Total Carnage AGA logo AGA

First came Robotron, then Smash TV, its violent sequel. Now, from Ice, comes a game with blood and bikinis - Total Carnage, a conversion of the Williams coin-op. Adam Phillips reviews.

INTRODUCTION

Overhead shoot-'em-ups have quite a heritage in computer games history. Starting with the fiendishly addictive Robotron, a genre was created and continued down the years with the likes of Gauntlet, Commando and Smash TV. The latter title received some press coverage over the amount of blood spilled with each killing and now, with Total Carnage, this tradition continues.

STORYLINE

Out of nowhere came the power-mad General Akhboob who is as mentally balanced as Jack Nicholson in The Shining. While latter was restricted to a single hotel and a fire axe, unfortunately the former has access to an arsenal of missiles and the entire world.

He has managed to create an army of mutants from radioactive waste produced at his nuclear generator. With his endless supply of disposable creatures and hostages, the General is ready to take on the globe and claim it as his own.

Only two men are brave, strong and simple-minded enough to even consider taking on the General at his own game - Captain Carnage and Major Mayhem, the Doomsday Squad.
The simple directive is to enter the complex, rescue hostages, disable Akhboob's forces, get inside his stronghold and go after the big man himself.


 

ADDITIONAL INFO

Violence has always sold games. From the early days of IK+, Barbarian and Moonstone, to the recent Mortal Kombat featuring spinal columns being ripped out of opponents, it's clear that blood-letting is a money spinner.

Total Carnage comes from the makers of Smash TV, a game which included multiple bloody deaths in a glamorised scenario. While the argument rages between software companies and parental/teaching groups to find out what kind of effect this all has on the younger generation, plans have already been mobilised by ELSPA (European Leisure Software Publishers' Association) to introduce a voluntary ratings system to guide the parent on the most suitable purchase for their youngster.

Total Carnage is not a title to be that concerned about - while the enemy may explode in a shower of blood, there are no screams of pain or burning corpses as found in such titles as Syndicate or Mortal Kombat and the gore is very much in the comical sense, especially with the cartoonised and rough-looking graphics.


 

FLASHBACK

If you're a shoot-'em-up fan and are after two-player games that pump the adrenaline and pack a challenge, then side-step Total Carnage and go for Chaos Engine, Alien Breed 2 or Llamatron, a PD title by Jeff Minter.

The latter features excellent sampled sound, crude early 80s style graphics, but superior gameplay and with power-ups and heart pumping addictiveness, it's one of the best, cheapest and most absorbing overhead blast fests available for your machine.


 

SOUND

With this kind of licence, the sound is usually a clash of music, screams and other high pitched, audience-grabbing aural effects.

Surprisingly, Total Carnage is a little restrained in this department - there is no music over the intro and option screens and during the game itself, gunfire and the impact of bullets make up the main bulk of the sound. These admittedly are solid effects and add impact to the gameplay.

Speech is also a welcome inclusion with a voice crying out total carnage as a wealth of mutants waddle on to the screen towards you. Other samples include the hostages who cry for your help, and when retrieved thank you for your time and effort.

Sadly enough, the only women to appear in the game are wearing bikinis with a ball and chain who flatter your ego every time you rescue one of them by proclaiming that you are a hero in a bimbo voice. Equal rights have yet to enter the gaming area.

54%

 

GRAPHICS

The overhead viewing angle is, in most cases, an effective one and Total Carnage is no different. The largest problem with the presentation is that the graphics of the sprites and backdrops simply look worn and crude compared to the likes of Chaos Engine and Alien Breed 2 which were released a few months ago.

The characters' legs have a remarkable perspective where it seems they shrink form the pelvis down into feet that take size 0 shoes. While it is appreciated that the graphic artist was simply trying to achieve a realistic look for the overhead angle, it simply doesn't work.

The animation is fair on the whole with the relatively bloody deaths of mutant soldiers as they explode on meeting a bullet. The scrolling is slow and fixed - when the game wants you to move, you move and if it doesn't, you stay where you are or risk walking face first into a homicidal axe-wielding maniac.

Another regular difficulty is moving your way to the top of the screen and having to wait for the slow scrolling to catch up. And like much enhanced software, it's hard to see why this is specifically an A1200 version.

47%

 

OPINION50%

Shoot-'em-ups have become some of the most tired releases in software. With the steady increase of technology and companies opting out of fresh, original and playable ideas to stick firmly with the easy road of licences, customer's wallets are beginning to suffer more and more.

Total Carnage is a typical example of a reasonable conversion of an average coin-op that will sell simply because of the name and hype attached to it. If you enjoyed the original then you'll glean a certain amount of satisfaction from this.

