Game Reviews


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| Carmageddon
| Carmageddon

Yesterday's tabloid scandals tend to look even more ridiculous in retrospect than they did at the time.

Take the hoo-hah surrounding the release of Carmageddon back in the 1997. As the most un-PC PC game of its generation, it was held up (in some hand-wringing quarters) as a true video game nasty sent to corrupt the world's youth.

Playing it again on iOS some 15 years later, such outrage seems laughable. Carmageddon's slapstick gore is more Monty Python than Saw - it's almost quaint.

Fortunately, any lessening of Carmageddon's impact stops right there. Well, perhaps not quite there - the graphics appear more than a little rudimentary today on the platform that gave us Real Racing 2.

Aging disgracefully

Carmageddon is still a brilliantly fun game to play. In fact, with the whole naughty factor all but eradicated - along with the glitz of that once-sharp graphics engine - we can see it for what it truly is: one of the finest car combat games ever made.

This is a checkpoint-based racing game with spikes and blades and exploding cows. As befits such a freewheeling game, there are three very different routes to success. One: you finish the race. Two: you wreck each of your competitors. Three: you run over every last pedestrian populating the sprawling, open-plan levels.

That latter one is the least practical - and probably the least fun - of the lot, but the process of squishing hapless bystanders is the pulpy glue that binds the other approaches together. For squishing means time, and without indulging in a spot of hit and run (well, more than a spot) the timer will tick down and you'll fail, whatever you're doing.

Each level, then, becomes a case of either keeping your car pointing in the right direction and heading for the next checkpoint or aiming directly for your nearest rival's engine block - but always remembering to indulge in a little gleeful carnage along the way.

Well on track

There are other ways to earn time, as well as money for spending on car upgrades. You can earn both through inflicting damage on your opponents, going off the beaten track to run over time-extending bonuses, or using the wickedly imaginative level design and exaggerated physics engine to pull off gravity-defying stunts.

Ah, the levels. There's an almost first-person shooter-like feel to this wicked array of stages, and not just because of their sci-fi industrial setting.

Each one has choke-points designed to create pile-ups, precarious drops just ripe for pushing an opponent off, and crazy level features you look forward to (or fear) negotiating as you commence another lap.

They're in astonishingly bountiful supply, too, with more than 30 sizeable slices of automotive carnage waiting to be tackled. You'll have to drive through each at least three times to complete all of the aforementioned goals and climb the ranks from number 100 to number one, but this repetition won't be a chore at all.

Good little runner

While the game doesn't exactly look cutting edge, it does at least move at a good rate, and the draw distances are excellent. And kudos goes to the developer for squeezing in a comprehensive instant-replay system, activated at any point by swiping left, and handy for showing you all those cool things that happen just off-camera.

The developer has also done a decent enough job bringing Carmageddon to touchscreen. Some will no doubt find the virtual controls a little sluggish and slip-slidey, but put the time in and you'll come to appreciate the inertia-heavy physics as a large part of the game's appeal. It really feels like you're driving an overpowered two-ton muscle car on an insufficiently grippy surface.

Take off from a ramp at an angle and you just know you're going to struggle upon landing, while every corner approached at speed is a potential accident waiting to happen. In a serious racer this could be a problem, but here it seems fitting.

The handling will divide opinion, but we learned to love it. If you value powerful traction above all else, you probably won't.

It's these little touches - the challenging handling, the imaginative level design, unique touches like the formidable cop cars that activate when disturbed - that shine through all the ugly '90s textures and gimmicky pixellated claret.

And it's why a 15-year-old tabloid sensation is one of the most exciting iOS games we've played in quite some time.

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Carmageddon may have lost its sheen along with its controversial edge, but it's lost none of its schlocky, multilayered charm
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.