The Speed Rumbler

Also Known As: Rush & Crash (Japanese title)
Platform: Arcade
Other Platforms: Commodore 64 PS2, Xbox, PSP, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: 1986
Genre: Top-Down Shooter - Driving
Players: 1-2 (Alternating)

The Speed Rumbler, made in the time when Capcom was making very difficult and challenging games (read: any time in Capcom's history), is a tough and sometimes unrelenting game, but it more than makes up for it with its satisfying driving mechanics. In a seemingly post-apocalyptic future, Super Joe (no relation) must fire up his Speed Rumbler vehicle to rescue his family from the terrorist group Zapper, making the six-stage journey from Peace Village to Zap Town with everyone inbetween trying to kill him.

The game is technically a top-down shooter affair like Commando, but with a greater focus on speeding through in the titular Speed Rumbler, which you can upgrade by saving hostages trapped in cages. It's definitely the vehicle controls that are the highlight of the game- rather than using an accelerator pedal and steering wheel, controls are done with a standard control stick, and this works a lot better than you'd imagine! Swerving quickly to get enemies off you or slip past blockades feels very satisfying to pull off, and after you upgrade your firing rate, ploughing through enemies ahead is easy to combine with your driving manoeuvres. There's even a neat little touch where abruptly changing direction makes the back end of your car swing out a little! The game also incorporates its focus on speed in the power-up system, where you'll have to chase after hostages once you save them. You're never out of the car for too long either, as when it explodes you go on-foot until a replacement arrives, which is a nice 'last chance' mechanic.

However, the Capcom reputation for keeping things challenging is alive and well here- The Speed Rumbler is hard. Perhaps a little too hard. The collision detection is definitely not in your favour, as even barely grazing cliffs or bodies of water will kill you instantly. There's also the larger enemies that, even if you just barely clip them, will trap you and murder your health meter in a second. The vertical screen, while great for seeing what's ahead, can also lead to enemies slamming into you from the side with little warning which can send you careening into traps and hazards in a way that will frustrate you. Going for a high-score with this one is very tough, and there's some absolutely ridiculous sections later in the game. This is something that'll definitely affect your view of the game depending on how well you deal with this kind of difficulty, but while it does go all-out in trying to destroy you, I think the feel of the game, the controls, raise it above the brutal difficulty.

So, as long as you know about the violent road that lies ahead, you should really give The Speed Rumbler a look. When you 'get' with it, you'll be swerving and sliding, leading enemies into hazards to make them blow up, and taking out enemies before they can even get near you... When you're not being slammed into landmines or literally bumped to death by other cars. It can be frustrating! It really can! But when it's not being frustrating, the controls are so smooth and fluid that it feels good. Besides, if you want you can ditch the car and walk it (and die). I wouldn't recommend that, but I do recommend giving The Speed Rumbler a chance.

For being all about rushing and crashing, The Speed Rumbler is awarded...

In a sentence, The Speed Rumbler is...
Tough, but one you want to love anyway.

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