Being first in the App Store is as important as being original. As soon as casual game reaches the top, you can expect an army of clone apps to be submitted within weeks that will rehash the same concept with different twists. Many have tried to copy the most popular game since we started installing games on our iOS devices, Angry Birds, but only one has managed to convince public and critics.
Trucks and Skulls HD [iTunes Link] by Appy Entertainment is a casual game that plays with the physics puzzle concept popularised by Angry Birds and the more recent Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas. Instead of your familiar cartoon birds and pigs, this time around, you control a group of monster trucks aiming to blow up some skulls. The gameplay needs no explanation since we are all familiar with its logic: destroy every skull on the level with the least amount of trucks possible.
The idea here is to go to the complete opposite extreme. Forget the cute scenarios and animations because this is a macho game: explosions, gasoline and heavy metal. The whole atmosphere seems to be taken from a post-apocalyptic world where smoke and engines rule the land. You have guessed it, your truck garage has different types of cars that come handy in certain situations. From your basic Doomstone and Thrust Monster, which accelerate on the air, to the unfriendly Bombzilla or the Insanerator, two explosive weapons at your disposal.
Trucks & Skulls is bundled with almost 200 levels across several episodes under different themes. I like the puzzle idea in some of them, which encourages you to use your trucks wisely and destroy certain elements before continuing. However, I found the game was focused largely on global destruction, allowing you to throw a truck to a dynamite barrel and complete the level in one shot. The trucks don't necessarily need to jump, you can make them drive down the ramp and crash on something. I must admit some levels were tricky, but most were very easy. I'm sure Appy is catering for the frustrated Angry Birds players who get stuck in some level and ditch the game. Trucks & Skulls is fast paced and you won't need to replay a level more than three times to pass (excluding some harder levels in every episode.)
Maybe the big ration of testosterone in the game is not my cup of tea, but I found the guitar riffs and "yeah" sound effects too repetitive. They certainly give personality to the game and were comic for the first ten minutes, but I ended up playing my own music rather than listening to this. The graphics feel tacky in some areas, somewhat poor in the menus. I hope this is made on purpose. The actual game looks OK and the scenario design is really creative and fun. As soon as you get familiar with your trucks and forgive the visual inconsistencies, Trucks & Skulls gets addictive and find the therapeutic impact of making things blow up.
The thing I liked most and made me write this review has to be the level editor included in the HD version for iPad. Such a simple addition makes a huge difference for me. I love building things and sure I enjoy breaking them. The editor is simple and effective and i shouldn't take you more than a couple of minuted to create a simple level. You can select all the scenery pieces found in the normal game, rotate them and arrange skulls where you want. Once you are done, you'll realize that your level needs some testing to be playable. Polishing my first level was the best experience Trucks & Skulls had to offer.
I'm a sucker for Angry Birds, so another physics puzzler had to be right up my alley. I didn't enjoy the theme used, graphics and sound effects (harsh to say!) but I'm sold with the level editor. I got the feeling that levels were on the easy side and didn't require much thinking, which can be a good and a bad thing. The promise that users will be able to contribute with their own levels at the "Level of the Week Club" will certainly keep me coming. Despite the huge similarities with the Rovio game, it managed to win the Best iPhone Action game in the Best App Ever awards organised by 148Apps.
Appy Entertainment has announced a new update called Trucks & Skulls NITRO, which adds several new features and content to the original game reviewed above. The new world Iceopolis promises to keep fans entertained with 15 extra levels and keeps up with Rovio's frenetic Angry Birds updates.
The game has also been tweaked including new aiming aids, a quick restart button—thanks!, as well as new challenges and social player awards. To top it up, Trucks & Skulls users can also buy truck mods via in-app purchase. The new trucks look pretty much like the original ones, but they have gone through some badass tuning with themes—a solution that will please many users out there looking for some zombie, goth, bling and dragon customization.
Since the game has a heavy guitar element going on, I wished the new custom trucks would come with new sound effects too. Could you imagine some gothic notes or some bling bling hip hop on the background while you launch those trucks?