Friday 26 July 2013

Maximus Action Carnage (PC)

Every now and then I encounter a game that kicks the living shit out of me, yet I can't help but to keep coming back for more. Maximus Action Carnage by Bruneras is one such game - and when I say it kicked my ass, it kicked so hard I tasted leather. Built as a stunning example of what Bruneras' Arcade Game Studio is capable of, as a standalone game Maximus Action Carnage doesn't exactly bring anything new to the shmup genre; a heroic army bloke shoots everyone, everyone dies, the end. This is a super tough vertically scrolling shooter made in the same vein as Ikari Warriors or Commando. There is a backstory, but whatever - we didn't come here for the reading.

Bullets fill the screen pretty much all the time so unless you possess retro-gaming ninja skills you will be killed constantly. In fact, I have probably seen the initial opening screen close to 100 times in the past hour (or it at least certainly feels like it). However, this is where the game jacks you up on its own special brand of addiction as you'll get a little further every time, and when you finally get to the power ups you'll start to feel invincible as you mow down platoons of the same "Banzai!" screaming bastards that you have been previously killed by hundreds of times. This is the games reward for persevering - in an age where modern AAA titles pussy foot around and lead you by the hand, Maximus Action Carnage slaps you round the face with a shark and says 'man-the-fuck-up'.

There are power ups in the form of spread shot and machine gun which can be upgraded by collecting bullet icons - so not much original here. These power ups however the only goddamn chance you'll have. If you die, you lose them - and if you lose them you're doomed.

The visuals could have come straight from 1985, the colour palette and sprites are a homage to the arcade legends. I enjoyed them greatly. Likewise, the controls are tight and genuinely remind me of playing the old run 'n gun games at my local arcade, so in that sense Bruneras has achieved Arcade Game Studio's primary goals. You shoot in eight fixed directions and it can be hard to aim but that's the point - it adds a level of risk-taking as you have to line up shots whilst dodging the incoming hailstorm of lead. The grenade is next to useless but sometimes helps when overwhelmed, but only by insane skill (unlikely) or panicked button mashing (more likely).

However, the audio is where I will have to lay my bag of gripes. The majority is solid; the music by Jake 'virt' Kaufman is great, but this is ruined by the constant ear-bleeding noise of the machine-gun (and later the spread-shot machine-gun). That and the relentless enemy shots, which sound more like tennis balls being volleyed at you than gunfire (although I confess to actually finding this more funny than annoying).

In conclusion, although Maximus Action Carnage falls short of excellence, like a Ronseal product it delivers "exactly what it says on the tin"; explosive, over the top 1980's style arcade destruction wrapped up in a package that would not look out of place presented in a modern day MAME cabinet.

Download the game here (from the developer's web site).
3.5 out of 5

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