A genetic mutation.
Scanning recent toon video games, you’ll exclusively find a bunch of wackos
and goodie goodies. Wacky Races
is mostly comprised of sticky sweet retro toons, Looney
Tunes Space Race has all the characters you’ll find surrounded by 4-year
olds at a Six Flags theme park, and even the stars of Jet
Grind Radio are a gang of “freedom fighting” kids.
Well, the crew at Pseudo Interactive has taken this idea and gone completely
nuts. They’ve created their own gang of gleefully psychotic toons and tossed
them into a contest of vehicular combat that would make Calypso
proud. Er, maybe not proud, exactly, since Cel Damage works much
better as a concept than a game.
Ten crazy toons have been assembled to put on a show of catastrophic proportions.
The character design is irreverent and appropriately weird. You’ve got Sinder,
the beast with a bathroom problem, Flemming, the High Dork of Destruction, and
B.T. Bruno, the construction worker with an Elvis fetish, just to name a few.
Each toon is fitted inside a specific vehicle ala Twisted Metal.
Cel Damage features the best toon textured cel shading ever to grace
a console. The art team really deserves some kind of award for the smooth work
they’ve done here. These sweet graphics help make Cel Damage look and
feel like an interactive cartoon, due in part to the cool ‘warping’ effect that
happens to the front of vehicles when you turn. It’s incredibly fluid and the
end result looks a lot like a real cartoon.
Three kinds of events with twelve levels each make up the core of Cel Damage.
The first you’ll encounter is simply called Smack Attack, where you’ll compete
against six other toons in a no-holds-barred battle to the death, ER, smack..
Be the first to rack up 500 “smacks” and you’ll be on the right road to ultimate
victory. There’s a nice variety of weapons from the get-go, including a Chaingun,
Boxing Gloves, a brutal Axe, and of course your character’s own specialty weapon.
Winning these events unlocks more goodies to add to the mix like harpoon guns,
black holes, and the ever-popular gunship powerup.
Smack Attack plays a lot like a deathmatch in Quake or Unreal Tournament
– grab your items and frag as many guys as you can before you’re toast, then
spawn back in and do it all over again. While it’s fun for a spell, this can
get pretty tiring pretty quickly. 500 smacks can take you a long time to rack
up and there is no option to adjust it in the single player. Run, shoot, explode,
repeat. You’ll explode a lot, too. It’s like playing a game of Quake
with the frags set to a million and everyone’s health set to 5. Needless to
say, it gets old faster than that pizza you left out in the backyard.
Also, the “Smack” part sucks. Different weapons lead to different
smack amounts – killing a guy with a chain gun yields a different number of
smacks than a harpoon. But nowhere does it explain how many smacks a weapon
does, nor how many smacks you receive when you decimate an opponent. A simple
frag total would have made much more sense.
There’s also Gate Relay, where you’ll dash from point to point running through
gates. The fastest of the three modes, Gate Relay is just a simple race with
no real track; just find the gates set up throughout each level and get through
them as fast as inhumanly possibly (with the help of the little pointer arrow,
Then there’s Flag Rally, a demented toon version of Capture the Flag. All
you have to do is capture four flags and bring them back to winner’s circle.
Sounds easy, but throw some legs on those flags and you’ve got problems. Plus,
there are only six flags running around, making it extremely hard to grab four
before someone whacks you. It would have been okay if you were able to grab
one flag at a time and bring it back to the circle, but since you can’t, it’s
extremely difficult to grab a few before you’re eliminated. A cool idea, but
it ends up being quite the frustrating experience.
Not making things any easier is the tough learning curve. Learning curve?
In a vehicular combat game?!? Basically all you should need to know is how to
go, stop, and shoot. So why is there a learning curve? Well, much of it has
to do with the game’s speed. While moving at an awesome framerate with no slowdown
whatsoever, the gameplay in Cel Damage just moves way too fast. The controls
may be tight, but the speed makes it all feel very jerky.
You’ll also need to figure out how to handle each weapon since some of them
are obviously better than others. Melee weapons like the Chainsaw and Axe can
kill with ease, while others like the Chaingun will do about as much damage
as a spitwad.
Continuing this downward spiral is the level design. While they contain interactive
bits like falling anvils and trap doors, some of them seem far too small and
the layouts are generally an oval or just one big open area. It doesn’t look
like a whole lot of thought went into the design.
The multiplayer adds little to the experience. The game modes are still unexciting
and move too fast, though the framerate holds up well.
The game is hard. After playing for three days or so, I finally passed the
game with one of the characters. By beating 36 levels of repetitive madness,
I had high hopes for an awesome finale. Cel Damage‘s bad boy attitude
is one of the few good things going on and I really wanted to see more of it.
Alas, all I got was a commercial short that probably should have come up a quarter
of the way into the game. What a let down.
Which, coincidentally, describes Cel Damage pretty accurately overall.
We were excited over this game since seeing it at E3, but the end result doesn’t
measure up. While it does a great job displaying the fine art of toon graphics,
it falls flat with almost everything else. From poor level design to brutally
repetitive play, this game has been crushed by one anvil too many.