Cel Damage was a cartoony car combat game in the vein of Twisted Metal that happened to launch with the original Xbox. If you’ve never heard about it, I would hazard a guess that’s because it was an Xbox launch game that wasn’t Halo. You drove around an assortment of levels inspired by classic cartoon locales and beat each other up with giant axes, baseball bats and more. Yet I still have many memories of afternoons spent sitting on the couch with my friends annihilating each other in this goofy car combat game.
In fact, during the several sessions I sat down with the game to write this review, easily the best and longest came when one of my developer friends dropped by to do some streaming and we spent the prior day catching up and playing random games. This was also the person who I played the original Cel Damage with back when it was however relevant it could be. In that moment, I remembered why I had such a good time with Cel Damage. It was because of people.
Cel Damage HD (PlayStation 4 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Finish Line Games
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Released: April 22, 2014
MSRP: $9.99 [Cross Buy]
While the A.I. is serviceable, nothing compares to forcing your friend into the shredder at the front of your vehicle or throwing an exploding sheep in their face. Cel Damage’s madcap cartoon style turns multiplayer sessions into a chaotic cluster of dumb fun. While local multiplayer games are making a comeback, not including any online multiplayer here is a pretty big nail in the coffin. Something like Towerfall or Samurai Gunn with online would be less than optimal because of the split second timing that those games live and die on. There’s no such need here. Instead we have a game that a small few remember at all, and I’m sure even less that have good memories, and a game that is only really great with other people.
You can play Cel Damage HD by yourself, but you wouldn’t want to. There is no single player campaign or any real structure to the game. Instead you pick one of the three game modes to play on thirteen different levels. And that’s it. You can change a few options, turn off A.I. drivers and just play more. There are unlockables, but they took out all of the cheat codes that made the nigh impossible task of unlocking easy. They also made unlocking things easier, but if the game had cheat codes, why would you change that?
Perhaps you could get enough enjoyment out of just playing the three main modes to justify the asking price, but I still find the checkpoint gate mode where you just race around these combat based levels in a circle boring at best and incredibly frustrating otherwise. Thankfully Cel Damage HD is only $10 instead of the original $50 asking price, so you can somewhat forgive the lack of online. It leaves you wondering what the goal of this HD rerelease was. Who wanted to go back to Cel Damage almost exactly the way it was over 10 years ago?
Despite so many people saying otherwise, there are a few of us that do have fond memories of Cel Damage. The Gamecube and Xbox launch windows, while containing some great games, also had quite a few that some of us just played regardless of quality, especially if they were multiplayer. Cel Damage fell by the wayside as newer and sometimes better games came out. As with most launch games, Cel Damage is a little hard to go back to. We’ve just had better and deeper games since then. It’s also useless on Vita, as there can’t do local multiplayer on a handheld.