It's not often that I'm left speechless by a video game - it takes something rather special. I didn't expect to ever have the same reaction to a game at the other end of the scale. To find two games so poor that you wonder how on earth they ever came into public view, let alone be put on sale, is somewhat worrying. The system these two games appear on is no surprise though. The DS is home to some classics, but it also seems to be the platform of choice for the rough underbelly of the video game world. Monster Trucks DS and ATV Quad Frenzy are not only rather hideous, but practically the same game.
Never before have I seen two games released at the same time, yet share the same engine, GUI and driving model. While Monster Trucks DS is obviously a Monster Trucks game and ATV Quad Frenzy is about ATVs, playing both reveals that other than different looking tracks and vehicles, it's a simple cut and paste job. Games like Nintendogs do almost the same thing, but at least they share the same name and you know that each game is the same bar the choice of puppies that is initially available.
Both games feature 25 courses, with five themed areas. Sadly, due to a complete lack of individuality, each set of five courses seems the same, so you end up with a game that might as well only have five different tracks. Vehicles suffer from the same problem, with those on offer only really differing in their paint job. You earn money as you win races and this can be used to buy a number of engine, tyre, suspension, acceleration and nitrous upgrades, so by the time you've had a few races your chosen vehicle will be significantly better than it was when you started, but still nothing to brag about.
All this doesn't really solve the game's biggest problem though: it's painfully slow. Your speedometer (which, incidentally, is the same design in both games) might read 60mph, but in reality you'll swear you aren't doing more than walking pace. This lumbering pace, combined with some awful moon-like physics makes for two games that could fail a lie detector test when asked what genre they belong to. Yes, you control vehicles, but saying they race might be going a little too far. The fact that you can't see more than a few feet in front of the vehicles simply adds to the frustration, with the correct route often a little hard to spot. Considering the vehicles wouldn't corner well on the M25, this is more than a slight problem.
Game modes are sparse, but just about what's expected from a 'racing' game. The Championship mode takes you from one race to another, with first places being necessary to progress. Quick race and practice modes are nice enough, but it's unlikely you'll ever want to play them after you've spent five minutes with the game. As with most DS titles, four players can compete wirelessly, but you'll all need to own a copy of the game - something that is about as likely as either game winning a Game of the Year award. On top of this the game menus are a complete nightmare, with touch screen controls and buttons working in complete disharmony.
Gamers of a certain age might remember voxels. Voxel technology was hailed as a big thing a number of years ago, and spawned games such as the ambitious Outcast for the PC. 3D accelerators soon made the technology obsolete, but it's back, and powering the visuals seen in Monster Trucks DS and ATV Quad Frenzy. The best you can say is that the environments are suitably hilly. Every other aspect of the visual presentation is seriously lacking, with an awful draw distance, drab textures and a general lack of spark in the track designs. I'd be disappointed if I played something like this on a mobile phone.
Rather than spew another few hundred words on how terrible these two games are, I'll put them both out of their misery. Don't buy Monster Trucks DS or ATV Quad Frenzy. They are two of the worst games I have ever played and it's quite disgraceful that they even made it onto store shelves. A few unlucky people will no doubt buy these on a whim, and for that THQ and Majesco should be very sorry. With two games out there of equal quality, it sadly doubles your chances of one day stumbling across one of them. No matter how little money the store might be asking, avoid the temptation and save yourself the pain.