It’s time…for TOTAL CARNAAAAA-wait wrong game. It’s called Mad Carnage? That sounds remarkably less exciting. But you don’t judge a book by it’s cover, yes? So what awaits us once we get into the driver’s seat of this car based strategy RPG?
Well…as you can probably guess from the general aesthetic of the game, the plot is heavily inspired by the dystopian action series Mad Max. The ambiguously named Great War has wiped out humanity as we know it, cutting off all worldwide communication, power production and distribution. Only scattered communities exist now, but as one settlement uncovers something that could explain their past and be the key to the future, in steps the action hero protagonist John Carnage to drive them forwards. It’s hardly original, but if you’ve seen the aforementioned Mad Max, at least you know what kind of world you’re immersing yourself into.
Mad Carnage is a strategy RPG with vehicular combat, with the usual tropes of the genre in effect. Gameplay happens on a grid as you and your opponent take turns to eliminate each other alongside any other objective the level throws at you. How you do this, though, is with some unconventional movement. Cars in Mad Carnage are momentum-based, affecting how you can even move. For instance, if you a few blocks forward in the previous turn, then you’re fine. But, if you moved a great distance (indicated in an image of you speeding along), then you’ll need to take a turn to slow down and regain better control. Vehicular combat makes up the other half of the game, where you aim to destroy any enemies that fall into your line of sight. Like other strategy RPGs, there are different unit types, like fast moving but frail Fighters, bulky Berserker units which ram into enemies, and adaptable Heavy units with a wider range of attack. Also present is a standard upgrade system that offers enhancements such as damage, mobility and speed.
If you’re confused and maybe underwhelmed by the descriptions, it’s understandable. Firstly, the unique movement system is also unbelievably clunky and makes the game a chore. There is never any explanation as to how you really use it beyond a throwaway line in the first level. Explanations would have helped considering some of the awkward design choices present here. This gimped movement also hinders the combat to an extent; if you’re close to an enemy, you’d expect to be able to attack them by rotating or something, right? Wrong. If they’re not in your line of sight, you are quite simply hopeless, especially if they’re approaching you. As such, there is heavy trial and error involved in the gameplay, and it doesn’t get much better as the game goes on.
There are tons of assorted small issues that collectively make the game a slog. Another thing that’s not explained is the existence of a cover system. You can’t skip turns, or move only select units every turn, you must move everyone, which coupled with the movement system might cause you to veer into danger when you don’t want to. The upgrade system’s lack of depth doesn’t make combat more interesting. Some of these might be forgivable to an extent if the core mechanics were better constructed, but they aren’t. The gameplay is a chore.
Mad Carnage is very hit and miss visually. To give the game some credit, parts of the UI and especially the comic-inspired story cutscenes look great and capture the essence of Mad Max. But the battle maps, with their monotone colors each time, don’t impress. This likewise extends to the music; you can get away with short, looping tracks if you have a good amount of variety and composition, but Mad Carnage doesn’t have this. The quality of the presentation overall just…meanders.
Mad Carnage is a perfect example of numerous flaws culminating in a missed opportunity. Strategy RPGs are an uncommon sight on the Switch, and you’d think one of these with vehicular combat would do nicely, right? There are certainly worse things on the console, and paying only 5 bucks for it is slightly redeeming, but there are better investments out there.