Ah yes, Monster Jam. A bizarre obsession in America, ranking close with NASCAR as an one of our most popular vehicle-based “sports” wherein the drivers perform amazing stunts and complete speedy races to awe the crowd. Really, both are incredibly simplistic endeavors, but they manage to gather enough popularity to create a handful of console games, a few of which get ported over to the Wii with, ah, mixed results. Thus enters Monster Jam: Path of Destruction.
Before I say anything about the gamplay, understand something. I love unnecessary peripherals. And this game comes with a steering wheel and stickers! I mean, really, how many titles ship with a decent-sized steering wheel to dock your Wii remote into (though it refuses to actually stay docked if you tilt it at all towards you), and stickers to decorate it with? None with both of those, that I know of. It really says something about a game when the best aspect is the peripherals it comes with. So, you probably have gathered where this review is going.
The main menu has two basic gameplay modes: career and multiplayer. I would talk more indepth about the multiplayer if there was something to talk about, but it really isn’t anything special. You basically get to replay the levels you have completed in career mode, but with a single friend. It isn’t exciting or exhilirating. Only twice as frustrating.
In career mode, you get the option to create your own truck, or choose from one of a few other vehicles to use as you tear around the United States in various Monster Jam stadiums. I found that creating your own vehicle is virtually pointless unless you’re a pure, red-blooded American nationalist. Indeed, almost every single decal is of some American symbol, be it a flag, an eagle, or star with the red and white stripes exploding from its edges. My experience with it was especially limited when I chose to create the Marxist Mauler, which amounted to me painting a truck Communist Red. And that was it.
After completing a level in career mode; which falls into the category of either a freestyle trick round, a race, or a test; you are awarded experience points. What? RPG elements? No, young squire, I’m sorry. They are simply a thinly veiled method of representing new decals and trucks. I would have loved to see some actual skill improvement or truck improvement or something come from gaining experience points, rather than more overly proud American stickers for your truck. But alas, all you get from completing levels in this game is more stickers. Oh, and more levels unlocked.
It isn’t so easy to complete levels however. It really isn’t. And it is certainly nigh impossible to complete any level of this abomination without restarting at least once, and respawning a dozen times. See, going over a hill and gaining any sort of air will cause your truck to enter a death spin, which you must control precisely with the D-pad, or you will crash and be forced to respawn. There is no reverse, so running into a wall basically means it’d be easier to press the respawn (-) button. Actually, the only time you are penalized for respawning in this game is in a freestyle trick round, where I found you are most likely to find yourself stuck in some way or another due to the dangerous nature of doing tricks. Except it’s not dangerous, because you can just respawn.
Actually, this game should just be called Respawn Jam: Press (-). A far more accurate title.
To say the controls are bad is an understatement. You basically have your Wii remote, which is fine to use itself. But since it ships with the steering wheel, you know thats what you’ll be docking it into. Because you’re a Monster Jam driver. You don’t piddle around with a little white stick. You got a totally bitchin’ green and black steering wheel. With stickers. Yeah. Anyway, controls. It handles pretty much identical to Mario Kart Wii, wherein you turn the wheel and it turns your massive truck. Of course, it’d be more accurate to say that it’s identical to Mario Kart with a bull rhino strapped to your back, constantly bucking and stabbing you with its horn. Oh, and crushing your poor, lifeless corpse. That’s key. Just turning slightly too much (that is to say, about a millimeter more than you should have) will put you into a wall, forcing your wheels to explode off your truck in a super realistic fashion, prompting a respawn. So there’s that.
But, that isn’t to say there isn’t something else about the game that I enjoyed. The opening video is pretty cool, with footage of several different monster trucks driving around, doing what they do, with cool animations following them on their path of destruction. Actually, I would have enjoyed the game infinitely more if those same animations, each associated with the theme of the said vehicle (gears following Grinder, etc), were implemented into the actual gameplay. For instance the Marxist Mauler could have hammers and sickles bouncing up and down out of its tracks. And portraits of Lenin. Yay!
I imagine that big fans of Monster Jam (which I am not) will enjoy this game for a little bit. Being able to unlock the various big name trucks, and then drive them through actual stadiums (though I know not the accuracy of their depictions) is likely reason enough to make this a purchase. And at $20, you’re pretty much getting what you’re paying for.
|Stickers! Wheel! Neat Videos! $20!||Truly abominable controls, extremely limited gameplay, pointless features, poorly implemented customization, respawns galore!|