Is saving a foundering 'career' really worth making a fool out of yourself on national television every Sunday night? I don't care who ends up winning ITV's weekend extravaganza - every contestant I've ever seen on Dancing on Ice always looks like they're skating on wet cement.

Those 'stars' are fairly wise in avoiding those tricks and spins themselves, it being pretty easy to slice a finger off or dislocate a limb mid-move.

In contrast, Crash Car Mania is all about loosening up and celebrating daring moves of a different kind. It actively encourages you to take risks; it fervently condones flinging your body out of a car windscreen and landing in a crumpled mess on the floor, all for points.

This is a crash test dummy's dream. Coming equipped with motocross style tracks full of mud, jumps and obstacles aplenty, Crash Car Mania is all about how fast you dare drive, how high you dare fly, and how reckless you dare be. It is risk taking within a framework, however, and Xendex has a fairly strict structure it expects you to keep to.

Viewed almost diagonally from the side, you drive your car from right to left, with full control over its speed, mid-air trajectory and even the state of the driver.

Somewhat originally, acceleration is handled by holding down the '6' key, with quick taps giving your car a burst of speed. You can also brake with '4', while holding down '8' and releasing it - ideally as you approach a jump - pushing the vehicle up into the air, the '7' and '9' keys flipping the car forward or backwards as it flies back down and hits the ground.

If this doesn't get you far enough, holding down the '5' key will fling your driver out of the car and into the air, repeated taps resulting in mid-flight summersaults.

This is especially handy when approaching the end of a course, marked with a target you're encouraged to land on for extra points. In fact, every thing you do - every trick you carry off and every combo you put together - is all designed to top up your points tally.

Each course you tackle comes with its own theme, with Mania's linear yet branching structure teaching you everything from flipping your car to bouncing it off explosives.

Such is the step by step nature of play that control becomes second nature. By comparison, success is a lot harder to come by than it might appear.

Flying through the air and smashing into sky-high rings of fire and makeshift walls fashioned out of clapped out old cars is fun enough, but progression relies on you finishing each course within a set time.

In truth, the time allowed is usually fairly generous, and even crashing and burning isn't necessarily a problem - whether you end up flat on your face or overturned in your flaming car, you can still carry on, with the game automatically plonking you in a range of other cars lined up along the course.

Problems arise when you happen to smash up outside the range of any replacement vehicle, as the game ends your run when you can't be reached.

Fair enough, you might think, but knowing just whether you're near another car isn't something you can readily tell as you hurtle towards one wall after another. Sometimes you'll get lucky and sometimes you won't, but the seemingly random nature of this punishment is a constant source of frustration.

Handily, the game's Training mode does allow you more freedom, dropping the clock and any fear of failure. But these levels can only be unlocked once you've played them in the main game, making career progress essential - a career that, by comparison, feels a little too harsh and uncompromising.

Crash Car Mania gives you the arena to pull off the flashiest of moves, but marks you down if you don't stick to its script. Not quite the full 6.0, then, but a fair whack flashier than a former soap star prancing around in tights.