We've all want to be rich, right? And when we were younger, we've all probably idly thought about mounting a daringly cool bank robbery to achieve that, yes? The trouble is, those pesky cops are actually pretty good at catching bank robbers so if you tried it in real life, the chances are you'd end up in prison instead of rich.
Happily, Action Truck gives you the chance to fulfil your fantasy, putting you in charge of a getaway dumper truck that has just smashed its way out of a bank. Sitting in the back of your truck is your loot and your objective is to get it safely to the getaway plane. Unfortunately, the local council has clearly run out of money as the roads are in a shocking state, with massive potholes and even missing sections. So, you must drive your truck, keep ahead of the pursuing police car and make sure your truck doesn't bounce around too much on the uneven road (otherwise your loot will fall out), overbalance or crash.
What this boils down to in gameplay terms is a simple mechanism where you must race from left to right (pressing an on-screen button to control acceleration) and tilt the phone left or right to keep the truck as horizontal as possible. When you have covered a set distance, you reach the safety of your plane and fly off before doing it all again. The simple gameplay and controls initially work in the game's favour. It's quite good fun, it's easy to pick up and it's a bit of a laugh
Sadly, Action Truck seems intent on annoying the gamer through a series of curious design decisions. Individually, these are only minor things, but together, they make the game more annoying than it should be. First of all, Action Truck will annoy the hell out of you with in-game adverts. Virtually every static presentation screen that you come across has an advert running across the bottom. Now, I understand that when company's produce free versions of games, ads are one of the ways they can make money to support future development, but this is (sometimes) a paid app and sticking ads in one of those is guaranteed to annoy pretty much every gamer I know. There's one star off right there.
Another star comes off for the stupid implementation of the intro. At the start of a level, you are treated to a short cartoon sequence showing your truck smashing out of the bank and being pursued by a cop car (why the cop car was IN the bank is a mystery, but we'll let that one go!). This happens at the start of every single level, and no amount of tapping on the screen will allow you to skip it. OK, I know the idea is to give the player a few seconds to get ready before they take control of the truck, and I know it's short, but it's still annoying to have to watch the same thing again and again and again. Sorry Action Truck, that's gonna cost you half a star.
Then, of course, there are the insidious in-app purchases - a blight of modern gaming. As you progress through the game, you collect coins as a bonus, and these can be used to upgrade your truck. The collection of coins is a slow thing, and you never have enough to upgrade as quickly as you would like. So, starting at the princely sum of 69p and going all the way up to £8.99, you can either buy additional coins or special coin upgrades (that, for example, give you two coins for every one you collect).
Of course, quite why you would want to pay more for these upgrades than you did for the original game is beyond me but here's the thing: later levels become so difficult that without a seriously souped up truck, you stand no chance. Almost certainly, by the time you reach these levels you won't have collected enough coins to get what you need so you're faced with two options: go back and replay some of the levels just to get some extra cash (boring!) or buy some extra stuff (expensive!). They say a fool and his money are soon parted and if you're daft enough to waste extra cash on this title, then I'd say that's proves it. Ooops. There goes another half star.
The most serious issue the game faces, though, is the gameplay which quickly becomes repetitive. Apart from increasingly bumpy terrain and longer jumps, there is no variety between levels and each one plays out exactly the same. For the first few minutes, it's OK; not great, but OK. By the time you've been playing it for five minutes, the simple, repetitive gameplay quickly starts to pall and you find yourself thinking about what you are going to play next.
This, in itself, is not necessarily a problem. I've got loads of games on my iPhone that I don't want to play in more than five minute bursts. However, whilst the gameplay on those other titles might be restrictive, it's also fun and addictive, giving you value for money by being a title that you will still enjoy playing in a few months' time.
Action Truck has neither. The repetitive gameplay is so dull that you will probably have around half a dozen games and then relegate it to the "Never Played" section of your iPhone. If you start to run out of space, this is an app that's a prime candidate for deletion. That's the third star gone, then.
I did think about giving it a half star back for the presentation, which is OK (although nothing special). The graphics are nice and cartoon like, with some smooth scrolling, whilst the sound (although minimal) is pretty good (the woo woo of the pursuing police car and the thrum of your truck's engine are pretty much the only in-game sound effects, but they work). However, in the end I decided against this because the other negative elements annoyed me so much that I was in no frame of mind to be forgiving.
As many of my previous reviews have shown, I've nothing against simple, straightforward games, but they do need to be fun and offer a reasonable level of playability. Action Truck fulfils that for approximately 30 seconds. After that it quickly becomes boring and - with its constant pestering ads, in-app purchases and unskippable intros - annoying. Save your cash for a better app.
(Note: the download price varies between 69p and Free, so pick your moment when you download it. At the Free price, it's good for five minutes' worth of fun, but it's not really worth paying for. At the time of writing (May 2012), it's free, so if you want it, go grab it now!)
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012