Danger Zone isn’t subtle and nor should it be. The latest from indie outfit Three Fields Entertainment doesn’t faff around with golf balls, instead slapping cars on a simulated highway and tasking you with smashing into as many of them as you can. This is Crash Mode in everything but name, and considering it comes care of Criterion’s founders, we reckon that’s fair game.
So brazen is this wreck-‘em-up that even the interface shares similarities with Burnout 3: Takedown, right the way down to the Crashbreaker – boldly renamed Smashbreaker here – in the bottom left corner of the screen. But for those of you with fresher faces, exactly what is the homicidal homage all about?
In essence, it’s a puzzle game. You control a single car, and must drive it into a busy junction in order to cause a collision. As the pile-up expands, you’ll be able to detonate your vehicle, launching it into the air and guiding it with aftertouch. The goal is to cause as much damage as possible and gather up the tokens that litter the roads.
Some of these medallions will reward you with a points bonus at the end of the round, while others will augment you with more explosives to further your destructive chain. There are around 20 different stages in the game, the layouts of which start simple but get increasingly complex as you progress, like tasking you with working against oncoming traffic speeding down a hill.
The gameplay is rock solid: it’s an addictive, moreish format that both dazzles and is cunningly designed, encouraging that all-important one more go factor as you work your way towards the top of the leaderboards. Unfortunately, the wrapping that surrounds the core action is so paperthin that it’s bordering on transparent.
Some may argue there’s beauty in the barebones nature of this explosive outing, and at $12.99/£9.99 it’s certainly appropriately priced – but this feels like a game thrown together in a matter of months in order to get some cash flowing into a company in serious need of some financial security. There’s frankly nothing to it beyond the three phases of stages.
This is particularly evident in the presentation, which includes absolutely no music and a single car for you to select. All of the action takes place within a single open-floor factory environment; it’s framed as a simulation so the road layout’s able to change without the need for new art assets. Even the explosions may or may not be stock Unreal Engine 4 effects.
Danger Zone is about as barebones as arcade games get, and yet its explosive gameplay loop is so addictive that it’s somehow passed our crash test relatively unscathed. The presentation may be offensively simplistic and the runtime a little on the short side, but once you’ve launched your Smashbreaker a few times, you’ll feel like all is well in the world.