Review: Monster Truck Rally (NES)

By Drew Wilson

We take a look at a Monster Truck racing game called “Monster Truck Rally”. This game featured a variety of events a player could play. With these features, is this a good game to try?

One of the many isometric based racing games released on the NES is a game called Monster Truck Rally. Released in 1991, this game was well positioned to try and capture a slice of the wave of popularity that struck monster truck rallies.

One of the features of this game is the fact that there are numerous events to play. There’s a sled pull event where the sled gradually get’s heavier and heavier until the truck can no longer move. There’s also drag racing events, car crush, and a variety of racing events. The largest event is the Rally where the player is pitted against the computer player and completes every event that was made available on the cartridge.

While getting a good time is usually very good, this game is all about the points more than anything else. Get a good time that’s better than the computer player on a lapped event and you get a slightly better score. The score is also cumulative in the rally, so doing well in a number of events will give you a better chance at winning overall.

Another nice feature about this game is the ability to create a custom track with a built-in track editor. To my knowledge, there’s only enough room for one custom track, but it does allow for an extra bit of replay value by allowing you to customize a part of the game.

Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of the positive’s this game has to offer.

Beside’s the ability to adjust the colours of the trucks from a limited selection, there is literally no customization of the trucks themselves available in the game. The truck you get is what you get for the whole game and that truck never changes. The computer player has an advantage over the human player in that if you crash your truck into the computer player, both trucks will spin out and the computer player will always face the correct direction while your truck will always come out of the spinout facing the wrong direction.

Contrary to what some reviewers have suggested, I didn’t find that the computer player’s truck was faster. Instead, I found that the trucks race roughly the same. If the computer player’s truck was faster, it’s almost not noticeable – so negligible. With both trucks racing at roughly the same speed, that means you’ll have to win through other means besides raw speed. While cornering and general navigation does help, I often found that being able to shift into the highest gear quicker to offer you the best advantage possible when racing against the computer player. If you start the race, putting your truck into third gear faster than the computer player will allow you to get a slight head start. Quickly putting your truck into second gear on short downhills will also allow you to travel through smaller steep hills faster as well. Generally speaking, smarter gear shifting allowed me to blow past the computer player more than anything else.

Another thing I noticed about this game is that, although you can win individual races or complete a rally, there’s really no noticeable way of beating this game. You beat the rally, you get a trophy next to your statistics, then you just go back to the menu screen. At that stage, I found myself asking, “Um… now what?”

The graphics are pretty repetitive. You have the plain menu screen. Then, you have the same background as you race through the tracks of tires and people standing around. The water is, um, blue and the track is, er, brown and the grass is, well, green. The trucks themselves barely look like monster trucks. They look more like standard pick-up trucks with slightly larger tires. Not a whole lot to get excited about in the graphics department.

Another noticeable aspect of this game is the music – or lack thereof. There’s the introduction music and the unchanging fanfare. Seriously, win or lose, it’s the same fanfare. Besides that, the sound effects are standard engine sounds, some sound to indicate skidding, standard water sounds for driving through water and some decent crashing sounds every time you bang into something. That’s the extent of the audio.

Overall, this game had a very incomplete feel to it. It’s like the deadline came up and the developers decided to ship it in it’s incomplete form, hoping no one would notice. The trucks are hardly customizable and there’s no real indication that you beat anything major if you do win. The only interesting aspect was the point system. I could see that this game could be so much more, but it wound up being a partial.


Furthest point in game: Beat the rally. I guess that’s how you beat the game?

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 2/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 48%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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