When it comes to videogames, the word "sequel" makes me break out in any number of assorted rashes. Usually this means someone shoveled a ton of money at a developer's feet, and asked them to make the same game over, but a lot longer, and with a few more bells and whistles thrown in. I don't know if this was the case here, but while playing Runabout 2, I kind of got that feeling. The first game was a nice, quick throwaway- part Destruction Derby with it's wild car crashes and predating Crazy Taxi and Driver by a few years with it's drive anywhere gameplay. The cool thing about it was that as long as you didn't take it too seriously, it was a lot of fun to drive through each of the 3 ridiculously short levels, smashing up stuff, collecting money and earning new vehicles. As for the sequel, well…let's let the rest of this review write itself. From the back of the CD case…
"Drive anywhere!" Well, more like "Try to drive anywhere!" Runabout 2 has some really nicely designed and twisty track layouts, but too many things on the sides or in the middle of some of those layouts will bring you to a dead stop. Extremely annoying if you're a few seconds away from a finishing a timed course, and accidentally hit a large obstacle or other vehicle.
"Crush anything!" Hmmm, anything small, such as beach umbrellas, wastebaskets, surfboards, and the like. Moving objects however, will cost you more than some paint off your fenders. Yes, you still earn cash for smashing up stuff, but just sideswiping the nearest car or truck results in a big explosion (and mad damage to your ride), to go along with those big bucks you're making. Too much damage equals "game over", and a quick trip back to the start of the level.
"Smash enemies!" See above, but since I need to write something here, the game was more than happy to provide me with some material. Until you get the hang of the courses, you'll constantly run out of time because you're smashing into stuff, which cuts valuable seconds off your time, mostly because the game has to show the results of your accident, no matter how long it takes! Trust me when I say that it gets a tad annoying after a stretch. You'll also smash into stuff because empty cars are scattered about like a sudden snowstorm just hit, or you're driving through the set of a remake of The Stand.
"Change vehicles!" Uh, yeah…right. Yes, you can change vehicles in this game! All kidding aside, there are at least 31 different vehicles here, and they all handle differently, but for the most part, you'll want to pick a fast car and learn the route for each stage. A good deal of the cars end up being useless, just like in the first game, but it's some fun to try to drive a bus or scooter on some of the more twisty courses.
"Race on the road!" Well, that's a given, right? Actually, you're pretty much limited to the road, with the exception of the cool shortcuts scattered about each course. Some of them are easy to find, while others you'll speed by on the first run- get used to it.
"Tune up vehicles!" But don't expect this to be Gran Turismo, friend. The "tuning" here seems more like a hook to grab GT fans, but it all boils down to your car either sliding all over the road, or not sliding around as much. Let's just say that the controls take some getting used to…
…Just like the rest of the game- I'm usually pretty lenient about graphics, as long as the game is fun, BUT running on the current PS, this game is plain ugly. You can see that there are some nice moments here and there, but there's also some of the worst pop-up I've seen in years. You'll see cars appear a few yards in front of you, if you're not gawking at the pieces of mountains, buildings and other background objects popping in like they were summoned by Merlin himself. Far worse are the awful one-frame animations of the pedestrians hopping out of harm's way, accompanied by more of the same godawful howls and screams from the first game. Sometimes you'll crash badly, and while you're flipping through the air like a broken boomerang, you'll hear people yammering away incessant babble like "hey, this isn't the road!" Ugh. You'd think that the game that predated Driver would have tried a little harder to borrow a few things from that classic, but Runabout 2 shamelessly wallows in its aged look and feel.
The control is adjustable, but somehow ends up either too stiff or too slippy, and don't even think of using the digital pad- you'll never finish a course, and probably break a controller or three. The game's one excellent point is the jazzy music in the option screens, and a couple of the in-game tunes. The best thing I can say about Runabout 2 is that it'll make you want Driver 2 to arrive in stores a lot faster. I'm a really big Climax Games fan, but it seems that they've done better work on the 16-bit platforms. I'll have to test drive the upcoming Dreamcast import Super Runabout before I pronounce this series DOA, but unless you're desperate for a driving smash 'em up, you'll want to zip by Runabout 2 like it's an old lady driving in the passing lane.
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