As many of you might already know, God of War designer David Jaffe has quit making story-driven games, and for better or worse, stuff like Calling All Cars! is what he intends to create from now on. It's simple, lighthearted and - dare we say it? - casual, so if you're expecting an earth-shattering experience on par with Jaffe's earlier efforts, don't. But for the price, this download from the PlayStation Store isn't a bad way to kill a couple hours with some friends.
Playing like a mashup of Twisted Metal, Micro Machines and an old Keystone Kops short, Calling All Cars! tosses players into four-player funny-car skirmishes to run down Depression-era convicts and drive them back to the pokey. The criminals only escape one at a time, but finding them is easy. Hanging onto them, though, that's another story - your competitors will constantly try to knock your captive out of your car and into theirs, turning the game into a vicious free-for-all as you race to make it to the jail with the crook intact.
There are two ways to knock a criminal out of a competitors' car, the first and easiest being to just slam on the nitrous and ram whoever's holding the prize, at which point the bad guy will fly directly into your passenger seat. But watch out - there's always a temptation to turbo the hell out of there once the crook's in your clutches, and if you hit someone while you're boosting, your hostage will bounce straight into their car. If someone's gunning for you, though, you do have one defense - your car can hop, and if you do it at just the right time, they'll roar harmlessly past you.
If playing bumper cars doesn't work, you can try one of the weapons littered around each level. There's a heat-seeking missile to knock your opponents off-balance, a giant wooden mallet that'll bounce anything close to it into the air (and, more importantly, out of the passenger seat) and a giant magnet that'll suck a captive right into your car.
The game comes with just four levels - a city, an alpine run, a trainyard and a suburban neighborhood - but they all vary wildly, and they're all packed with destructible buildings and challenging little obstacles, like cliffs or moving trains that you'll need to bash through or jump over.
What's more, each level's jail is unique, with three separate entrances that award more points the harder they are to reach; there'll be a one-point entrance that'll be easy to drive into, for example, but then the three-point entrance might force you to drive up a narrow path or jump to it by using a fast-moving train as a ramp. One jail actually freezes over periodically, forcing you to hurl yourself into the back of a moving van to drop off your criminal. And in the suburban level, there's no jail at all - just speeding vans and helicopters that you'll need to catch up to while everyone else is breathing down your neck.
That's really about all there is to it; you get four levels, three weapons, exactly one game type and 18 cars, 10 of which need to be unlocked and none of which handle any differently from the others. It's an almost painfully shallow experience, and if you're playing by yourself, you'll want to play it in short bursts. Otherwise, you'll either get bored with the repetition or frustrated by how cheap your opponents get at higher difficulty levels.