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Cel Damage

Preview By: Adrian V.

Developer:  Pseudo Interactive
Publisher:  EA
Genre:  Racing
Est. Release:  12-19-01
Posted:  12-03-01

Speaking of cartoons, does anyone else think Michael Jackson looks like a tiny female anime?

Cel Damage, eh? I guess it’s a decent shot at wordplay. Until you drop by the web-site and take a look at the character descriptions. Here are a few of the gems:

‘This demented devil is so chaotic, he got himself kicked out of hell because he couldn't follow the Boss' orders.’ This guy’s name is apparently Sinder. Get it? SINder. Ha-ha! Funny! Know what’s even funnier than that? Barium enemas.

‘Violet is a teen anime demon girl from Asia.’ Just look at that sentence construction! Three adjectives for one noun, without interjection or emphasis...not even an exclamation point. I mean, not even an exclamation point! I particularly like ‘...from Asia’. They added that for the three guys in South Dakota who haven’t been assaulted with poorly dubbed re-runs of Dragon Ball Z on the Cartoon Network, and therefore were unaware that the phrase ‘anime’ was practically synonymous with JAPANESE animation. The best part is that Japan isn’t even on the Asian continent! Gotta love stereotyping! And exclamation points!!

‘This hard-boiled, gangster duck comes straight out of a '30s B-movie, when men were men, ducks were ducks and every 'toon was black & white.’ Nothing I could say would make that statement more befuddling. Unless I were to use a word even more befuddling than ‘befuddling’ concupiscence. Is that ever a word. Really. Look it up.

‘This nerd of all nerds puts all other nerds, geeks and assorted goof balls to shame.’ Wow, is that lame. The only thing that could possibly outclass that description for lameness (is that a word?) is the simple, straightforward desire the developers obviously have to envelop you in some kind of warm, ‘love our cuddly character designs’ dementia that will coerce you to ignore this twerp’s geek factor. For cryin’ out loud, this guy’s default weapon are shuriken. If you’re unaware of how pathetically appropriate that is, congratulations, you weren’t a complete loser in junior high. If you DO know what I’m talking about, and think that my use of ‘shuriken’ instead of ‘ninja stars’ was tasteful, congratulations. You WERE that loser. Take a bow and marvel that you’re still alive to read this.

‘Nothing ruins a nice morning drive through the woods quicker than a dinosaur in a monster truck.’ (Description of T-Wrecks, apparently the Mini-boss of the Jungle level.) You know, I’m not even gonna start.

Obviously I’m less than impressed with the backstory to this game. Hopefully that will prove a useless point of origin for a proper dissertation of this game. Really, how often has it mattered why you’re blowing the crap out of other goofy characters in a game? Capcom hasn’t bothered with applicable game history for more than a decade, and it hasn’t hurt them in the least. In fact, I think they outsource to junior high-schools in the pacific northwest to acquire their character profiles in Street Fighter.

Wondering what I have to say about the actual game? That’s coming up in a second. I should explain first though, that I decided to try something new with this preview. I’m going to give you a paragraph of my initial impressions, in the exact order they occurred to me. All of the following ‘bites’, as it were, landed on the page as I watched about 30 minutes of various slices of gameplay. Unedited, uncensored, what you see poured from my fingertips completely spontaneously.

Except where otherwise noted.

  • Freeze ray puts you in a giant block of translucent blue ice, complete with frost and icicles at the top.
  • What’s up with the repetetive noises? Please tell me they’re placeholders and the real game uses music.
  • The environments really have about nothing to do with the various characters, or their cars. I suppose it could be argued that these are typical cartoon backdrops for late-sixties/early seventies Warner cartoons, but in those instances, there was some kind of plot or sight gag that made the ‘location’ relevant. A black and white duck driving a sedan in a space level leaves a lot of room for questions.
  • Cars appear to actually drive over one another, but whether or not this does damage? Unknown. However, it certainly would make it interesting if running into someone wasn’t a concern. You’d never really have to stop driving, and the ability to use other cars as ramps has some possibility. On the other hand, there’s just something about a bone-jarring impact upon ramming another vehicle that has lent itself well to most car combat games (though their numbers are limited) thus far.
  • I’m hungry
  • You know, if they made all of these cars into hot chicks, and had them shoot ‘seduction rays’ at each other, it would be one hell of a game.
  • The hovercraft seems unable to maintain direction well, and it’s floating nature seems to give it a pretty wild ride. This could be good, but it also may make precision driving nearly impossible.

And so ends the prototype game preview. We hope you all had fun, and look forward to seeing you next time. We now return you to the standard, boring recitation of faults and benefits you’re accustomed to.

Gameplay modes:

There are three; Smack Attack, Flag Rally, and Gate Relay.

