Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem

Genre: Action, Racing
Developer: Steel Monkeys
Publisher: Meridian4 via Steam
Released: 2011

Zolgar paid: $4.99+$0.99 for DLC
Beaten: There is no beating PAM
Zolgar's rating: 7/10
Replayability: Moderate to High.

So you've seen me take a couple of nostalgia trips already, this time around though.. it's slightly different.

Back in the day, I played a lot of Twisted Metal (the first one), and while I've gotten several of the others since, none seemed to capture the same sense of enjoyment I got from the first, despite having more new and interesting characters. Part of it may have been the obsession over Sweet Tooth, but that's another story entirely.

Not that long ago though a little game called Post Apocalyptic Mayhem was released on Steam, I kinda wanted it, but knew it would control poorly with keyboard and mouse. However, as you may recall from my Darksiders review, I recently purchased a 360 pad for the PC. Shortly thereafter, Steam did a Free Weekend/50% off deal. Played it, bought it.

Now, there's some major differences between PAM and Twisted Metal, yet it still captures that same sense of .. over the top, chaotic mayhem and vehicular destruction that the first did.

Rocket car, semi with giant saw blades.
Typical racing game, yup.
PAM is technically a racing game, but it's actually a vehicle combat game which takes place on a race track. Laps have value towards winning, but you'll get a lot more kills than you will laps, so worrying about laps is kinda pointless, and it's based on time, not a set number of laps.. well at least the 'main game'.

The main thing that stands out about PAM is the vehicles, they combine the chaotic aspects of the cars from Twisted Metal and the cobbled together scrapheaps of Road Warrior (awesome movie, by the way).

Normally, in a game like this I would prove a breakdown of the details of each character.. in this instans though, I'm going to give you screen shots, and their weapons. Is this because I like you, or because I'm lazy? .. do I have to choose one?

Now, every car has 3 weapons: Front attack, Side attack and, Read attack. Which, in case you somehow could not guess means an attack that comes from the front, that comes from the sides and, that comes from the rear.
I'll classify the attacks as the follow:
Melee range: basically you have to physically ram/sideswipe your opponents to use.
Ranged: Distance attack
Mine: generally scatters and explodes.
Hazard: Dropped and stays for a short time creating a hazard on the way.

Some attacks will have special traits, as well, which I'll note.
  • Logger
    • Front attack: Grinder, melee range.
    • Side attack: Sawblade arms, melee range.
    • Rear attack: Log drop, hazard.

  • Scorch
    • Front attack: Flamethrower, ranged.
    • Side attack: Magnetic torpedoes, ranged.
    • Rear attack: Toxic landmines, mine.
  • Space Cowboy
    • Front attack: Magnetic field, melee. 'stuns' target and attracts debris to their vehicle, damaging them.
    • Side attack: Electro-mines, mine.
    • Rear attack: Flamethrower, ranged.
  • Childhood Dreams
    • Front attack: 'Scoop of Destiny', melee. Flings target behind the bus.
    • Side attack: Molotov Cocktails, ranged.
    • Rear attack: Oil Slick, hazard.
  • Nitrogenius
    • Front attack: Freezethrower, ranged. Freezes target.
    • Side attack: Ice slick, hazard.
    • Rear attack: Ice crystals, hazard.
  • Meth Alchemist
    • Front attack: Acid Canisters, ranged.
    • Side attack: Sticky Bombs, ranged. (And they look like yard flamingos)
    • Rear attack: Psuedopowerup, hazard. This drops a canister that looks almost identical to a powerup, but is actually an explosive.
  • Kitty With Claws
    • Front attack: Unicorn horn drill, melee.
    • Side attack: Teddybombs, mine.
    • Rear attack: Perfume cloud, hazard. Engulfs single target, deal damage over time while disabling the vehicle.
  • Nucloid
    • Front attack: Earthquake generator, ranged.
    • Side attack: Mini-nukes, melee.
    • Rear attack: Nuclear waste, mine.
  • The Veteran
    • Front attack: Jackhammer, melee.
    • Side attack: Gatling guns, ranged.
    • Rear attack: Caltrops, hazard.
The following 3 vehicles require purchase of the Chaos Pack (usually $1.99) to access at the time of writing.
  • Eye Scream (the requisite ice cream truck)
    • Front attack: Ice Cream gun, ranged.
    • Side attack: Cotton Candy balls, hazard.
    • Rear attack: Ice Cream Boulder, hazard.
  • Tow'er
    • Front attack: Crusher, melee.
    • Side attack: Wheel boots, hazard. Locks up enemies wheels.
    • Rear attack: Towed car, hazard.
  • The Fuzz
    • Front attack: Grenade launchers, ranged.
    • Side attack: Donut bombs, mine.
    • Rear attack: Spike strips, hazard.

There are also five tracks to cause mayhem on!

  • Wasteland, a desert waste with a mixture of canyons and an old military outpost.
  • Concrete Jungle, a destroyed metropolis.
  • Airplanes belong in the air, cars belong on the ground.
    Cold War Beach, once and ocean front city, now half buried in sand with no ocean in site. Also includes a lot of naval wreckage.
  • Airplane Graveyard, a boneyard.
  • Death Arena 8, a somewhat chaotic arena map, once an urban empire, now destroyed. Partially takes place in the subway tunnels.

So that's all well and good,” you're saying, “but what about things like mechanics and whatnot?”

First, let be known I played it very little with keyboard controls. Why? Because frankly.. why would I? I only did it for a moment to see how bad they are, and as far as games like this go, it's not too bad. Arrow keys to steer and accelerate, ASD for your attacks, Shift for nitro, and random keys for different views.

Forgot how to kill? look in the right hand corner!
Gamepad makes so much more sense though, at least if you have one which PAM will auto-recognize (such as an Xbox one), simple intuitive gamepad controls. And the game conveniently has the attacks labeled for an Xbox gamepad, so if you ever forget...

The best tactic usually seems to be to stay ahead of the pack and rely on your rear and side attacks. Front attacks are good, but letting yourself be put in the position to use them can be risky, as it exposes you to front attacks, side attacks and rear attacks from your opponents. As such, I find that fast maneuverable vehicles tend to be the easiest to win with. Your mileage may vary though.

This leads to slightly stagnant gameplay once you've found the car that works best for you, and learned the choke points on the 5 maps.

My biggest real complaint though is there's no 'default attack' (like the machine guns from Twisted Metal), so all of your attacks are gathered as power ups, and you can only have 1 of each attack at a time. (Another reason to stay ahead of the pack, too, your choice of power ups.)

Aside from that, is has no mechanical flaws and plays easily.. unfortunately though, they decided, much like Sanctum, that their game doesn't need a story. This is a trend with indy/small developers that I am not liking. Forgetting that.. people like stories to their games.

Killed dreams.. just like any good parent!
The other trend I'm getting tired of in games is, you guessed it, nonachievements. PAM has it's share of them, such greats as 'kill one opponent' and 'play The Veteran'. I wish I was kidding, I really do. Granted, it does also have the greatest achievement name in the history of achievements: “Putting the 'laughter' in 'manslaughter'.” It makes me giggle.

Let's make a car combat game!”
OK, but is has to have an ice cream truck!”

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