Title: Cel Damage
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pseudo Interactive
Release Date: 01/07/2002
Right off the top, let me mention that for the most part Cel Damage is either completely overlooked or crapped upon by reviewers. Well they’re clearly all anti-fun. Cel Damage should be played by every GameCube owner out there, because it’s a fresh spin on vehicle combat games that’s been vastly ignored.
The opening video sets up the premise of the game, a television show in the cartoon world where the cast of contestants cruise around in their personal rides blowing the living crap out of each other for cash and prizes. That’s about as deep as the plot gets, but this game isn’t about plot, it’s about mayhem and destruction, and lots of it.
The gameplay, which has been berated in most of the reviews of this game that I’ve read, is really solid. My guess is that the “experts” got frustrated when they couldn’t master the game in the first ten minutes and quit, but I digress. The controls are simple and fit the style of play well, which basically revolves around killing as much as you can before you are in turn offed, then respawning and doing it all over again. The computer AI is pretty punishing, especially on beginning players, but once you’ve made it past the rather steep learning curve the computer combatants cease to be frustrating and settle into the territory of challenging.
The characters and weaponry are a big part of the freshness of Cel Damage. There’s Fowl Mouth, a smack-talking gangster duck from the 1930s who is in black and white because colour wasn’t invented back then, Sinder, a demon with bladder-control issues, Violet, an anime-style evil girl who likes to blow things up, and several others. The weapons are straight out of a Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon, featuring black holes that your opponents can fall into, axes to chop them in two, boxing gloves that pop out of your hood to beat your foes Lennox Lewis style, and even a heli-pack that lets you fly and fire twin machine guns. The entire game is cel-shaded, hence the title, but unlike most games the cel shading actually enhances the experience instead of just being a fancy trick designed to distract gamers. The game actually looks like a cartoon, and all of the locales(the Wild West, a jungle, Transylvania, and outer space) are beautifully done.
Each world features three different levels with their own unique challenges(aside from the constant challenge of homicidal toons trying to blow you to smithereens). For example, in the first level of the Wild West, a train periodically runs through the stage, smashing anybody who gets in its way. In the final Western level, a giant magnet can be activated that will pick up nearby drivers into a car-compacter, then ejecting them in their new form, a tiny cube. Piranhas and ravenous plants plague combatants in the jungle. A crossbow firing flaming bolts and monsters lurking in caves are featured in Transylvania, and in space screwy gravity adds a twist.
There’s no story mode, as such, but instead three distinct challenges for each stage. The three challenges are different gameplay modes. Smack Attack is a deathmatch style affair in which combatants wreak as much havoc as possible in their quest to reach 500 Smacks first. Killing opponents garners various amounts of Smack points depending on how you killed them, so wholesale carnage is the name of the game here. In Gate Relay your goal is to pass through the pair of gates alternately until you’ve gone through a total of twenty gates. How you do this is really up to you. I personally prefer to drive through one, then turn around and go against the flow of traffic to get back to the other one. The final mode is the intense Flag Rally which has contestants trying to gather four flags and make it to the designated goal. The catch is that the flags have legs and flee when you approach, and when the computer characters realize that you’ve finally managed to get four flags they’ll come after you with all the fury of a rabid lemur. Completing all three modes in every level of a world unlocks a new addition to the playable toon roster, such as Whack Angus, a homicidal bull, or T-Wrecks, a dinosaur-gone-Hollywood.
At the end of the day, Cel Damage is all about fun. Rampaging, explosive, destructive fun. Give this game a shot and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s Buried Treasure.