The BBC’s Total Wipeout is compulsive viewing. For whatever reason – though probably the opportunity to watch inevitable epic fails by the contestants – if I happen to see it while channel hopping I’ll usually stick around to the end. Doritos Crash Course is essentially a simple version of Total Wipeout’s final round, in which (usually overweight) people try to make it through a near-impossible series of obstacles to reach a finish line. Doritos Crash Course isn’t quite so extreme, but it lets you traverse its obstacle courses with your Avatar, while providing excellent multiplayer support and online leaderboards. And it’s free.
There’s nothing overly complex about what you have to do, but when the obstacles come thick and fast it’s easy to mess up. Your Avatar runs left to right, but along the way you can make them run faster, alongside ducking and jumping, while grabbing a rope will see them swing on it. Bouncy platforms propel them into the air, fans allow for levitation and travelators slow you down or speed you up. On top of that there are gaps to clear, swinging hammers to avoid, balls to jump over and new fastest times to go for.
A sprint button allows you to reach maximum nippiness, but while this might seem like the obvious way to reach the goal as quickly as possible, run for too long and your Avatar will stumble or you’ll overshoot a platform with an overlong jump. It’s more than just a simple case of charging across the screen.
While Crash Course initially appears to be one of the simplest games on XBLA, the later levels are quite devilish and will produce some genuine nerd rage if you’re not careful. The desire to get to the end as quickly as possible means you’ll frequently run into hazards unless you’re patient, and the game’s suggestion to skip you to the next checkpoint if you fail five times in a row is like a slap in the face.
Played with friends Crash Course is great fun, either on a single system via split-screen or online. It’s the leaderboards that will keep you playing, though, with your friends’ top score always visible in the top right corner of the screen. It creates that compulsive ‘one more go’ gameplay that you may have experienced in the likes of Geometry Wars 2, Trials HD and the recent Pac-Man Championship Edition DX.
Crash Course isn’t likely to win any awards for its visuals, looking like a smart version of an Xbox LIVE Indie game, but it does the job and no fancy effects get in the way of the requisite precision jumping. This is a free game, but it’s one of the most fun and addictive games available on XBLA and playable by almost anyone. If this wasn’t free I’d recommend it, but as a free download you should get this right away.