Burnout 3 is still, in my opinion, one of the best arcade-y racing games out there. It's a game series that realized that smashing your car - which happens more often than not in any racing - should be just as fun as the visceral rush of driving really fast and burning past your opponents. The sound design was top notch and really added to the sense of speed and excitement.
Later games in the series didn't add much, except maybe frustrations: I found Revenge to be a bit frustrating in that rear-ending non-competitor cars caused a crashed instead of just shoving the card out of the way, and Burnout Paradise's open world, while cool, made replaying failed missions troublesome as you had to drive back to the mission's start point every time.
Downloaded the demo for Criterion's latest entry in the series, Burnout Crash!, the other night and have been having quite a lot of fun with it. I initially approached the game much like the Crash game mode from Burnout 3 on which it is based. In that game, you try to manuveur your car into the perfect position for causing the most amount of damage possible, only succeeding after hitting a certain level. It was definitely a puzzle game, as once you figured out the placement, where to drop into the intersection and when to blow yourself up, you didn't really need to go back to the level again.
I didn't understand Burnout Crash! until I realized what Criterion had done: they took those basic gameplay mechanics and turned them into....a pinball game! It's not immediately obvious, you'll spend a few seconds in the middle of a crash intersection, just waiting for new cars to show up and being annoyed by the in-game announcer's voice. (Just like Burnout 3!) Once you start hearing pinball table style bell ringing, chaining actions together to create score multipliers and blow up certain board structures in order to unlock other game events, you'll realize you're dealing with a much different animal. I think my favourite pinball-like feature is being able to manuver your card into a construction site pit, which will reset your car so you can drive back into the intersection and cause more damage from a different angle.
The demo only has one level and one game mode, so it's a little hard to judge whether the game has a lot of replay value - like all pinball and arcade games, it's really about rocking a high score and building skill. I love that kind of gameplay, but I already have a number of games that are kind of similar, and I worried Burnout Crash! might just be a "quick sugar fix" of gaming goodness rather than something with longer lasting charms.
Burout Crash! does have charm though. We'll see if I can resist them in the end. :)