Indeed, the proceedings can be relatively involving, especially in two-player mode, and with 20 battle zones to wage war through, there is certainly a hefty challenge to be met. The numerous power-ups for weaponry and air strikes also add incentive to see how much damage you can cause in the shortest amount of time.

At the end of a wage-earning day, though, and after reaching into your pocket and fishing out £30, Total Carnage is not really worth the money.

The action, while constant, is never really adrenalin pumping and has more in common with a hard slog with the Fire button than exciting and spontaneous play.

The graphics also detract appeal from the overall package, leaving Total Carnage with averageness as its main quality, and consumers with a dry and tepid emptiness in their wallets.



Total Carnage AGA logo AGA

Lager. It's as good a word to start as any. Anyway, the redoubtable Akhboob has been up to some devilish tricks involving goo. Yes, goo. If it had been Playdoh then the problems would have been minimal at worst.

But the goo has produced some wild mutant creations (didn't Playdoh smell just smashing?) and as the Western world isn't yet receptive to the idea of mutants wandering about, you have been given the task of taking the General to erm, task.

Call yourself Captain Carnage, and if a mate wants a game then he or she can be a Mayor Mayhem. How nice. "Gentlemen, we have ourselves a situation here," is the sort of thing one of these characters might espouse if this were a film.

However, it is but a viewed-from-above shoot-em-up and the chaps cannot talk. Shame really. At least then they could moan about the difficulty, neigh, almost impossibility of their task, at the stand of gameplay, and the way they walk around like Mr Humphreys from Are You Being Served. If they walked like Mrs Slocombe the fiends would run for their dear lives.

In one-player made it becomes apparent that Total Carnage could have been named Mission Impossible. No sooner have you pressed finger to trigger, than you find yourself immediately surrounded by mutant soldiers. Imagine, if you will, a fight where the combatants are a Dr Marten boot (cherry red, 21 lace holes) and an earwig. The Dr Marten boot wins every time.

Two-player mode is a tad more enjoyable - you live for at least, oh, a couple of minutes before the mutants pulverise you. There are two difficulty modes - very hard and bleedin' impossible.

Power-ups abound. They include enhanced weaponry, extra lives and bonus gems. And by jove you need them. Also, there are folk scattered around twho require rescuing although it remains unclear as to why blonde women in bikini are in the Kookistan desert. Perhaps they are friedly mutants.

Unfortunately good games require more than big guns and blondes. Total Carnage is not a good game. It's a poor game. Why it's A1200-only is a mystery. The graphics are of Armitage Shanks standard and the scrolling is equally poor.

Controlling your pugnacious pal is hugely difficult (the CD32 joypad works best for me) and you get trapped, shot and squashed at will. At 30 nicker it's outrageously costly.

Total Carnage is not devoid of amusement and the disk accessing screen is splendid. A huge, muscular Rambo-type figure stands proud while politely requesting that you "Please wait". Hurrah! If you want a decent two-player shoot-em-up get The Chaos Engine instead.



Action total?

Total Carnage AGA logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Schon länger keine echte Arcade-Konvertierung mehr gesehen, was? Hier kommt eine von ICE - allerdings handelt es sich dabei um eine Ballerei für den 1200er, die man auch nicht unbedingt gesehen haben muß...

Dabei wären die Voraussetzungen für einen Action-Knaller schon da gewesen, denn das Automaten-Original stammt von Midway, also den Machern solcher Hämmer wie "Mortal Kombat" und "NBA Jam". Selbst beim in der Computerfassung mittlerweile indizierten Quasi-Vorgänger "Smash TV" aus gleichem Hause ging die Post noch recht gut ab, und auch hier ist das Gameplay für Pazifisten denkbar ungeeignet: Schwerbewaffnete Solo- oder Teamsöldner sollen vorwiegend menschliches Kanonenfutter niedermetzeln.

Die Unterschiede zwischen dem von der BPS geschaßten Spiel und seinem Nachfolger sind dabei eher geringfügig; wo früher in eine stationären Futuro-Arena die Laser glühten, werden die Schergen des Diktators Akhboob jetzt halt auf scrollendem Terrain bekämpft. Vor dem Gemetzel gilt es, sich zwischen Stick-, Pad- und Keyboardsteuerung sowie zwei Schwierigkeitsgraden zu entscheiden, doch leicht ist das Spiel in keiner Variante - Continues werden schmerzlich vermißt, zumal die drei Bildschirmleben relativ schnell ausgehaucht sind.

