Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cel Damage HD (PS4, XB1, PS3, Vita) Review

Earlier this week I reviewed a car combat game of a different type with Obliteracers. I didn't care for it too much. However, this game, a flashback from the early 2000s, is one that I actually liked. Funny that! Here is my review of Cel Damage HD for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 , PlayStation Vita (these have cross buy), and Xbox One.

One glaring omission might make this game a tough Cel... er-- sell.

Out of all the games from the sixth generation of consoles, and there were a lot of them, mostly thanks to the PlayStation 2, you expect a lot of the more fondly thought of games to get HD remasters. We've gotten games like God of War, the Ratchet & Clank series, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Kingdom Hearts, two Legend of Zelda games, and so many more. You probably don't think of what is seemingly a random third-party game with no real critical or financial success. However, that didn't stop developer Finish Line Games from bringing back Cel Damage to high definition form with Cel Damage HD. If you pondered the question "Who asked for this?", then you probably aren't alone in that line of thinking.

For those of you who haven't heard of Cel Damage before-- and it's quite all right if you haven't. I have slight memories of seeing screenshots of the game back in Game Informer and Nintendo Power-- Cel Damage is a cel-shaded (shock and awe) vehicular combat game. Like a cartoon Twisted Metal, if you will. The game has a more whimsical tone to it, however, than the gritty and darker Sony series, of course. That said, the humor skews more teenager-friendly and crude than anything for kids. With characters like Dominique Trix (har-har), a obscenity-spewing (always censored, though) Fowlmouth, and various stereotypes that are more distasteful and lazy than humorous and creative, Cel Damage skews more for older gamers.

While the characters are one-note, and really, that's okay since this is a car combat game and not aiming to be the next great video game epic, Cel Damage's gameplay happens to be rather enjoyable, featuring three unique modes each unlocked from the start. The most enjoyable of the three is the combat-focused Smack Attack, where opponents speed around the map, picking up weapons to smash and slash other opponents. Every attack is worth a handful of points here and there, but the real point collection comes, of course, from taking out other opponents.

Use this sledgehammer to smashing effect to get major points.
Meanwhile, Flag Rally pits players against one another, attempting to gather flags which casually saunter around maps. As you pick up flags-- as many as you think are safe to hold before your opponents feel the need to seriously start coming after you, attacking you to make you lose your carefully collected haul-- your goal is to then to drive to the drop off point on the map. The more flags you collect and turn in at once, the better point bonus you get.

Red arrows over opponents means that they currently hold at least one flag. Get 'em before they score!
Finally, Gate Relay rounds up the mode package of Cel Damage HD. This is a multi-lap Mario Kart-style race around levels through each checkpoint. This was my least favorite of the trio of modes in the game, as the levels aren't really built or suited for this type of play. There's a huge lack of viable shortcuts to be had, making races very one-note in feel.

Mario Kart this is not, but then again, what really is?
The sixteen maps plus one bonus map of Cel Damage HD, four in each locale (a Wild West area, a jungle area, a haunted area, and a space-themed area), are rather hit and miss. Thankfully, there are more hits than misses here. Some are pretty sprawling places, like the initial Wild West-themed map, which comes packed with a miniature Western town, a locomotive that churns right down the middle of the map, and surrounding canyon areas. Others are much smaller in scope, but offer enough quirks or a central themed gimmick that make them worthwhile. Some, however, aren't too interesting.

Of course, these maps would be nothing if they weren't fun to drive in. Fortunately, Cel Damage HD possesses tight responsive driving controls. Being able to turn quickly is a must for a game focused on combat, and here, Cel Damage HD does well. In addition to things like the ability to slide, you can side-slam into opponents to careen them off course. You can also flick the right analog stick to perform a front roll. In Gate Relay, this is a great trick, as not only does a roll (which can't be failed) give you a sudden jump of speed forward, but it also stores energy in your car's boost gauge. The only real drawback to controlling the vehicles in Cel Damage HD is that occasionally the physics can do unexpected things. These don't usually result in much of a problem, but they aren't perfect all the same.

Being a vehicular combat game, and a cartoon-y one at that, the expectation of solid, zany weaponry is justly there. Cel Damage HD delivers here as well with weapons both melee and ranged, including axes, baseball bats, chainsaws, machine guns, missile launchers, vacuums that suck up and spit out opponents, freeze rays, saw blades, javelins, and many more. Each character has their own special weapon as well that they can pick up, while when you've used up any of the weapons you collected, your character can do small chip damage to foes with throwable objects. The scope and variety of weaponry available in Cel Damage HD is very nice, offering a satisfying amount of impact when you connect a shot or hit.

Everything sounds good so far with Cel Damage HD, and it really is. However, the game's biggest downfall here is a notable one if you're lacking friends to play with locally. There is no online play whatsoever, a ridiculous omission in this day and age for a game like this not from Nintendo (and even Nintendo's been better about this in modern era). A lot of longevity could have come from online skirmishes with both faraway friends who can't always be around to play side by side with you, as well as total randoms. That said, the AI is quite capable and a lot of fun to play against, offering three difficulties, and the local multiplier is also enjoyable.

Four friends can face off in splitscreen multiplayer, the only type of mulitplayer featured in Cel Damage HD.
What longevity comes from Cel Damage HD will vary from player to player. Trophy and achievement hunters will find a dozen or so very easy trophies to collect and be done with most of what Cel Damage HD has to offer (you'll be unlocking the four secret characters in the process). Others who want more from the game can play multiple times as each character, unlocking both of their cutscenes (though these try to be funny and generally fail, but at least not embarrassingly so). The gameplay is indeed enough to pick up the game for a round or two when you get free time or for extended sessions. Either way, you're going to have fun.

For an HD remastering, the bare minimum went into updating Cel Damage from its Xbox roots. Everything is indeed in high definition, but that's really all that's changed outside of all modes being available right from launching the game. Still, I adore the cel-shaded art style, but then again I am a sucker for the visual style in general. The cartoon-y nature of the game is expressed well not just in the graphical style but small things like cars literally bending a bit out of proportion when they turn or boost. Cel Damage HD's sound is a mix of voice clips that can be easily ignored, competent sound effects, and some catchy music here and there.

The lack of online multiplayer for a game that is pretty much dependent for most players' enjoyment of a game of this type may soil the package of Cel Damage HD. For me, I ended up liking the gameplay against the AI and with a nearby friend to play with enough to really make for a swell time. Questionable humor (as in "who thought this was actually funny?") and sometimes off-kilter physics also hamper the package. Nonetheless, when you see Cel Damage HD on sale (and it happens fairly regularly), then definitely check this game out if its problems don't overly concern you.

[SPC Says: C+]

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