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Cosmic Carnage (Sega 32X) artwork

Cosmic Carnage (Sega 32X) review

"Lumbering Alien vs Alien."

No one in Cosmic Carnage wanted to be a hero; they arenít fighting for glory, or to do battle with their life-long rival, or even fight because some weird guy with a skull on his head will destroy the Earth Realm if they donít win. They just want to survive. In their world, a prison craft is taken over by the inmates before being intercepted by the intergalactic police Ė who are totally a thing. As the two factions wage war, the majority of both sides are killed with both ships damaged beyond repair and all but one of the escape pods destroyed. Careening through space on a collision course to disaster, the eight remaining survivors need to bludgeon and claw each other to death to be that one solitary person who maybe makes it out alive.

It all sounds very sombre, but Cosmic Carnage doesnít take itself very seriously. Itís just a new excuse to slap unique characters in a Street Fighter II environment and let them wail on each other. In this case, the cast is made up from a collection of odd alien creatures, like that cyborg snake wearing a bikini, or that weird ant guy. To its credit, Carnage does attempt to do a lot of things differently, and it has that strange 32X quality where you can tell a lot of effort went into making it despite the fact that the developers must have known it was being marched out to board a sinking ship. Itís not just a preexisting fighting game given a quick buff and thrown out on the market; itís been built from the ground up specifically to try and take advantage of what the 32X was capable of doing.

If I mentioned that the camera zoomed in and out to focus on the action, youíd probably not be blown away; itís a feature thatís been kicking around for a while but it was relatively new when Cosmic Carnage employed it. Itís fair to say that it does a lot of clever things with perspective. For example Ė though the competitors themselves are still pixel drawn, they have actions and attacks that move them closer to the camera and affect their scale. Some of the fighters employ sweeping kicks that showcase their circling legs almost kicking at the screen, or pull off spinning throws that whip their opponents momentarily closer to your viewpoint before being hurled. Itís a good-looking game not content with being just another Mortal Kombat: Me Too, even if it does factor in the spurting blood and gory limb rendering that title made near obligatory in that period.

The cast of eight may not seem that expansive but, play on the side of the enforcers, and you have armour upgrades to cycle through which change up the way they play and what special moves are available to you. Each character can select either light or heavy armour for their arms, torso or legs, which governs not only their attack power, but their special attacks. This means, simply by swapping out armour set-ups you have a decent level of customisation on half the cast. The inmates donít have this perk, but armour is destructible -- should a guardís armour be destroyed, they lose all the perks that would have come with it. This gives the inmates the chance to weaken their more righteous foes whilst they remain on a more stable foundation.

Itís a little weird, then, that a game built around a platform powerful enough to house all these impressive little quirks is set at such a ponderous pace. Itís not like the game lags or lurches should the action get heavy; thereís not a performance glitch to be found. Rather, the speed of the game seems to be governed by a lackadaisical cast in no real hurry to do anything. Which makes little sense; theyíre on a now broken craft floating through space on a collision with oblivion, which has been factored into how you beat the game. Rather than face some big bad guardian at the top of the tourney ladder, the game keeps track of how long it takes you to cave in everyoneís skull. If you fail to beat everyone quickly enough, then the ship probably explodes before you and your escape pod jettison and reaches a safe distance. An argument could be made for the slower-than-usual speed giving Carnage a more tactical feel than many versus fighters Ė which could have been of merit if there wasnít a screaming insistence slowly ticking down in the background that hustling along is vital.

Itís also noteworthy in being the only instance ever a localisation team have taken a product manufactured in Japan and decided it wasnít strange enough for Western audiences. I mentioned a weird ant guy earlier Ė his name is Cylic in Cosmic Carnage. But, when the game was released in Japan under the less striking name of Cyber Brawl, Cylic is no more. Heís been replaced with a serious-looking human sporting a serious looking mullet called Jake. Next to Jake is a pretty blond girl called Ray. Thereís nothing that special about Ray, until you take a look at her Carnage counterpart, whoís had her name changed to Zena-Lan and is constantly on fire.

Thereís a lot of oddness about some of the things surrounding Cosmic Carnage but itís ultimately the plodding pace that really jams the knife in. It was a brave decision to factor the shipís destruction so heavily in how you can survive the tourney or still die in the throngs of victory, but that the game willingly hamstrings your efforts feels like itís cheating.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 13, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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