Flag Rally appears to allow you to pick up multiple flags (which do their best to run away from you, which would be a nice touch if they were any good at it) and has you return them to a central location. Obviously all other game rules apply, so getting killed is not only possible, and unwanted, but likely unavoidable. It does seem that getting offed is pretty easy in this mode, no more than a hit or two, which may prove to make the action fast and furious, assuming you respawn very quickly, and close enough to exact revenge, without being so close to set you up on the wrong end of a beat-down double-play.

In the Smack Attack it looks like you can take a bit more of a beating, but only just. It should be pointed out that all the vehicles seem to float to some degree. This isn’t such a bad thing except that there’s little delay between your vehicle’s turning and the environment spinning in the appropriate direction. This becomes very disorienting, particularly when trying to make minor adjustments to your course. However, when you get tossed about wildly, doing multiple rotations or such, the camera waits for you to come to a stop before realigning. Most appreciated.

Gate relay looks like your generic checkpoint racing, but with weapons.


The weapon’s effective ranges are very odd. On some vehicles, the boxing gloves seem to reach almost three car lengths ahead, while on others they barely hit an opponent before the vehicle wielding them does. The same goes for the shrink and freeze rays. It may simply be that the range is variable, and adjusts for what appears to be the nearest threat. This in itself may require strategy adjustments. Should I use the tomahawk since I know it will fly in a straight line, therefore ensuring I command its direction? Or should I take a chance with the shrink ray and see if it can accurately assess which of the three vehicles in front of me I most want to hit?

Who knows?

The ax has a limited life, and when an enemy car is ‘chopped’, the pieces stay on-screen for a while, acting as obstacles of sorts, though of the ‘marshmallow’ variety. By that, I mean they don’t make anyone come to a stop, but rather become a lump in the road that has physical presence without any detrimental effects.

There also seem to be environmental weapons. These are offensive items that anyone can use, similar to Spyro or Power Stone, and like those titles, don’t require a lot of accuracy on the player’s part. The crossbow load you onto a platform with no walls which then raises you into firing position. How difficult it will be to align yourself properly so that these weapons will activate in the heat of battle remains to be seen, but hopefully once you’re within a certain proximity you will be able to press a ‘use’ button or something similar.

A drill that allows you to drive underground? Very interesting concept, and would be one of the most innovative sneak-attacks in a game like this if it didn’t leave a dirt trail (a la Bugs Bunny) in your wake. I guess it’s a lot harder to spot the dirt trail and where it finally ends than an enemy vehicle, but it’s still a giveaway. But that’s the price you pay for trying to be true to a genre I guess.

The shrink ray is a formidable weapon indeed. It brings to mind the lightning attack from the Mario Kart games, since it shrinks the enemy, thereby reducing their speed and maneuverability, as well as allowing you to run them over for an easy kill. How long this unfortunate condition lasts is unknown, and that could be the annoying part. By that, I mean that to use the ray in the first place, the enemy needs to be pretty close, so you don’t need the effect to be. As well, making this diminutive state last painfully long will only serve to suck the fun out of the game for whomever must endure it. But if the gamer returns to full size too quickly, the shrink ray effectively becomes useless, since you’ll likely have to either line your enemy up to be run over upon shrinkage, or spend excessive amounts of time chasing people down to shrink them and hope you get lucky with a powerslide.

There are actually a lot more weapons that could be covered, but I think you get the idea. Besides, we’ve established the development team knows to put in the basics (guns, cutting weapons, freeze rays) and toss in a few improved ideas (drilling, environment weapons) for a rounded package. As for the gameplay itself? Well, I can’t speak for that. However, from what I saw, I have to say that I got the impression that it was frequently too easy to die, and the interaction with the environment (destructible scenery) was nearly pointless. The easy deaths may simply be a style choice, making the game more like a first-person-shooter deathmatch, with loads of weapons lying about to exact a quick revenge (which could be interesting), or it may be decisively detrimental, particularly in a single-player game. I can definitively say that I would be ready to bludgeon some game producers with very blunt instruments if I died with every change in wind direction, as I was shown in the footage.

So where does this leave us?

Backstory? Please. Did you read the beginning of this preview?

Characters? I’m sorry, but I think everyone has tried so hard to outdo everyone else, that nothing seems interesting anymore. I no longer believe there is an ‘edgy’ or wacky’ character capable of demonstrating anything other than their creators sad attempt at begin ‘edgy’ or ‘wacky’. Maybe Twisted Metal and Fighting Vipers ruined it for everyone else, but the only thing interesting left is having some normal guy from middle-America at the wheel of a minivan in your game. And that’s just sad.

Personally, I’m not holding a lot of hope out for this title. It’s a neat use of technology with the cel-shading and cartoon temperament, but I don’t feel a strong game underneath at this point.

I’d love to have to eat my words though.

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