Originally released on the Playstation One, Carmageddon caused controversy on release. Gamers, of course, lapped it up and (partially fuelled by the controversy) the game did very well commercially and spawned a sequel. If you missed the fuss first time around, you can catch up now with this version for iOS.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future you are a racer who takes part in violent, deadly races to earn money. Cash can be earned by winning the race, taking out opposition racers or (the controversial bit) running over pedestrians. Money earned can then be used to upgrade your car to make it faster, stronger and deadlier.
Putting aside the controversy and judged on its own merits, Carmageddon is a fun game, although I think it's perhaps one that people look at through slightly rose-tinted glasses. The underlying gameplay is instantly appealing, but offers decent long-term appeal with lots of tracks (each with numerous ways to beat them), 3 difficulty levels and plenty of challenges. However, it's also a little bit shallow.
Graphically, Carmageddon does show its age. Normally, I'm quite forgiving of this (being a fan of retro), but Carmageddon perhaps suffers because it falls between two stools. It's not quite old enough to be "retro" (where bad graphics can have a certain charm) but not new enough to be "modern". Graphics are pretty blocky and a little rough around the edges (when you see a pedestrian close up, it looks quite ropey). Although they have been re-touched for their iOS debut, they have not received a complete respray, so betray the fact that they are now around 17 years old (a long time in gaming terms). However, they do their job and there are some nice touches: the splat of red when you run over a pedestrian, the little camera image of your driver whooping or grimacing as you do well or crash all help to add to the atmosphere.
The same could be said of the sound, which might sound a little basic to modern gaming ears, but works well enough. The roar of engines, the shouts of joy (or frustration) from your driver, the crunch of metal and the wet splat as you hit a pedestrian all add to the game.
The game's slightly sick sense of humour will either repel or appeal, depending on your outlook. You get extra points, for example for mowing down pedestrians with style (in one memorable incident, my car was upside down and being shunted from behind by a rival racer which caused me to plough into some pedestrians, much to the game's approval!) This adds an extra dimension to the gameplay. As you get better you look to take out opponents with panache, rather than just chasing them down. The gameplay is simple, but surprisingly satisfying - and a great way to relieve stress after a hard day at work!
What makes the game a lot of fun (and more open-ended) is that Carmageddon eschews the traditional idea of "finish first to progress to next track". Instead, there are usually multiple ways you can win a race. You COULD go down the usual route and look to finish first, but that's boring, right? Alternatively, you can seek to destroy all your other opponents or kill all pedestrians (no mean feat as there are often hundreds of them). This no-holds barred approach to winning suits the game's plot and works well.
It might only be a small change, but it gives Carmageddon a surprising sense of freedom. Unless you follow the checkpoint option, there is no set route. Within the confines of the course, you can go where you like and do what you like -you can even venture underwater! Initially this was rather confusing and in my early games I felt rather lost and aimless. Once you get the hang of it, though, it's really rather liberating. Unlike many racers, it's not disastrous if you miss a turn - you can just shift your focus to one of the other objectives, which are usually far more fun anyway!
Where Carmageddon really falls down is in its lack of depth. Race locations and exact objectives might change and there might be plenty of tracks, but the underlying gameplay is the same throughout. Carmageddon is one of those titles that I find is fun to play in short bursts, but not one that I want to sit and play for ages. Still, the crucial thing is that it is actually fun and I do return to it.
Carmageddon is a good example of a developer taking care with an old property, converting the game in a way that works within a touchscreen environment. When it comes to the controls, it doesn't do anything different to other iPad racers (buttons to control steering, braking and speed), but it implements it much better. Controls are highly responsive and give a strong degree of control over your car, although it can take a few games to get used to them: on my first couple of games I spent more time crashing into walls than pedestrians. Once you get the hang of them, though, they work beautifully.
When it was released on the PS1, Carmageddon cost the best part of £20 to buy. The price for this iPad port? Just 69p. Yes, the gameplay might be a little shallow, but at that price, Carmageddon represents one of the iPad's best buys.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2014