SUPER RUNABOUT: SAN FRANCISCO / Interplay / Dreamcast
 
 
Runabout was apparently a series of driving games for the PS1 that I'd never heard of until playing this one. Their deal was basically approximating Driver but trying to do it a little Bigger and Better and with Moar Moar. They then jumped to this Dreamcast edition, which was the last of the series. With the jump, the game seems to be taking on more of Crazy Taxi's territory ... but doesn't seem to get what made Crazy Taxi so appealing, and then an ultra-low budget production and terrible physics/handling just turns the whole thing into a trainwreck.

Seriously, I do want to like this game, with its "give no fucks" anarchic approach to pretty much everything. The setup is that you pick one of two factions, who have an intertwining story - you either play as this garage full of jerks who get tasked with a series of inexplicable missions (ranging from collecting terrorist bombs from garbage cans to making a hot dog for somebody), or as the police department. Either way, you're turned loose on the streets of San Francisco, and the missions are all some derivative of either driving to a series of checkpoints, or destroying something by plowing through it, within a time limit. In both cases, a "money bar" at the bottom of the screen keeps track of the total financial damage you've caused with your reckless driving. At first I thought this was some penalty that would be levied against me at the end of the mission ... but it actually turns out to unlock stuff for you the higher you drive it up, so I guess the game is encouraging you to smash up as much property as possible. This has the hilarious effect of causing you to accomplish every possible objective simply by smashing right through it. Terrorist bombs in garbage cans? Drive right through 'em. Some jerk wants a hot dog? Destroy hot dog carts all over town while collecting ingredients. Add on the very Engrishy translation and the complete nonsense story and you have a delightfully insane stew bubbling up here.
 


Unfortunately, the aforementioned crap handling and physics pretty much ruins all the fun - the game is painful to actually play. The police are a bit better to play as initially as they have a slightly better selection of vehicles, including one of those boss CHP motorcycles so you can get your Erik Estrada on. Regardless of how good your car is, though, the handling is still varying degrees of Shite. The game offers up a fairly good recreation of the major streets and areas of downtown San Francisco; the streets are tight and packed, however, and between all the traffic, the pop-in, and the general shit handling, it's nearly impossible to avoid at least clipping stuff constantly. This is where the wonky "shoestring budget" physics come in. If you even so much as gently graze another vehicle, its wheels disappear and it explodes into flames. This usually also sends you spinning out wildly as well. The other cars are simplistic AI routines apparently programmed to simply keep driving about their routes giving no fucks about what's happening around them, so getting clipped in the middle of a road usually leads immediately to getting plowed by some larger vehicle as you try to regain control. The good news is that even the weakest vehicles are amazingly resillient, able to survive the game's suicidal cops rocketing their cruisers into them over and over. Without that it would be completely unplayable, but as is it's still a clunky beast, and you still have a timer to worry about as you keep getting spun around and stuck onto cable cars. It's a shame because there's actually a really wide range of vehicles and some neat over-the-top level ideas, but Dat Shit Play Control just wrecks the whole thing.
 
 
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