This is how I see it…
One day in Japan’s Silicon Valley (wherever that may
be), a bunch of game programmers were having a rough day. The sake was
running low and it was still three and a half hours until knocking off
time. What’s more it was a Monday. And it was raining. Anyway, one of the
aforementioned layabouts leaned his chair back against the wall of his tiny
cubicle, kicked back his heels and groaned. “I can’t be bothered with these
cursed algorithms any more. I really don’t give two hoots about whether
these robots should duck or jump or stand on their heads when approached
within 100 meters by an enemy tank.” At least he groaned something along
those lines, and probably it was in Japanese. You get the idea.
His mate next door (or next cubicle) stuck his head over the separating partition
(it was a small partition, his mate was kind of short) and replied: “Yeah.
I wish we could have the players make up their minds about it. They can
write the devil-plagued algorithms!”
Thus was born Carnage Heart. The two mates went down to the pub early
and ordered themselves an expensive imported Budweiser to celebrate.
In Carnage Heart, the game designers have taken the modern combat strategy
game and looked at it from an unusual perspective. The overall idea will be
familiar to many readers – you build an army of robots, manage their
production, bargain for secret weapons, and pit them against your foes
in the field of battle (or in this case the moons of Jupiter). In Carnage
Heart, however, your minions will not behave unless you have specifically
told them to beforehand. They won’t so much as duck when a ruddy great
missile is coming straight at their moronic heads unless you have
programmed that particular (and, under most circumstances you will admit,
desirable) response into their pathetically small and simplistic brains.
Equally they won’t so much as fart in the general direction of the
missile’s origin unless you have previously embedded that action into their
inadequate CPU. Imagine playing Command and Conquer having merely a bunch
of lobotomized monkeys with a collective navel fetish at your disposal.
That’s what you will end up with unless you have pre-programmed in them an
adequate set of actions and responses.
Once they are in the heat of battle, you no longer have control over your violent children.
So you better have done the business well, or your much vaunted (and expensive) units
will be no more than smoldering heaps of junk. This is the essence of the
game. It is your job to put the Carnage in their Hearts!
Oh – there are other aspects of the game. It is up to you to optimize the
armor, engine, weaponry (even color scheme) of your death merchants. It
is up to you to deploy them in a strategically sensible manner (although
this portion of the game, in my opinion, provides no more sophistication
than a game of tic-tac-toe). As mentioned previously, there is the
possibility of negotiating with arms manufacturers in order to upgrade your
equipment (you can eventually end up with tanks and flying machinery).
You can, for example, support their research and development or merely
purchase available products. If you build up a good relationship with a particular
company, they may even provide you with information regarding the actions
and purchases of your enemy.
An entire CD is, in fact, given over to a mission briefing/tutorial. An
opportunity, you might think, to explain some of the nuances of a novel
game. An opportunity wasted, I am afraid. This CD is essentially a linear
movie, providing no more information than a quick scan of the instructions
or a bit of experimentation with the game itself. In any case, all this is
to a large degree peripheral to the programming aspect of the game. You
will spend the vast majority of time working out how to make your bots
effective in their search, evasion and attack patterns. Hence the
programmer’s strategy guide which accompanies the game’s overall
instruction manual (and is about twice as thick).
I must have spent a good five hours trying to get into this game, because for the most part I
cherish hard-core strategy games above all others. I made a bot that would
duck (and then jump sideways) if it was shot at. On the other hand it ended
up shooting its buddies in front before eventually ending up against the
side of the battlefield vainly trying to jump over the edge. I hoped it
would be stimulating trying to solve these puzzles, and solve them I
sometimes did. But it was, for the most part, boring.
And that’s what it comes down to. I spent all that time (admittedly I am
Irish, and obviously therefore somewhat challenged in the cerebral
department) and came up with very little in terms of enjoyment in return.
What’s more, there was very little to stimulate me along the way. In most
other strategy games you are led in gently and you learn along the way, so
it is fun. Here you are plopped right in at the deep end. You have the
option of using the circuits and designs which can automatically be
provided by the game – but the tactical side of the game is far too weak to
make it interesting. The designs provided are really to help you to begin
learning the programming. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough fun.
I do believe that there is some potential in this game, if you want to
dedicate a lot of time to it. That rescues its grade, somewhat. In addition,
it might be a useful tool to getting your mind thinking in terms of cause and effect.
As a game, however, it is disappointing. Sorry guys – drop the Buds (I know, I know:
shame to waste such great beer) and get back to the drawing board.