Carmageddon is probably best known for the controversy it caused when first released on PS1. With a plot that involved running over innocent pedestrians (later changed to zombies), it got Daily Mail readers rather hot under the collar. In a way, that was a shame since the controversy detracted from what was a decent enough game. If you missed out on it first time around, you can now catch up with it on your iOS device.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future you are a driver who takes part in deadly races to earn money. Cash can be earned by winning the race, taking out the opposition or running over pedestrians. Money earned can then be used to upgrade your car to make it faster, stronger and deadlier.
Putting aside the controversy, Carmageddon remains a fun game, although perhaps one that is viewed through slightly rose-tinted glasses. The underlying gameplay is instantly appealing and offers decent long-term appeal with lots of tracks 3 difficulty levels and plenty of challenges. However, it’s also a little bit shallow.
Graphically, Carmageddon is showing its age. Normally, I’m quite forgiving of this, but Carmageddon suffers more because it falls between two stools. It’s not quite old enough to be fully “retro” (where bad graphics have a certain charm) nor new enough to be “modern”. Graphics now seem blocky and rough around the edges). Although they have been re-touched for their iOS debut, they still betray the fact that they are nearly 20 years old. Still, they do their job and the splat of red when you run over a pedestrian or the little image of your driver whooping or grimacing help to add to the atmosphere.
The game’s slightly sick sense of humour will either repel or appeal. You get extra points for mowing down pedestrians with style which 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; something which is simple, but surprisingly satisfying. Similarly, the different ways you can “win” a level (finish first, take out all your opponents, kill all pedestrians) adds a fun element missing from more traditional racers.
It feels like you have a lot more freedom than ordinary racers. Within the confines of the course, you can go where you like and do what you like – even underwater! Initially this was rather confusing and in early games I felt like levels were a little aimless. Once you realise it’s not a normal racer, it’s really rather liberating. It’s not disastrous if you miss a turn and fall miles behind other cars – you can just shift your focus to one of the other objectives, which are usually far more fun anyway!
Where Carmageddon falls down is the lack of depth. Locations and objectives might change, but the underlying gameplay remains the same. Carmageddon is one of those titles that I find fun in short bursts, but I guess the most telling things is that almost 20 years on, I am still playing it!.
Carmageddon on iOS is a good example of a developer taking care with an old property. The game works well with a touchscreen environment, with sympathetic, responsive controls. They take a few games to get used to – on my first couple of games I spent more time crashing into walls than pedestrians – but once you get the hang of them they work beautifully.
When it was released on the PS1, Carmageddon cost the best part of £20 to buy; this iOS version costs just 79p. At that price, Carmageddon represents one of the iPad’s best buys.