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Mashed

Skewed, top-down view. Four cars, all cute as candy. Controls a toddler could understand - left, right, stop, start, fire. Lovingly designed tracks and the speed. Oh, the speed. None of this should matter. This is so over. So yesterday. So much... fun. Something that Supersonic never forgot in the first place. Mashed is the spiritual successor to the developer's PlayStation sleeper hit, Circuit Breakers. The formula remains the same: fall too far behind and you're out, but this dynamic has been updated with several new twists. Now, once eliminated, players receive a crosshair to aim at other racers. Square becomes circle and you're locked-on - ready to unleash a Tomahawk-style missile.

Which sounds gimmicky, but there's real depth. The scoring system is carefully structured to enable ebb and flow. With four players jostling (as far as we are concerned, it's the only way to play) you're awarded two points for a win and deducted two for coming last, with the middle of the pack scoring accordingly. First to ten gets the girls and glory. The result is that you find yourself going kamikaze to prevent your rival from winning.

The most refreshing things about Mashed, though, are the tracks themselves - each overflowing with ideas. Most feature sheer drops, enticing shortcuts and hold-your-breath jumps, and you soon start naming them like 'Friends' episodes. So there's the 'The One With The Raft', 'The One Like Burnout' and 'The Icy One Which Ruins Working Relationships'. They're so well crafted that you instinctively sense the risk/reward value of each tantalisingly placed power-up. Discounting the air strikes, there are eight roof-mounted weapons in an arsenal that's as satisfying to interact with as you'll find in any shooter. Current office favourites include the super-destructive mortar and an oil slick that spontaneously combusts after a couple of seconds.

So far, so fawning. Obviously, there are problems. We've played several builds over the last few weeks, noting the impact which seemingly subtle changes to handling and track design make. Recently, fancy graphical touches have been added, causing a performance hit on some tracks. This should, however, be remedied in time for release.

Less likely to be solved is the camera, which can struggle to cope with the key hook of forcing trailing cars off screen. It's a small dent in an otherwise absurdly refreshing experience. Mashed will remind you why you got into gaming in the first place. It doesn't matter. You don't need to buy it. But since when was that the point?

Mashed should hit the shops on PS2, Xbox and PC in June

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