Version tested: GameBoy Advance
The most surprising thing about Driven on the GameBoy Advance is how much more entertaining it is than the utterly abysmal PS2 incarnation. If my memory serves me correctly this is the first top-down racer to appear on the GBA and Crawfish have succeeded admirably in bringing us a surprisingly enjoyable and, shock horror, original little racer. The perspective actually isn't quite top-down, rather our viewpoint of the action is isometric and somewhat reminiscent of the bizarrely named Amiga game Skidmarks [stop sniggering at the back there - Ed]. We haven't really seen many driving games make a use of this angle and so it can take some getting used to, particularly with the GBA's irritatingly dark screen. However, once you're accustomed to the angle, the handling of the cars is surprisingly well realised and the sense of speed is accomplished superbly. In fact, playing Driven for the first time is an experience full of surprises. For myself, it shouldered the burden of its PS2 brother and I was relatively shocked when I realised I was actually having fun twisting the little CART cars around the tracks. The game is stuffed with a nice collection of playing modes, with single race, practice, multiplayer and story mode available from the main menu.
In The Zone
The story mode is obviously the main portion of the game, but I'm not really sure whether or not it follows the storyline of the Sylvester Stallone movie the game is based on because, well, I haven't seen it. However, there doesn't seem to be much of a plot as such (now there's a surprise), you just take on the role of a few different drivers and perform a variety of on-track tasks in order to prove your worth in the racing circuit. The tasks you have to perform vary from, bizarrely, collecting coins on the track whilst completing a lap in a certain time to simply winning a head-to-head race with an archrival. The tasks and locales are a refreshing diversion from the norm; I certainly wasn't expecting to be racing through the streets of New York in a CART car, sliding it under parked articulated trucks. The fresh approach doesn't stop at the scenarios either. There's a novel addition to basic racing where your driver can enter the "zone", meaning massively accelerated speeds, invulnerability and improved handling. This state is achieved through careful handling around the track during the race and is a good reward for putting in extra effort. However, the hard work you put into getting to the head of the pack can often be ruined in one fell swoop; taking too much damage can result in your car being flung into the air without warning and placed at the back of the pack. Since there's no damage meter in your HUD this can often happen without warning and can prove to be extremely frustrating, especially during the harder races.
Driven isn't an especially deep or involving game, but it is one that provides a pleasant diversion every now and then. Even if you can't be bothered with finishing the story, an occasional jaunt around one of the tracks in practice mode is fun when you've got a spare ten minutes or so. It's worth persevering with the game in the long haul though, even if only to unlock the secret cars and new tracks. Give it a shot if you haven't got your eye on anything else.
7 / 10