyond to earn the S rank, which is the only way to unlock the game's harder difficulty setting. Getting S rank in every track is a bit of a chore, one that's so repetitive that it doesn't feel worthwhile.
The tracks you'll drive on throughout the racing modes have icons that you can collect to terraform different parts of the environment, usually so that you can cause huge jumps to rise up right in front of you, though some of them also cause obstacles to drop, ideally right on top of anyone that's up ahead. If you're racing on a patch of land that gets altered, you'll be thrown up into the air and sent tumbling, but since the computer-controlled trucks can't collect those icons, this only happens in multiplayer races.