Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Smashing Drive (GameCube)

While I have played some more obscure games before, it’s not very often I play a game because I heard about it through a YouTube video, and yet here we are. Developed by Gaelco, Smashing Drive was released into North American arcades in the year 2000 and later ported to home consoles (Xbox, GameCube) in 2002. After learning about the game, I managed to find a GameCube copy online since I didn’t know about the Xbox port at the time, however the newfound attention drawn to it caused prices to go up by the time I got around to buying it. After getting to play through it once, I can say it was worth playing once, though not at inflated prices.

The controls to Smashing Drive are simple in that you only have three actions to worry about: Accelerate (A by default), Brake (B by default) and Horn (R by default). These controls can be changed in the Options menu, which is fortunate since I quickly found the default controls to be unconfutable. I attempted to modernize them by swapping the buttons for Accelerate and Horn, though while this was a more comfortable layout, the design of the R button on the GameCube controller resulted in finger pain after an extended period.

The core gameplay, found in the Arcade mode, involves racing a CPU driver to the end of a Route within a time limit. There are three Shifts of three Routes each, plus a bonus fourth Shift with only a single Route, each Shift unlocked by successfully beating the CPU driver across all Routes in the preceding Shift. Running out of time isn’t an instant Game Over, as you are given a brief chance to continue and try the Route again, however you are usually not given enough time to beat the Route in one go, and so you must cross checkpoints in the Route to extend your time. Along the way, you can pick up power-ups to gain a temporary boost to your cab, such as Turbo giving you a speed boost and Sonic boosting the power of your horn, and finding hidden Risky Routes can potentially shave off time and get you one step ahead of the CPU driver. It is possible to go back and replay previous Shifts once you’ve unlocked them, however I discovered on my own that you can’t do that right away unless you boot the game back up again.

Occasionally, an arrow will point you towards a Risky Route.

The other two gameplay modes, Survival and Head To Head, are similar to Arcade though with only slight modifications and you can only play through Shifts unlocked by going through Arcade. Survival works the same way as Arcade, except you get a Game Over upon taking full damage to your vehicle. Head To Head, meanwhile, is a local PVP split-screen mode with all the same rules as Arcade, except running out of time results in an instant Game Over. I should also note that any changes made to the controls for one player do not carry over to the other, so the other player must go through the Options menu separately if they want to change their control scheme.

Though there are three different gameplay modes to pick from, it doesn’t take very long to go through everything the game has to offer, and has been reported to take as little as 30 minutes total to do so. There’s also a general lack of replay value, with little incentive to go back and replay previous Shifts aside from trying to beat your score or unlocking a special bonus Route for doing well enough.

For what they are, the visuals actually aged decently for the most part, adding to the “arcade” feel of the experience. The soundtrack is minimal, though it does get credit for trying to have original songs, of which there are three across the four Shifts, to avoid potential licensing issues down the line. Perhaps due to the sound mixing, it can be difficult to make out most of the lyrics for each song, though I was able to make out enough that the songs were about Smashing Drive itself and trying to make it seem more exciting than it really is.

There isn’t a whole lot to Smashing Drive, however it can be worth seeking out to play once for those who are curious or want to experience a lesser-known arcade title for themselves without having to track down an actual cabinet, assuming you can find it at a good price. That said, if you’re looking for a taxi driving game with more personality and replay value, consider playing Crazy Taxi instead.

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