MONSTER JAM: MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION (GBA)
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: April 2002
Monster Jam: Maximum Destruction is a pint-sized version of its recently-released PS2 counterpart, it takes an over the top isometric perspective to the premise and at first glance may summon nostalgic memories of RC Pro AM for the now obscure NES. Only this ain't your older brother's racing game, you'll pick up various weapons, body power-ups and have a wide selection of over 20 real-life licensed monster-trucks. It sounds good on paper but Monster Jam provides about as much entertainment as a well-crafted java applet. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but its most definitely not all that great. And like a rogue set of freely distributed algorithms and sub-routines it offers nearly zero tangible depth. Translation: good for a few minutes of visceral, mindless entertainment.
Expect such widely known truck-personalities as Wild Thang, Predator, Bulldozer, and Grave Digger. You'll participate in vehicular-combat through eight different areas from around the world including ancient Aztec Ruins, the Vegas Strip, and the Big Apple. Each of the atmospheres will feature hidden areas that contain butt-loads of power-ups, thing is, your limited to hanging out in these areas for only a small amount of time, once the time is up you'll begin to lose energy and eventually blow-up if you don't haul-ass out of the area in a hurst. However, you will definitely want to check these hidden areas out from time to time since aside from the previously mentioned power-ups they also harbor coin-icons, these coin-icons can be used to purchase upgrades and new trucks. The power-ups that you can obtain include a missile-launcher, machine-gun turrets, EMP-gun, bumper-upgrades, and homing-missiles. There are also pick-ups to increase your overall non-offensive capability, like the wrench-icon, which repairs damage to your truck, the nitro power-up that allows you to speed through the map hyped up on nitrous oxide, and the super-spring that gives you the ability to increase your overall jumping ability. Yes, you read right, 'jumping ability'. Monster Trucks can apparently jump according to the dynamics of this game, uhh .. great, I guess.
There are two offered modes of play, Arcade and Championship. In Arcade mode you'll quick battle against three other supped-up trucks in an attempt to be the last truck standing. Championship mode, however, allows you to save your progress and trick-out your automobile with various foundational upgrades, like a new engine or better tires. You'll also earn a certain amount of cash by successfully completing seasons in Championship mode, which is, obviously, how you acquire upgrades. The levels you'll play through include numerous destructible objects like lampposts and junked-cars, this is a welcome addition since destroying rival truckers usually consists of nothing more than chasing them around and constantly ramming them, ideally with guns blazing.
Graphics are rarely more impressive then a Gameboy Color game but some of the included graphical additions in the levels do put Monster Jam a notch or two above a lowly 8-bit title. The junkyard for instance includes piles of thrown-away truck-parts and dirt-hills that give this particular stage a genuine cartoon-like feel, and is actually impressively detailed. Sadly, however, this seems to be the only stage in which close attention to aesthetic detail was paid. The trucks all look nearly identical to each other, save for a different color scheme. I expect a lot more from my 32-bit Gameboy Advance than what this game offers. The sound in Monster Jam is respectable, the music compositions are mildly entertaining and don't hinder the overall enjoyability of the game in any way. And the digitized announcer clips that can be found throughout sound really good for a handheld system.
The one thing that could have given Monster Jam a much-needed adrenaline boost is a multi-player component, too bad Ubi Soft rushed this game out the doors before it was ready for prime time. The AI is sketchy at best and let's be honest, nothing can compare to the unpredictability of a human opponent. But I'm not going to let this affect the overall score of the game (even though it would have been considerably higher if multi-player was included), ripping on a game for what it doesn't have instead of what it does is something that is done far too much. Even so, Monster Jam is quite entertaining for the duration of its lasting appeal, which is, at best, 2 hours. Rent it.