Schließlich stürmen die feindlichen Trupps von allen Seiten und oft gleich im Dutzend an, Panzerbesatzungen ballern, bis die Rohre glühen, und riesige Cyborgs mit Kanonen statt Armen machen den Screen unsicher. Mit dieser Übermacht sollen nun Spielersprites fertig werden, die sich bewegen, als hätten sie zum Frühstück eine Packung Valium eingepfiffen...

Auch die Waffenauswahl läßt zu wünschen übrig, denn zwar kann man sich durch das Aufsammeln von Icons diverse Wummen, einen Laser, Flammenwerfer oder Dreifachschuß verschaffen, doch unterscheiden sich die Geräte praktisch oft nur durch die Farbe der Projektile.

Selbst die limitierten Tretminen und die in besonders brisanten Momenten herbeizitierbare Luftunterstützung können nichts daran ändern, daß sogar bei Kollision mit bereits getroffenen und verblutenden Gegner ein Leben verlorengeht - was im meist herrschenden Gedrängel keine Seltenheit ist.

Ansonsten sind unfaire Momente zwar selten, doch ist das Spiel auf Dauer ein wenig eintönig; was auch für die Optil gilt: Trotz flüssigem Scrolling und leidlicher Animationen hat man am 1200er selten derart fade Landschaften gesehen. Die grafische Einöde aus Braun und Grün wird nur durch detailarme Berge und Häuser unterbrochen; Musik gibt es gleich überhaupt keine, und die Sound-FX sind unterdurchschnittlich.

Einen Totalausfall verhindert hier aber immerhin die insgesamt solide Spielbarkeit (auch versteckte Bonusabschnitte wurden nicht vergessen), weshalb wir für die angekündigten Versionen für A500 und CD32 die Hoffnung noch nicht aufgeben - ein etwas hübscheres Äußeres könnte Total Carnage ja schon zu einem echt brauchbaren Game machen. (rl)



Total Carnage AGA logo AGA

Oh, the anticipation in the AP office, oh the tension as we unwrapped the package...

A leaflet enclosed with Total Carnage offers the lucky purchaser, as well as a chance to buy cheap t-shirts and posters, a competition. "Write a review of Total Carnage and you could win a coin-op of the game", it says. Right. I'm going to have a go.

It only took me 30 seconds to get confused by Amiga Total Carnage. After loading it up, wincing at the dreadful attempt at the 'shooting' effect on the title screen, and selecting 'Hard'(natch) from the frankly minimalist options screen, there was a disk accessing pause.

BLOOD BATH
A butch bloke (either Captain Carnage or Major Mayhem, I'm not sure which) appeared with a blood-red speech bubble instructing me to 'PLEASE WAIT'. But then the words 'Press Fire', in a slightly less imposing khaki kind of colour, seemed to sneak on from nowhere at the bottom of the screen.

What a dilemma. (Great cars, them - hang on, I don't understand this joke. Ed) Should I, if I might paraphrase The Clash at this point, wait or should I fire? I pondered for 20 minutes or so, until Jonathan explained the precise terms of my contract, and then decided to get on with it. And yet somehow, in my heart, I knew I was making a big mistake

MASSACRE
When the AP boys (and on this occasion I do just mean the boys) first heard that Total Carnage was coming to the Amiga and, more especialy, the A1200 and CD32, we were quite excited. After loving the coin-op, we'd all been a bit let down by the disappointing SNES conversion (as well as by the Amiga version of Smash TV), and we were looking forward to seeing it done in glorious 32-bit-o-vision, using a proper 4-button joypad and everything, and hopefully with all the blood and nasty bits that Nintendo wouldn't allow in the SNES game. When will we learn, eh? Within three minutes, the far-off glory days of SNES Total Carnage seemed like the high point of our very lives.

Let's start with the obvious stuff - what's missing. The very first screen points to two absentees from the coin-op - the maps and the password warps. Total Carnage was (to my knowledge) the first arcade game ever to give you level passwords, but there are none here, either inside the actual game itself (as with the coin-op) or as a front-end option. You don't get any continues, either.


A slightly less imposing khaki kind of colour

SHAMBLES
The colours are also a bit worrying, with the bright primary yellows and greens of the original being replaced for the most part by murky browns and dark greens. It's not an auspicious beginning, but make the most of it, because things only get worse.

As well as missing the level-jump warps, the ones to all the secret rooms and bonus sections appear to have gone for a button. Several power-ups (the speed-up boots, the shield, and the drone, off the top of my head) are nowhere to be found, and the ones that are left have their individual graphical pyrotechnics reduced to being small round dots in different colours for the different weapons.

