With the popularity of Crazy Taxi, it's rather surprising that it's taken this long for another company to attempt to emulate that game's winning formula. Kemco, a longtime Nintendo developer, makes the jump to the PS2 with Top Gear Dare Devil, a game whose purpose, it would seem, is to duplicate the hurried arcade feel of Crazy Taxi. Unfortunately, Top Gear Dare Devil is so rife with problems, it not only fails to capture the magic of Crazy Taxi, but it also has a hard time being an enjoyable game in and of itself.
Top Gear Dare Devil takes place across the globe, with large maps designed after the city streets of Rome, London, Tokyo, and San Francisco. At first you are only given access to one car, but as you complete missions, more cars are revealed. Your missions invariably involve you driving around, picking up the coins that are scattered about the city, and returning to a finish point, which is oddly represented by an eerie green mist, before your time runs out. With only 60 seconds to grab upward of 15 coins, you'll be depending on the nitro and time extension power-ups, which are also scattered across the city. The gameplay never deviates from this formula, and with the only variables being the start and finish points and the placement of the coins and power-ups, the game quickly loses any novelty it may have had and becomes an exercise in tedium. While the game attempts to imitate the frantic action of Crazy Taxi, the nitro and time extension power-ups are too liberally dispersed, making it easy to just rack up a surplus of time, which effectively slows down the tempo of the whole game.
The pacing is also crippled by the game's Bizarro World physics engine. Most objects seen on the street can be run into for "crash" points. This includes, but is not limited to, crates, parking meters, traffic lights, stop signs, corner stores, and, of course, other automobiles. The problem is the physics engine's inconsistencies, as some objects, like street lights, won't budge, which seems ludicrous after you've just plowed through three double-decker buses without losing a step. The different cars, which include licenseless Volkswagen Beetle and Morris Mini lookalikes, all have a propensity for spinning wildly out of control when confronted with irregularities in the road. Since none of the cars have a decent turning radius, you'd think that powersliding would be the order of the day, but you'll quickly find that the powerslide function is nearly useless. When attempting to powerslide, you'll instead slide sideways until you hit a wall or something else that is indestructible, never gaining the slightest bit of forward traction.
Top Gear Dare Devil fares better with the graphics, but they're not without their flaws. Each city map is quite large, with lots of attention to detail. You can easily differentiate between the different cities, and each map fairly represents its respective metropolis. The different automobiles you'll drive and encounter on the road look good enough that you can tell the real-world make and model of the cars. There are some minor gripes over style choices, like the excessive amount of reflective bling that comes off your car, but the real graphical problem with Top Gear Dare Devil is the seemingly random slow down that plagues the game. The game's sound is good, with a pleasant mix of house, hip-hop, and pop music providing a background for the tire-screeching and car-crashing sound effects. There's good attention to detail in the sound department, with nuances like slight irregularities in your idling engine giving the game's soundscape some polish.
It's unfortunate that the rest of the game lacks said polish. There is a good deal of potential here, but Top Gear Dare Devil's deeply flawed physics engine, lack of gameplay variations, and frame rate issues keep it in the shadow of Crazy Taxi and make it a game that you should avoid.