06th Apr2018

‘Mad Carnage’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Mad-Carnage-banner

‘Almost’ is the word that constantly came to mind when I was playing Mad Carnage. Never before have I played a game that comes so close to being inventive and interesting and yet misses the mark by just enough to make the game a chore to play, which is a real shame as the concept itself is so strong.

Mad Carnage tells the story of John Carnage, a Mad Max-esque character in a post-apocalyptic environment with the focus of game play exclusively on vehicular combat. The twist in this is that this is an isometric strategy game that’s quite board-game like in its execution and it’s this aspect that sets it apart from the pack.  Whilst the control scheme is relatively simplistic (although I do feel that you should be able to use the D-Pad buttons as it seems more appropriate for a tile-based game than using the analogue stick) the first few tutorial missions are much-needed as they set out the idiosyncrasies of the game such as car momentum being such a factor and the strengths and foibles of different car classes (Fighter – weak but with a machine gun, Berserker – a ramming vehicle that is unable to shoot and Heavy – able to attack on both sides). It was during the tutorial missions that I noticed the ‘trial and error’ style of game play.

Due to the way that the cars move, i.e. needing a couple of turns to slow down after hurtling across a few squares, it’s much more practical to trundle around slowly so that you can rotate in order to attack oncoming vehicles, you’ll need to do this quite often as enemy cars come at you from all sides (the AI seems to just drive towards you and shoot on sight). The landscape is quite bland and sparse consisting of mainly rocks and canyons and after getting blasted to pieces through my initial ‘tactic’ of scooting around, guns blazing, I quickly realised that as the enemy cars pretty much all come gunning for you, there’s not many ways to complete each level, you just have to find the correct one, this results in you knowing that you’ve messed up the level after only a few moves and so you may as well restart. For instance, if you have three cars and you lose two but there is more than one enemy car, it’s quite certain that you won’t win because the enemies will come booming straight for you, allowing you to possibly take out one before being destroyed yourself. Also, as most of the cars can get blown up in one volley of shots, you end up playing the same levels over and over, as you find the right way to complete it. The difficulty seems to have strange spikes on certain levels and due to the design of the game it feels more laborious than a learning curve.

Mad-Carnage-Screen

Beyond the game play itself, the sounds of the cars and gunfire are fine and the music is OK but it seems oddly mismatched as it swings from a tribal, gladiatorial score to wailing 80’s guitar bends, neither of which are memorable. The graphics are crisp and the animation is smooth, especially considering that this is a budget title. The levels also each feature comic-strip style screens to move the story forward and I did like the art style of these. The story of Mad Carnage is by Canadian author Evan Currie but I would assume that he didn’t write the in-game narrative text as it’s quite cumbersome and doesn’t appear to have been proof-read correctly as there are errors scattered throughout which could have been easily avoided.

Mad Carnage is a solid idea that sadly, even with its budget price falls just short of being recommendable. A vehicular strategy game would be the perfect fit for the hand-held Switch but the trial and error style that requires multiple retries feels like the wrong choice and it just wore me down. If the gameplay was more refined and movement wasn’t so reliant on slow turns in a circle, zooming around the deserted landscape would at least feel more dynamic and match the energetic score. It’s almost impossible to complete the levels without losing some of your cars and so everything feels expendable, especially as the game punishes you for making the slightest wrong turn. I really liked the art style, genre and setup but the actual game play feels unrewarding.

I’d love to see a sequel to this game from Drageus Games as I do feel like they are a few steps short of making a truly great experience but sadly even at its budget price, Mad Carnage is tough to recommend for the reasons above.

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