Runabout 3D: Drive Impossible was released in Japan last year, signifying the first in this obscure series in a decade. Brought to European shores by Ghostlight, the rebranded Crash City Mayhem promises high-octane action as you take on missions given by a mysterious syndicate. Is it a pleasing cocktail of chaotic mayhem, or does it crash and burn at the first hurdle?
You know things are starting off on a bad note when the dialogue doesn’t even fit the text box. The “Driver’s Ed” tutorial is littered with grammatical errors and disjointed sentences, even forgetting to point out several key elements of the game – including the map on the touch screen and that your car can reverse. There is also an air of cheapness surrounding the presentation, with looks vastly inferior to its Dreamcast ancestor – Super Runabout: The Golden State, and a constantly looping soundtrack coupled with weak sound effects. While we appreciate that the game is being offered at a lower than average retail price, if 3DS launch titles can look miles better and sound better – you’re in a lot of trouble.
Vehicles range from a wide variety of traits. You could be riding anything from a truck, to a state-of-the-art “Spy Car”. But while the selection delightfully borders on the ridiculous, with bizarre and amusing combinations, none of them handle especially well, handling about as well as water being balanced in a tray. They swerve about, inevitably crashing into the edge. On top of the imprecise controls, some cars are just flat-out too slow to be of any use whatsoever. Despite how cool it might sound driving a tank around, it’s practically useless given the majority of the game’s challenges. That said, there’s something cathartic about its crazy style of gameplay as you speed around corners, destroying everything in your path. It’s at these points that Crash City Mayhem excels.
Mercifully though, there are only six missions in the entire game, each one has five separate difficulty ratings that are unlocked as you play. In order to complete one play-through, you will need to complete most of the game twice, so persistence to completing this game is largely dependent on tolerance for repeating tasks. For a while, it’s possible to be mildly engrossed with the arcade feel of Crash City Mayhem‘s missions, especially upon completion when the game mixes these missions up by adding variations; but the way it unlocks them is weird, forcing you to repeat missions you only completed minutes before with a stricter time limit. Each mission has a small list of shortcuts you can take and jumps to leap off, but should you hit a wall that the game doesn’t think you should pass, it will stop you dead in your tracks.
One mission in particular however steps outside this formula into perhaps the most tedious and rage inducing tasks possible. You are supposed to tail a spy as she does her rounds, getting into a taxi and a helicopter along the way. If you fail the mission at any time, you are sent back to the start, which includes among many other criteria: Giving the wrong answer to the informant’s question at the end. Considering this mission alone takes 15 minutes when the rest are five-minute races against time, it feels hugely out-of-place in an otherwise fast-paced game.
That’s largely it. Crash City Mayhem is a tiny game that embraces its arcade roots to a certain extent, but the game really feels out of touch with what makes the genre fun. There is no real incentive for completing the missions beyond upgrades that provide little functionality and no redeeming qualities in the presentation. It’s a huge shame that the controls and vehicle selection are about as useless as each other, since the game might have had a great deal to offer to fill a niche market for gamers looking to play a crazy arcade driving game not seen since the likes of Crazy Taxi. Sadly, Crash City Mayhem is a massive waste of time and potential despite the low price tag.