Small Mutha Truckers

Bringing a console game to a handheld platform doesn’t seem like much today, but back when all we had were the DS and GBA, it was something of a challenge. Perhaps the biggest merit of the PSP, aside from serving as the main Monster Hunter machine for years, was in breaking down the psychological barrier between portable and console games. But not many developers cared much about the PSP, so for a while, we had to do with the DS and its perceivedly younger audience.

If this isn’t already hard enough, let’s add one more variable: the game has been available on home platforms for a long time. The developers already had all the time in the world to get feedback, to see what worked and what didn’t. How do you change it, then, to fit the portable audience while also taking care of the complaints? The result can be a hot mess.

For the sake of clarity, our game in question is Big Mutha Truckers.

bmt1
How to bring a PS2 game to the DS. It looks good enough in stills, but the framerate chugs along in a trying way. Still better than the GBA version, though.

Seeing as the game is generally unknown and forgotten today (no surprise: it was very unremarkable), a presentation might be in order. Big Mutha Truckers presented you with a trailer truck, and tasked you to make as much money as possible in 60 days time, by buying goods at low prices and selling them for a higher price. There are other small things, but that’s the gist of it. It was okay, but repetitive. I’m not sure why one would port a game like this, 2 years after its mostly unnoticed release, to a platform like the DS (and nevermind the GBA), but Zoo Publishing did. Unfortunately, the portable version squanders the original, average effort into a far lesser game.

I don’t really mind the technical details, because porting a fully 3D game to the DS was never an easy task (props to them for keeping the entire map with no load times), and I guess it’s not unplayable or anything. We could even say that streamlining the various 3D backgrounds for shops and towns into fixed 2D screens, while less impressive looking, actually helps the game move faster. Most of the music and radio chatter has been removed though, so that the DS version only features 5 short music tracks. And that sucks a lot, because the biggest issue of the game has been kept and actually enlargened.

bmt2
You’ll see those green arrows very often. At some point you’ll wonder if the game isn’t simply reverse-cheating and stacking the odds in your favor. Is reverse-cheating even a word?

There were only 5 cities in the original game. With each travel taking a day, that meant you were going to see the whole map very very soon, long before the 60 days were over. So you would just spend your time going through roads you had already driven many times before. This was one of the biggest criticisms of the game, and what did they do for the DS version? Of course, they kept it the same.

Even worse: while the home version was fairly hard, which at least kept you on your toes and sometimes made you wish you had more timeto make money, the DS version just makes sure you’ll always win. Good deals are easily found even at random. Rival challenges are easier and net you more dollars. Missions are also quite easy and give out a truckload (sorry) of money. The difficulty even touches little things like fuel consumption, damage taken, and the easiness with which you would rile up police cars or bikers. It’s so easy, it gets boring a lot faster. At 13 days out of 60, it’s already hard to imagine myself wanting to play more of this.

With the 3DS and Vita, and hopefully the NX coming out soon (whatever it is), handhelds now offer games that are able to stand up with console games just fine. It’s ironic that this would happen at a time when handheld consoles are selling less than ever. Or perhaps it’s actually a consequence of that. Either way, it’s at least good that we don’t have to play handheld conversions like Big Mutha Truckers anymore.

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