You know what was great about the Official Playstation Magazine back in the day? Demo discs. Demo discs that seriously gave you a glimpse into the future of your games collections. This was one of the games that I remember trying to purchase when I played it. Ahhh… I remember it vaguely well with the vague amount of fondness I should and… er… yeah I can’t remember a huge great about it because it actually took me AGES to find the game because in between the demo disc and the final release, I sorta forgot about it and very few copies actually appeared in the shops. Also… name change hoo-hah? Apparently this is called Runabout in Japan and Asia. What the everloving crap is THAT supposed to mean?
I’m sorry but I don’t get the name change from Felony 11-79 to Runabout. OR perhaps it was the other way around but I’m sorry, Runabout is a seriously wimpy name for a game whereas at least you get a sense from Felony 11-79 that it is at least trying to be cool. Like, totally lame and whatever, Runabout, just go back to the naming pool and stop having a shit name, OK? Jeez. You ruin everything.
So I tried searching for what Felony 11-79 actually IS (in the criminal sense, not the… game sense…) and all I get are pages related to this game so apparently Felony 11-79 is purchasing… this… game. Shit. Good thing I’m not American and it’s a good thing I don’t own this game anymore. It’s a recent dismissal but a necessary one. I could go into great detail as to why I don’t own games anymore but let’s just make up a reason instead because it’s more fun. As it turns out, I needed three keys to open the game box after a while and inside this legendary treasure chest is a few millions of dollars worth of treasure. I have to go and seek out these three keys in order to open the game box so I just thought ‘fuck it’ and decided to give it away instead.
OH WAIT. That’s the plot to this game.
Yeah, I know it sounds fucking ridiculous. It is. You’re welcome.
If you think I am kidding, I am not. In the opening sequence to a game that involves you crashing into other cars regularly at speed to earn money, a famous archaeologist discovered an ancient tomb with a casket that couldn’t be opened and yet MAGICALLY all three of the pieces you need to open the casket are in America. How on Earth do the three MYSTICAL keys for a MYSTICAL casket appear in the oh-so MYSTICAL realm of the US? The dig was in the unexplored City of Gold – well far be it from me to say anything but clearly it HAD been explored because otherwise how did these things happen to be where they are and how did they manage to LOSE THE THREE FUCKING KEYS TO THIS CASKET? Also, the tomb contained gems and gold bars probably worth a HELL of a lot of money so here’s a better idea: commit a load of crimes in order to open the casket that is also worth a hell of a lot of money. Way to go greed. You win this round apparently.
Seriously, we’re into some dangerous moral territory here. It would only serve the ‘protagonist’ right that when he opens the casket it ends up being full of flesh-eating bees or something. You spent two million dollars on the casket which is worth a FEW MILLION DOLLARS. Yeah, spend money to make money but at least make A LOT OF MONEY and not just a bit more? SEE WHAT THIS FUCKING GAME IS TEACHING ME?! Moral compass dwindling…
So basically, there are three driving levels where you steal something and then bugger off all within a time limit. Usually this time limit is around 5 minutes but what’s more amusing is that apparently the game’s best time before anyone has the opportunity to do anything is 10 minutes BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my God, you suck at playing your own game and clearly you’re just playing by your own rules because 10 minutes? OH MY GOD. HILARIOUS.
I remember in the demo that my favourite thing was literally to smash into everything and deal as much damage as possible. In fact, up until I parted with this game, I was still doing that. Why wouldn’t you? If you tell a child that they can play a game where if you crash into things, it tells you how much money it costs, you think anyone’s NOT going to pay attention to that? That’s like saying “SWEETS ARE AMAZING but you can’t have them” because I’ll fucking eat all the sweets I want if I want to, I’m a grown man for crying out loud, go eat your lettuce and watch me eat my sweets.
TECHNICALLY you’re supposed to be doing the LEAST amount of damage, I guess but where’s the fun in that?! I mean seriously, where’s the actual fun in that?! WHAT IN THE BLAZES WOULD YOU FIND FUN ABOUT AVOIDING THINGS YOU CAN CRASH INTO IN A GAME WHERE YOU CAN CRASH INTO THINGS OH MY FREAKING GOD.
