Review: Total Carnage (Game Boy)

In this review, we blast through the Game Boy game Total Carnage. We find out how well this top down shooter game plays.

This game was released in 1994. It is a port from an arcade game.

After a war breaks out, reporters show up to report on the aftermath. While reporting on things in the area, mysterious mutants begin to appear, kidnapping them. When you are sent to investigate the mysterious lifeforms, General Akhboob threatens you.

You start off with a large gun that fires one shot at a time. Fortunately, the shots are quick and medium range, so the rate of fire isn’t terrible. Still, there are better weapons on the battlefield. Item pickups are largely denoted by letters. M gives you a better rate of fire. B allows you to fire a single shot that encircles you once (probably the worst weapon in the game if you ask me). S fires a spread shot. F is a very short range flame thrower (lots of damage, terrible range). Finally, G adds a grenade in your inventory. Grenades can be thrown with B, but are generally useless (and disabled during boss fights anyway).

There are other item pickups to be found. Keys and gems give you extra points. Dog tags give you extra lives.

In the levels themselves, you encounter hoards of enemies. Some enemies simply walk toward you, but others move more erratically. If the screen isn’t moving, the goal is to polish off as many of them as possible. After you take out a number of them, the screen will move to another part of the field. Eventually, you’ll make your way to an exit area. This is denoted by large text. You have a limited period of time to make it through the exit.

Eventually, you’ll fight a boss. Do enough damage and defeat the boss, but this does take some doing to accomplish.

There are other “bonus” areas in this game. The goal is to take out various numbers of targets. Be warned that being killed here means you lose a life anyway.

This is my first criticism to this game. Bonus areas shouldn’t allow you to run the risk of losing precious lives. If you can get killed, the bonus round should simply end and you move on to the next round. Otherwise, this is just another level.

My second point of criticism revolves around the borders. It is often the case you run to the edge of the screen to collect an item. Unfortunately, the game has a habit of randomly killing you whether or not an enemy is there. This bug is extremely annoying in my view.

In addition to this, the game has that “derivative” feeling to it. A lot of what is found in this game is also found in the earlier Contra games. The only difference is that it’s less entertaining and more annoying to play.

Another issue is that enemies can walk through a lot of obstacles. If there are trees or small objects you can’t go through, enemies will just simply waltz through them like they aren’t even there. With the exception of extra thick walls, obstacles only restrict your movements.

Even the collision detection in this game can be hit and miss. Sometimes you can slip past enemies. Other times, it seems that the enemy just missed you, but the dying animation says otherwise. It seems detection is a little lower than where it should be.

After getting through all that, it’s easy to see that this game is very difficult and only gets harder from there.

Generally speaking, this game is long on pitfalls and short on positive points. A lot of weapon choices are weak. A lot of elements are seemingly taken from the Contra series. Collision detection is buggy. Edges randomly kill you. The difficulty curve is steep. I honestly tried to get into this game to find some kind of silver lining, but the more I tried to enjoy the game, the more the game hits back and screams, “No, there is nothing entertaining in this game!” So, I tried, but I couldn’t get into this game at all.

The graphics are pretty painful in this game. Enemies are a jumble of pixels at times. The only exception I found were the bosses and the spider enemies. The field you fight on is pretty barren. Probably the strongest graphical part of the game is the messages from General Akhboob. In all honesty, even that isn’t too special either.

The audio only makes this game seem worse. There is music in the intro and menus. They aren’t amazing, but it’s passable. Then, when you hit the actual game itself, the music vanishes and you only have your weapon fire, item pickup beeps, and enemy thumps to keep you company. The jingle that plays when you die isn’t even good at all and the game over song is just an extended version of that. There is music for bosses, but since it’s hard to encounter more than one, this is a rare luxury. The sound effects are pretty basic for the most part.

Overall, this is one of those games that is really hard to get into. I found that the more I tried to find that aspect of the game that makes it good, the more the game punishes me for trying. The basic concepts are pretty derivative, the collision detection is buggy, and the edges of the screen randomly kill you for no reason. The graphics leave a lot to be desired and the audio is very sparse and basic. So, definitely not a game I would recommend.

Died on the radiation beams level.
High score: 30,480

General gameplay: 12/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 44%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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