Namco's history of delivering feature packed arcade ports to home consoles comes crashing to a halt with Smashing Drive, a limited taxicab racer that combines elements of Crazy Taxi with the madcap destruction of Super Runabout. What should be an adrenaline-filled journey through busy city streets ends up being a dull ride, which is hard to believe given the exciting premise. To make matters worse, nothing has been added to the home version, save for a lame Survival mode that is a direct copy of the Arcade mode without repairs.
Smashing Drive was probably not an easy game to port due to so much happening on the screen, and to its credit, the game never bogs down. Unfortunately, the darn thing never speeds up either, so each race feels like it takes place underwater. The graphics are colorful but simple, lacking the detailed textures expected from a GameCube title. While this is somewhat acceptable given the cartoon nature of gameplay, where you can smash into anything at will and acquire temporary power-ups to boost, fly or cause more destruction, it's not something you'll want to show off to friends.
There are only nine races in the game, and each lasts approximately three minutes in length. Players won't whiz through the title their first time at the wheel, though, as it takes a couple of times to figure out the best route. Time is the biggest adversary in the game, as driving through the courses is extremely easy, requiring almost no technique. Succeeding in Smashing Drive is a simple matter of memorizing the courses, knowing where each turbo is located, and learning the best shortcuts. Once that's done, there's very little replay value.
Smashing Drive's courses do show some thoughtful design, as there are many interesting shortcuts hidden within the cities. Most are easy to find, usually near ramps where players can burst through windows or doorways to shave some precious time or to acquire helpful power-ups to blast through the oncoming traffic. One route involves smashing into a museum and riding through the inside of a dinosaur skeleton en route to a second-story window. No matter where you are along the course, arrows point you in the right direction -- so you'll never get lost while exploring.
It's a shame this game isn't more fun, because the premise seems absolutely foolproof. Yet the speed of the game is lacking, the levels are short, the sound effects are almost non-existent, and the action remains the same from start to finish: race from point A to point B in the shortest time possible. With this title and the earlier The Simpsons: Road Rage, it would seem Crazy Taxi is not such an easy game to emulate or improve upon. Smashing Drive makes the "crazy" gameplay of Sega's taxicab racer look positively genius. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The graphics are generally clean and colorful, but there is some noticeable pop-up in the distance and the environments lack texture. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The songs are strange to say the least, as the first singer sounds like he's yelling through a portable fan. Sound effects are barely there, making for an unusually quiet game. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The "smashing" element doesn't translate into fun, as the whole point of the game is to beat a rival taxi to the finish line -- you shouldn't waste time crashing into things unless it leads to a shortcut or turbo power-up. The levels can be finished within hours. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The action isn't very fun and the courses are over too quickly. While the game keeps track of high scores and offers a two-player mode, the gameplay is not compelling enough to revisit after you finish the nine races. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The manual is short but explains each of the courses, power-ups, and the extremely basic controls. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide