It would have never dawned on me that taxi driving would be such a fun thing to emulate in video games. Crazy Taxi proved it and Smashing Drive strengthens the argument. Though both take on the wild world of cab fares and traffic violations, each is widely different from the other, so, really, all comparisons end there. Smashing Drive has the speed and fun of the arcades running through its veins but little else. Does a short-lived, wild ride have what it takes to collect the fares of the GameCube public?
Let's think about it for a sec - SD is, simply put, an arcade racer. Each track (or fare) takes approximately a few minutes to complete, and with only 3 tracks to each of the 4 difficulty settings, you could finish off everything in 20 minutes.
Just like any other arcade game, Smashing Drive is also very difficult, in that frightfully addictive and enjoyable way. After coming so close to finishing a route only to have the timer go out, you'll be spitting enough curses to make any seasoned real-world cabbie proud. Even when you get the hang of things and begin to manage all the ins and outs of the streets, you'll soon find that bonus items, shortcuts, and secrets will shave precious seconds off your time. After trial and error, you'll eventually be able to pass all difficulties in record time, but you'll soon discover that multiple hours have been invested into lighting-fast reflexes and accurate track memorization. Heck, once you do pass every route without breaking a sweat, there will always be some new secret to find and, for the best of the bunch, bonus routes to unlock. These usually require the best time, the least amount of car damage, and riskiest paths taken in every route during a shift. Do all of this, gain a cumulative score that's high enough, and prepare some truly rough riding. As if that weren't enough of a challenge, there's also the console-exclusive Survival Mode, which is the same as the arcade, with the horrifying fact that you can actually diefrom taking too much damage. Essentially, the game goes for an adrenaline rush from start to finish and pulls it off with crazy routes, even crazier secrets, weapons that will have you in stitches (I still laugh at the "horn" power-up), and a fast pace that will even have some of New York's best sweating while at the helm.
This is where things being to roll downhill, though. Unfortunately, the visual glitz of SD does nothing for its gameplay. Even worse, this title a hard time touting itself as a GameCube game. The graphics come off as dated with washed textures and models that fit the blocky confines of a N64 game, which unfortunately means you won't see much "next-gen" poly pushing here. On the upside, though, everything moves at a smooth 60fps without skipping a beat; even the most outrageous and cluttered locales will not slow down the "engine" of this peppy game.
On the other side of Superficial Street, the audio swerves somewhere between irritating and strangely hypnotic. The music has instruments and vocals fit for 70's syndicated TV, trying desperately to mimic hard rock, rap, and smooth jazz while each "song" stays as relevant to the game world as possible. You'll either be diving for the volume controls or attracted to the pure cheesiness of it all. Then there are the sound effects, which are, in my humble opinion, some of the best and funniest sound bites ever to hit an arcade version of the taxi-simulation genre (and you can quote me on that).
The only real drawback to Smashing Drive is its nature; arcade-style games on consoles don't roll well with everyone. Basically, you'll either love it, hate it, or find some amusement from it for a few days. Honestly though, the chance of falling head-over-wheels for it is enough at least to warrant a rental: you never know - there may be a little cabbie in you.
(PS: Find out how many bad taxi-related jokes are in here and win a cookie!)
· · · Hero