Reviews
Cel Damage

By Jorge Figueiredo - May 17th, 2014

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Cel Damage HD (developed by Finish Line Games) for the Playstation Vita is remake of a title that originally debuted on the Xbox in 2001. A mish-mash of different genres (part racing, part vehicular combat) one might make comparisons to the likes of Twisted Metal, which would be fair – but not entirely true. This animated title plays fast and loose with the rules of physics, and definitely puts the word “car” in “cartoon”. Cel Damage HD is one of those games that you either love or hate, as fun and production value seem to be at odds with each other.

Cel Damage HD is a no-nonsense title, getting the player into the nonsense straight away. The game presents players with three modes to have fun with: Gate Relay, Flag rally and Smack Attack. The premise of each mode is easy to understand, and each game type caters to different mind sets. Whether you are in the mood to race or lay the smack-down on someone, Cel Damage HD definitely has something for everyone that can get into the style of the game. Gate Relay is the closest mode to a regular race. Players run the track, passing through gates in sequence. Should you miss a gate, you will have to pull a U-turn and make sure you cross that gate off of your bucket list. A handy-dandy arrow is always present to show you the way to your next gate, minimizing your chances of missing it. You can take the metaphorical high ground and play clean , or you can slum it like the rest of the racers and take shots at those around you – you know, as extra insurance.

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Have chainsaw, will travel.

Flag Rally is a capture-the-flag game with wheels. Basically, you need to grab flags and bring them back to your headquarters. The catch is that the flags have legs, so they are not usually in the same place for very long – even when nobody is carrying them. You can pick the flags up by driving over them (you can carry more than one); but watch out: you can lose your flag if you’re damaged by an opponent’s weapon. Luckily, you can do the same back to them, reinforcing the wheel of karma while you’re at it. Smack Attack is probably the most interesting of the bunch, with something of a twist to the normal Deathmatch formula. In Smack Attack, players compete for points by hitting each other. However, more points are awarded for using weapons that hare more difficult to land a hit with. For instance, using a machine gun is relatively easy, as you can fire off a spread of bullets and tag your enemy with at least a few of them. Now try doing that with a machete – definitely not the same. It’s fast and frenetic, and the odd rules are definitely offset by the massive amount of fun that this level exudes.

These different modes play out across three different themed areas with their own unique look and environmental hazards; each of these areas has four stages to try out. Not all of these levels are unlocked right away – so you’ll have to do a little bit of work to make all of the levels available to play. Exploring the areas is half the fun of the game, as there are a lot of hidden goodies all over the place. There are six main characters (with four “boss” characters that can become unlocked and playable), each with different personalities and different cars. Their characteristics seem to be reflected in their vehicles of choice, and their sound bits add a little bit of fun and humour to the game. There are also a ton of weapons to choose from, so you definitely won’t get bored (at least not right away).

Playing Cel Damage HD can be frustrating or fun – depending on how you approach it. If you want to play a serious racing game, then you had best look elsewhere, as Cel Damage HD will make you angry with it’s cartoonish physics. Cars move in a wobbly sort of way, much like cartoon cars on television. They bend slightly as they take big corners, and they will make you feel like their mass is variable, depending on the situation. Weapons also act slightly different than you might think, hanging off the vehicles at impossible angles and moving in ways that would make Bugs Bunny proud. Weapons aren’t always just limited to spreading their destructive goodness in front of your vehicle. Oh no. There are also weapons that cover your sides and can have some interesting effects on your opponents’ cars. It’s the kind of mayhem that you need to approach with an open mind – otherwise you’ll never enjoy it.

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Simply shocking.

Graphically, Cel Damage HD is pretty to look at. The translation to higher resolution makes everything really pop on the Vita’s screen – the cel-shaded nature of the game looks awesome. That being said, there are occasional graphical issues, although nothing game-breaking. While it is bright and colorful, the game still looks somewhat dated, but this is mostly due to the level and character design. The same thing goes for the music and the voices. The voice work is great, but the sound separation is weird, leaving some of the characters sounding like they are stuck in a box. Thankfully, the sound effects more than make up for any other audio issues, blasting hilarious sound effects for each of the weapons.

Controls for the Vita are tight and easy to learn. Picking up this title for the first time, I was a bit nervous about how things were going to go as I careened all over the place. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of the game, and then it’s smooth sailing from there (with the occasional bullet hole in the chassis of your ride). You won’t need a lot of skill when it comes to one-on-one battles in the game; the trick is surviving an onslaught of chaos from all parties concerned. Even though the vehicles are vastly different, there is a pretty good balance between all of them – the differentiation begins when the weapons start being collected. Best to get your hands on something beefy at the beginning or you’ll be trailing behind.

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Continuing down this path might land you in some heat.

This title is cross-buy and cross-save, meaning that the $9.99 price tag covers the Vita, PS3 and PS4 versions of the game. Since the PS4 version promises local multi-player goodness, the Vita becomes the perfect vehicle to unlock everything before you settle down on the couch with your friends to kick each other in the tailpipe.

Cel Damage HD, while fun, is not really my cup of tea. Between the dated aesthetics and the overly repetitive game-play, this title is one that I would return to rarely, while in the throes of boredom, or possibly when we have run out of titles to play during game nights. Still, ten bucks is fairly reasonable for a good party game and unlocking everything to get ready for some quality time with friends doesn’t really take a lot of effort.

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