The first-level cannon-fodder grunts can now take up to three hits before dying,a nd when they do die, their stumbling, bleeding bodies continue to stagger towards you, and are deadly to the touch until the last drop of blood has disappeared from the screen. All the baddies attack by wandering onto the screen until they're in a direct horizontal or vertical line with you and then queuing up and coming at you in Indian file, just like they used to do in all those old ZX81 games you typed in from magazines 10 years ago.

This doesn't make them easier to shoot, though, because they're proportionally bigger than they are in the other versions (reducing your manoeuvring space), and even as they die, their bodies block your bullets, hemming you into a corner faster than you can say ('Bother' - Ed). And this was after switching back into so-called, self-styled 'Easy' mode, too.

MASS MURDER
There are a few bad-guy-related compensations, though - several waves and types of enemy and enemy weaponry are also AWOL from Amiga. Total Carnage, including the deadly pink paratrooper things and the homing missiles. Cheers.

The game knows how hard it is, though - there are tons of extra lives scattered around all over the place, which is always a sure sign that something's gone horribly wrong in the gameplay department.

The programmers haven't bothered making the game difficult in terms of clever enemies, unpredictable attack patterns or whatever - they've just made lots of bits where it's simply not possible to avoid losing several lives (like the first appearance of the mutant axe-men in level one), then thrown out a few 1UPs as compensation. I thought we'd left that kind of design behind years ago, but then I really ought to know better by now.

It took me an entire eight-hour day to get two-thirds of the way to the first boss, and I can finish the coin-op in my sleep.

Disk accessing is regular and ugly (and comes complete with the 'Please Wait/Press Fire' enigma every time). Overall pace is slow, much slower than the coin-op. Enemy vehicles don't blow up, they just have lots of explosions superimposed on them then drive off the screen (I hate that). And when they do (drive off exploding, that is), sometimes you can walk through them, and sometimes they still kill you, apparently at random.

The collision detection is appalling. There's an abort facility, but no pause (unless you simply don't shoot certain things, at which point the game will quite happily sit there all day waiting until you do something).

SLAUGHTER
There's a bit in level one where the screen blanks to access the disk, you come back in a completely different area, and you're actually standing on top of a mine (boom, bye-bye another irreplaceable life). There's a two-player mode, but the second player can only join in from the menu screen, not during the game. How much of this do you want to hear? It's awful. Don't buy it.

But hey, let's finish on a high note. There're a couple of funny bits in the manual. I'll give it five percent for recognising a two-button joypad (and sensible control in general), and five percent for the speech. The rest of the score is for the game. The only thing it's got in common with Total Carnage is the name.



Total Carnage CD32 logo CD32

Erst im letzten Heft hatten wir die mäßigen A1200-Konvertierung des gleichnamiges Midway-Automaten im Test und gaben unserer Hoffnung auf eine hübsche CD-Version Ausdrück - umsonst gehofft!

Von Verbesserungen kann keine Rede sein, denn hier gibt's weder ein Intro noch irgendwie aufgewertete Grafik oder Sound - lediglich, daß nun auch mit dem Joypad des CD32 geballert werden darf, ist als positive Neuerung zu verzeichnen.

Dafür hat ICE die zwei Schwierigkeitsgrade der Diskversion Gestrichen...
Böse Sache, denn was dem Gameplay an Originalität fehlt, sucht es durch Hárte wettzumachen: Schwerbewaffnete Solo- oder Teamsöldner müssen es im von oben gezeigten und multi-direktional scrollenden Feindterrain oft mit Dutzenden von Söldern gleichzeitig aufnehmen; dazu kommen dicke Endgegner.

Theoretisch wird die Ballerorgie durch Sammelboni erleichtert, praktisch haben aber selbst bessere Waffen (die oft gar nicht besser sind oder ein viel zu kurze Reichweite haben), Tretminen oder Luftunterstützung kaum eine Chance gegen die ungnädige Kollisionsabfrage in Tateinheit mit der Trägheit der Heldensprites.

Da ist es direkt noch ein Glück, daß auch die Feinde unerhört langsam über den Screen kriechen!

Kurzum, dem Spiel fehlt es an Pep, was sich auch und gerade in einer herzlich eintönigen Optik bemerkbar macht. So läuft man dauernd über öde Braun- und Grünflächen hinweg, die nur von Felsformationen oder Mauern durchbrochen werden.

Auch die Animationen der unscheinbaren Sprites ist angesichts der Hardware eher traurig - sollte mit 32 Bit unter den Haube nicht etwas mehr möglich sein? Fast noch trauriger, daß von einer CD keine Begleitmusik zu hören ist! Trja, das gibt Punktabzug... (rl)