Even to someone without an earnest interest in them, monster trucks are an awe-inspiring sight. The giant wheels, the loud engine and a gauche chassis upholding a crazily designed body scream power both literally and figuratively. It’s not hard to imagine wanting to drive one, jumping over destroyed cars and hills whilst the muffler hollers in rage. There’s a lot that you could do with that in a video game to bring that suffocating and unhinged power to a player, ideal for vehicular power fantasies.
Monster Jam: Crush It! doesn’t fulfill this wanderlust. In fact, it barely functions as a mediocre game at most points.
The biggest point of contention, and what is ultimately the crux as to whether this type of game works, is that something is amiss in the feel of how the vehicles drive. Being loose and slippery is to be expected, but Monster Jam goes so far down that path it’s as if the tires are made of soap and you’re driving on a watery surface. The sense of control isn't acceptable; you never feel as if your hands are on the wheel, but rather that you’re passively suggesting where your truck goes. There’s no feedback on the screen and not even any rumble to give you a feel for the drive; with that in mind, the modes can’t hold together because they are just as broken as the controls.
Monster Jam floats four options to you. The first is races, which has you haphazardly hitting check points in various loops in contained arenas against another truck. At no point does it feel like you’re competing against anything but your own patience, as the other truck randomly moves around and you float across checkpoints. Proceeding is a matter of attrition as, even when tackling the track in the same manner, whether or not you win feels like it's based on fortune. Freestyle is a trick competition that has you hopping, doing wheelies and spinning donuts to meet an arbitrary point total. While the racing feels utterly reliant on luck, freestyle is always an “I win” game because there’s no skill needed to pull off the high point tricks. Rounding out the ways to play is a demolition mode that loosely scores you based on how well you run over things, and a hill climb that feels like Excitebike or Trials - only without the thrills.
The final nail in the giant coffin is a presentation that fails on both a thematic and technical scale - this makes it even harder to recommend Monster Jam to even the most stalwart monster truck aficionado. The game has numerous collision issues that add to that lack of true control, and in our time with it the game even crashed on multiple occasions. The visuals are ho-hum in general, but a low resolution smeariness permeates the entire experience. Match this with a terrible metal soundtrack and an obnoxious announcer and you have a game that isn’t fun to look at, listen to or play.
Whether you’re a monster truck nut or not, you should avoid Monster Jam: Crush It! at all costs. It lacks a lot of polish, has a lackluster presentation, poor controls and no semblance of progression that can in any way be construed as satisfying. It feels like a slapdash attempt at riding the wave of Switch goodwill, but doesn't join the growing list of games on the system that are worth playing.