I reveled in the bull-in-a-china-shop ethos of Three Fields Entertainments' last game, Dangerous Golf. Both it and Danger Zone – like the Crash mode of the Burnout series which inspired them – are all about taking an object (be it a golf ball or a car) and smashing them through the environment for satisfying big scores. While Danger Zone undoubtedly sets the world ablaze, it also requires thinking along different lines. Danger Zone's more open levels and moving traffic creates situations requiring a more calculating kind of destruction.
Figuring out the greatest effect of jumping, ramming, exploding, and steering your car into traffic creates a longer fuse than the immediate gratification of Dangerous Golf's relative captive audience of stationary fodder. Good timing is often needed to make sure the traffic (which is time-released from specific gates) is at the right intersections when you come barreling through. I got more cerebral satisfaction on some levels from witnessing a well-planned run unfold with clock-like precision than the spectacle of sparks from the explosive Smashbreakers themselves. Of course, saving Smashbreakers (which you detonate in order to propel your car forward and to earn extra area damage) and using them at the right time is also part of the strategy. It speaks well of the game that you can go back to its beginning levels with renewed excitement once you master techniques and discover new strategies.
The levels themselves are the real instigators of Danger Zone. While the test facility location lacks the visual variety of real-world environments, the level setups are great in getting you to think and ultimately creating satisfying runs. My favorite aspect of the levels is their verticality. This leads to shunting cars off the road so they drop down on lanes of traffic below, using Smashbreakers to flip across multiple lanes, and jumping a wrecked husk up a slope like a salmon heaving upstream.
Your car can get squirrely, even on a straightaway, but it's part of the fun. You control the camera with the right analog stick, which determines your direction once you activate a Smashbreaker and guide the car with some light aftertouch. I understand the game-ness of having to control the camera, but I occasionally felt I missed some intersection explosions and the opportunity to use my Smashbreaker effectively because I couldn't rotate it around in time.
The biggest drawback to Danger Zone is its lack of features. Despite the replayability of its levels, your progression through the game could benefit from including more pickups apart from the bronze, silver, and gold ones that give you more money. This would add increased variety and challenge to the experience the more you play – something that multiplayer modes (there are only leaderboards) would also do.
Despite its sparse offerings, Danger Zone still proves that you can do beautiful things with a car, no matter how damaged it is.
The game's charm goes beyond its initial explosions.