Burnout is something of a console institution nowadays, having first burst onto the scene with its brand of white-knuckle racing and spectacular crashes back in the PS2 era.

But Burnout Crash!, Criterion’s first game on mobiles, isn’t a traditional Burnout game.

Viewed from a top-down perspective, it moves the focus from high speeds and avoiding traffic to cunning collisions and highscore-chasing.

It also features '80s power ballads and Spandau Ballet. I’m not making this up.

The wheel thing

There are three main game modes to smash your way through, but they all start the same. Your chosen vehicle (including some from the older Burnout games like the B-Van) starts at the bottom of the screen and threads its way up to a large junction, hopefully smashing into a car when it gets there.

This starts off your Crash Breaker meter, which gradually fills over time, or fills quickly should you smash into another car or start a chain reaction of crashes. Once the meter is full, tapping the screen allows you to blow up your car, flinging it in the chosen direction and damaging everything around it.

Buildings, objects like traffic lights, and everything in-between are all fair game, while secret hidden objects and features, like the Gold car or Pizza of Fortune van, are there to be found by enterprising exploders.

After-market parts

If you’ve played the console version of Crash! already, this new iOS version should be instantly familiar – with a few important changes

The most obvious is the controls. While only a virtual steering wheel was available for me to try out in the demonstration, Criterion will be implementing accelerometer controls for launch. Meanwhile, tapping the screen nudges your wreck in that direction even when you don’t have a Crash Breaker ready.

There’s also been a subtle change to the game’s structure. The original XBLA and PSN release made Road Trip the first mode you had to clear before accessing the others, which saw you defend the junction against cars escaping death.

However, its reliance on careful positioning and not exploding like a madman meant it didn’t make the best of first impressions, and has now been replaced with Rush Hour, a 90-second explosion-fest filled with unadulterated tomfoolery.

Likewise, while each level has five stars (three score-based and two objectives like destroying all boats reliant on the map), you now only need a single star to unlock the next section of the game.

Always believe in the road

It’s clear straight from the silhouette animation of a cartoon car gradually running head-first into the logo that Burnout Crash! doesn’t take its digitised carnage particularly seriously.

Yet despite all the contextual pop songs (hit the gold car for Gold from Spandau Ballet, Dr Beat from Miami Sound Machine if you, well, it was hard to tell) there’s the ultra-serious case of beating your friends lurking under the bonnet in the form of Autolog.

First introduced in NFS: Hot Pursuit on consoles, Autolog is Criterion’s answer to leaderboards – allowing you to send challenges to your friends, and letting them challenge you back with a higher score.

While it looks terribly simple, there is a deceptively wide range of tactics you can use to get your points ticking into the tens of millions.

Skill shots that rely on propelling traffic into other cars nets you a great wad but is risky, while destroying innanimate objects like buildings won't be so profitable but may affect the local surroundings with the resulting explosion.

Indeed, it felt like I had only really scratched the surface of this apparently simple game during my short hands-on. It may not be ‘Burnout 3 on your phone’, but it's looking like Burnout Crash! could be a fun arcade experience in its own right.

Burnout Crash! will be heading to iPhone and iPad later in the “Holiday” season.

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