What really lets this game down are the technical limitations of the PS1. You look at that beautiful screenshot above and think “that might look quite nice when it’s moving” and you’d only be half right. It’s low-res, obvs, and the draw distance is a bit off at times but you see that lovely sky? That beautifully drawn orange sky? Yeah? Yeah it’s static. It moves with the car and all but if you pay attention to that sky on its own, it looks awful. The fact that it just sits up there, looming above you like it’s waiting to crush you is just… off-putting. The car models are fairly boxy and basic looking. The tracks – are there’s a whole THREE of them – are corridor-narrow and have next to no freedom within them. The general feel is very claustrophobic and it adds to the unnervingness (it’s a word, shush) of the game as a cohesive unit. It’s like the game WANTS you to be straight-laced and whatnot when in actual fact, to REALLY be a giant felon, you should be able to rampage across gardens and through building before getting away in your clearly totalled car within the 5-minute time limit. Isn’t being a giant felon the name of the game?
NAMELY THIS ONE? He’s vaguely pretty in a 90s retro smooth-faced-polygonal type of way. Basically he’ll steal your car but you’ll let him because he’s pretty enough to have you swoon for a bit about it. I’m talking generally there. Seriously, you’d probably let this guy steal your car. Don’t let him do it. Don’t look at him. CALL THE POLICE, THEY KNOW WHO HE IS BECAUSE HE’S THE PRETTY MAN WHO STEALS CARS for fuck’s sake…
Most amusingly though, because the game is focussing on one PARTICULAR felony, you don’t really get to commit any others, which is probably a good thing because otherwise we’d basically have Grand Theft Auto on our hands and we already have one of those. Five, technically but you know what I mean. As such, you can’t run over people. Instead, they all run away like paper cut-outs, hopping away on one foot to the same scream noises over and over. It’s amusing at first to watch them hopping away like loons but after a while of hearing ‘YAAAH!’ ‘YAAAH!’ ‘YAAAH!’ ‘YAAAH!’ over and over, you start to feel as though the disc has scratched or something. Well the game’s score definitely covered that. Seeing as it features a whole… what, TWO tracks? One of them is a fairly standard racing game rock dirge and the other one is a sub-par beach boys style track that repeats the same riffs over and over again until you think you’re in California, surfing the tubes, dude, whatever, man, it’s like we’re going all the way and other offensively stereotypical surfer-dude talk that probably DOESN’T actually exist.
Plus all of the cars sound like angry bees. These are probably the flesh-eating bees I mentioned earlier. They’re definitely angry though. They actually sound they want to kill you. THEY WANT TO KILL YOU. THEY’RE FLESH-EATING BEES, OF COURSE THEY DO… I cannot even remotely commend this game for its soundtrack or sonic achievements. We’re talking the audio equivalent of an early 90s CD single here. Two tracks for more money than you’re actually willing to spend. I don’t quite think we’re getting our money’s worth here…
AND IT ONLY GETS WORSE.
Now, in essence, this isn’t the most felonious (ooh, that IS a word! I surprised myself!) game in the world purely because the entire thing feels too chopped in and small. What they attempted to do with the game was actually reasonably commendable, albeit a bit on the wonky side in terms of the story. The story itself was just a facet to drive into things (sort of) but the problem lies in how deplorably short the game is. The whole game can take only 20 minutes to actually complete properly, providing you actually… you know… play it well. And 20 minutes to complete a game is not worth the original £40 price. That’s £2 a minute. That is a very expensive game. Given that RPGS give you upwards of 20 hours of enjoyment for the same price, that’s £2 an HOUR. I much prefer the sound of that.
Sadly, although it was fun to smash into things and accrue money for the damage you wreak, the game’s lifespan was severely dented by the fact there’s not much to it. The biggest draw is unlocking the shit ton of extra cars you can drive around and smash about but if there’s nowhere to drive them in, what actually IS the point? Apparently, the sequels only contained one, albeit massive, track to run around on but… again… where’s the fun in that? We started off the Playstation’s life cycle in 1995 with Ridge Racer having a single track and that was OK because it was a proper 3D arcade game on a home console and it looked really nice – a damn sight better than this game that came out two years later – but after two years of games, particularly racing ones on the system, one track, two tracks, three tracks weren’t enough. Two music tracks weren’t enough. A wonky story that lasted for 20 CERTAINLY was not enough.
What’s the felony for overpriced games then?
Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT: it turns out it’s not flesh-eating bees in the casket but it does melt the face off the ‘protagonist’. Fire-breathing bees? Lava bees? Bees made of acid? IT’S BEES, ISN’T IT? ISN’T IT?