Chances are, if you owned a PSOne in the nineties, you will at some time have been exposed to Destruction Derby, the main selling point of which was that violently smashing rivals' cars to pieces was actively encouraged and deemed a perfectly acceptable tactic in the rush for victory. Players understandably lapped it up and, despite the series having long since given up the ghost, its premise lives on in a number of franchises that still exist to this day, with games such as Vigilante 8, Burnout and Twisted Metal all having tried their hand at vehicular combat since Destruction Derby’s 1995 launch.
Smash ‘N’ Survive — Indian developer Version2Games' debut game — takes the fundamentals laid down by Destruction Derby and attempts to mesh them together with vehicle customisation, offensive weaponry and a storyline for its own unique twist on the genre. While it’s certainly not uncommon for rookie developers to release an unexpected hit on their very first attempt, Smash ‘N’ Survive unfortunately bears all the ugly trappings of a game that was underdeveloped and underfunded.
For starters, the amount of available play modes in Smash ‘N’ Survive is pitiful in quantity. Other than Versus, Campaign mode is where the bulk of the game’s content lies, tasking you with a series of missions that are loosely tied together by a barebones plot involving gangs or something. To be perfectly frank, the game never puts ample effort into explaining exactly why you’re bombing around in cars and trying to annihilate other vehicles. There are no cut scenes, spoken dialogue or even characters on hand to flesh out the story; rather, your objectives are roughly outlined via short blocks of poorly written text that are equal parts amusing and depressing, sporting grammatical errors on a par with Zero Wing’s “all your base are belong to us” or X-Men’s “welcome to die”. Even the Trophy descriptions aren’t safe from the developer’s deplorable grasp on the English language.
Missions come in a handful of flavours, mostly entailing the violent destruction of whoever else inhabits the play area, although occasionally a challenge that involves racing through checkpoints or collecting tokens will crop up. Whatever you wind up doing, Smash ‘N’ Survive’s woefully unresponsive handling makes actually carrying out your objective far more difficult than it should be. Regardless of their stats, cars randomly fritter between spinning uncontrollably should you even contemplate nudging the analogue stick and boasting turning circles that the Moon would mercilessly mock. A wonky physics engine that seems to make up the laws of physics as it goes along confounds proceedings even further, with cars often inexplicably rolling upside-down onto their roofs or launching into nausea-inducing airborne corkscrews with seemingly no provocation.
Additionally, for a game that prides itself so vocally on destructible environments, Smash ‘N’ Survive has an extremely limited view on what objects obstructing your path can be rammed out of the way, leading to moments of sheer frustration as you plough your car headlong into a fence — deceptively flimsy in appearance — only to come to a shuddering halt. The ropey physics and inconsistent destructibility are accompanied by haphazard collision detection that will frequently have you helplessly beached on even the smallest of objects; an inconvenience that Smash ‘N’ Survive’s idiotic AI opponents also recurrently fall foul to, often becoming lodged on a rogue lamp post or futilely and endlessly accelerating into a boulder.
Should you find your substantial circle of friends too unmanageable and wish to thin out their ranks a little, Versus mode fails to make the entire experience any more bearable, exhibiting all the same unforgivable faults present in the campaign, and is a sure fire way to ensure your peers will never want to speak to you again. On a bewildering side note, despite the blurb splashed all over the Internet for Smash ‘N’ Survive clearly mentioning the inclusion of online play, the option to take the fight to other drivers over PSN is nowhere to be found.
Smash ‘N’ Survive’s inability to deliver a cohesive level of environmental destructibility for players to rely on and utilise to their advantage is hampered further by its dark, drab aesthetic and lack of visual aptitude. The handful of arenas and city locales included are all flat and blandly textured, and the cars themselves are uniformly blocky; the charred, burnt-out wreckage of defeated combatants being eerily reminiscent of those charcoal blocks your dad puts on the barbecue. Amazingly, despite its utter lack of graphical competence, Smash ‘N’ Survive still struggles to maintain a steady framerate even when the action is at an absolute minimum, slowing to an out-and-out unplayable crawl should a vehicle explode in a pixelated shower of yellow and orange squares.
Aurally, Smash ‘N’ Survive fares no better. The car engines are relatively inoffensive on the ears, but the rest of the sound effects are godawful, from the high-pitched whines of nitrous boosts to the ear-piercing clatter of metal railings colliding with asphalt. The insulting audio is perhaps at its most offensive in the menus, in which an irritating heavy metal riff is endlessly looped. It's made all the more twitch-inducing by Smash ‘N’ Survive’s menus displaying a remarkable inability to register controller input with alarming regularity, requiring a good three or four button presses all too often and being rather heavy on load times, which makes navigating through them even more of a chore than actually playing the game itself.
Despite having the foundations of a decent vehicular combat game firmly in place and boldly on display, Smash ‘N’ Survive is nonetheless a shambling mess whose solid — albeit well worn — premise can’t offset its technical inadequacies, disastrously unresponsive handling or the tragic lack of options available. The odd piece of shoddy English might very well be occasionally good for a laugh, but this is a game that is otherwise completely devoid of any entertainment value whatsoever. Even if you’re desperate for a dose of four-wheeled carnage and have exhausted all other options, there’s still nothing about Smash ‘N’ Survive that warrants a download.