If you’re a fan of my reviews here at Androidshock — and I know I am — you know I love racing games no matter how terrible I am at them. With its 2D camera angle and (mostly) single-car challenges, I’d put Pocket Trucks on the fringe of the genre, but it’s still fun and I’m still absolutely terrible at it. Between those two points there’s statistically a pretty good chance you’ll like it, too.
Like Stick Stunt Biker 2, Pocket Trucks’ gameplay falls somewhere between platforming, racing, and physics-based puzzling with a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-style trick counter thrown in for good measure. Sticking the landing is just as important as reaching max speed… many courses, in fact, penalize you for mashing the accelerator. The levels, which range in setting from forests to deserts to miniature theme parks, toss the usual peaks and valleys at you, then throw in a bunch of cool extra stuff like insane leaps over pits full of dynamite.
The value gets even better when you realize the game doesn’t cost a dime. Oh, and the developer, Ganymede, is super chill about buying currency. The option’s there if you want to… if not, you can unlock a boatload of stuff (if not the entire contents) by, you know, playing through the game. Either way, they don’t shove an ad of some sort down your throat before every round. It’s a fun, unobtrusive experience that frankly left me feeling bad about not giving something in return for all the e-loot the developer tossed at me for free. It’s dorky, I know, but you gotta have ethics about something.
Methods of Control
There’s a certain level of finesse required to do things right in this game. To that end, Ganymede was wise in making touch-based controls the standard option instead of tilt. On my Nexus 10, which should ostensibly offer a greater degree of control than my Galaxy S III because of its larger size, I struggled to line up with even the gentlest of hills unless I used the onscreen buttons. Playing on my phone yielded the same results. I wouldn’t dog on a developer for giving gamers too many ways to play, of course — and again, I’m terrible at games like these — but I personally see no reason to use the tilt controls whatsoever. If you had superhuman reflexes and an atom-accurate accelerator in your device, perhaps. I don’t know anyone with either of those.
Pocket Trucks’ levels are big, visually interesting, and (generally) a whole lot of fun. Unlike the above-mentioned stick bicycling game, you get a lot more than silhouettes in front of a Flash-game-looking background here: You’ll drive your miniature truck/forklift/steamroller through about a billion different settings, and they’re all pretty darn neat. The construction paper setpieces decorating most of the areas bring back fond memories of Little Big Planet, intentional or not. I’m glad that visual style hasn’t been run into the ground yet.
The game’s commitment to variety shows in the track design as well. Most raceways boast two or even three horizontally stacked, intertwining roads, complete with hazards, power-ups, and loop-de-loops made of ice tiles that may or may not disappear out from under you when you cross them. The developer even gets a pretty good ratio of long and short levels going. For every behemoth minute-and-a-half endurance race there were a few that lasted :45 seconds or less. If you think that sounds like an odd thing to praise I invite you to try the game and see if you don’t agree. The attention to detail (as it pertains to levels) is really, truly excellent here.
A Solid Fleet
Despite the name, Pocket Trucks features a solid number of not-so-truckish vehicles like rocket-powered race cars and wooden, wheeled catapults. Each comes with its own rankings for the game’s three key stats (top speed, accelleration, and handling), which are further tweakable if you don’t mind dropping a little end-game dough. Cosmetic boosts like paint and extra body ornaments are cool — I very much enjoyed driving a hot pink pickup with weird fins on the roof — but it also feels strange spending money you can buy with real-life cash on things that don’t directly impact the gameplay. Then again, maybe I’m just weird.
I can’t say my Pocket Trucks experience was without irritation. Some of the levels, namely the ones built with TNT and ice blocks, could get pretty persnickety. In one instance, the forklift I’d unlocked was a little too large to fit through a passage filled with explosive blocks… seeing as there’s no difference in size between the vehicles, it felt a lot more like a bug than a gameplay feature.
Some of the time goals could also be a little harsh. I’m all for a challenge. I’m not, however, down for a goal that seems impossible until a sheer stroke of luck pushes me over the edge on my eighteen-billionth try, a phenomenon that occurred twice during my play sessions. This leans a little closer to subjective territory, of course. If you like being so frustrated/excited with a game you feel like you could stroke out at any moment, it might be right down your alley. As a reminder, I’m also terrible at the game. Just forget I said anything about the timed goals, actually. It’s better that way.
Very Much Worth Your Time
This is an addictive free title that doesn’t cram a sales pitch or extra-tough gameplay down your throat to drum up revenue. If you don’t spend a dime you’ll still see more content than what’s offered in any other free game on the Play Store. The gameplay’s fun, the levels are great, and, uh, something else. The tiny amount of frustration you encounter — and you might not even run into that — ends up being about as annoying as a lightly stubbed toe when you start getting into it. Check it out if you enjoy having fun.