A leaflet enclosed with Total Carnage offers the lucky purchaser, as well as a chance to buy cheap t-shirts and posters, a competition. "Write a review of Total Carnage and you could win a coin-op of the game", it says. Right. I'm going to have a go.
It only took me 30 seconds to get confused by Amiga Total Carnage. After loading it up, wincing at the dreadful attempt at the 'shooting' effect on the title screen, and selecting 'Hard'(natch) from the frankly minimalist options screen, there was a disk accessing pause.
A butch bloke (either Captain Carnage or Major Mayhem, I'm not sure which) appeared with a blood-red speech bubble instructing me to 'PLEASE WAIT'. But then the words 'Press Fire', in a slightly less imposing khaki kind of colour, seemed to sneak on from nowhere at the bottom of the screen.
What a dilemma. (Great cars, them - hang on, I don't understand this joke. Ed) Should I, if I might paraphrase The Clash at this point, wait or should I fire? I pondered for 20 minutes or so, until Jonathan explained the precise terms of my contract, and then decided to get on with it. And yet somehow, in my heart, I knew I was making a big mistake
When the AP boys (and on this occasion I do just mean the boys) first heard that Total Carnage was coming to the Amiga and, more especialy, the A1200 and CD32, we were quite excited. After loving the coin-op, we'd all been a bit let down by the disappointing SNES conversion (as well as by the Amiga version of Smash TV), and we were looking forward to seeing it done in glorious 32-bit-o-vision, using a proper 4-button joypad and everything, and hopefully with all the blood and nasty bits that Nintendo wouldn't allow in the SNES game. When will we learn, eh? Within three minutes, the far-off glory days of SNES Total Carnage seemed like the high point of our very lives.
Let's start with the obvious stuff - what's missing. The very first screen points to two absentees from the coin-op - the maps and the password warps. Total Carnage was (to my knowledge) the first arcade game ever to give you level passwords, but there are none here, either inside the actual game itself (as with the coin-op) or as a front-end option. You don't get any continues, either.
A slightly less imposing khaki kind of colour
The colours are also a bit worrying, with the bright primary yellows and greens of the original being replaced for the most part by murky browns and dark greens. It's not an auspicious beginning, but make the most of it, because things only get worse.
As well as missing the level-jump warps, the ones to all the secret rooms and bonus sections appear to have gone for a button. Several power-ups (the speed-up boots, the shield, and the drone, off the top of my head) are nowhere to be found, and the ones that are left have their individual graphical pyrotechnics reduced to being small round dots in different colours for the different weapons.
The first-level cannon-fodder grunts can now take up to three hits before dying,a nd when they do die, their stumbling, bleeding bodies continue to stagger towards you, and are deadly to the touch until the last drop of blood has disappeared from the screen. All the baddies attack by wandering onto the screen until they're in a direct horizontal or vertical line with you and then queuing up and coming at you in Indian file, just like they used to do in all those old ZX81 games you typed in from magazines 10 years ago.
This doesn't make them easier to shoot, though, because they're proportionally bigger than they are in the other versions (reducing your manoeuvring space), and even as they die, their bodies block your bullets, hemming you into a corner faster than you can say ('Bother' - Ed). And this was after switching back into so-called, self-styled 'Easy' mode, too.
There are a few bad-guy-related compensations, though - several waves and types of enemy and enemy weaponry are also AWOL from Amiga. Total Carnage, including the deadly pink paratrooper things and the homing missiles. Cheers.
The game knows how hard it is, though - there are tons of extra lives scattered around all over the place, which is always a sure sign that something's gone horribly wrong in the gameplay department.
The programmers haven't bothered making the game difficult in terms of clever enemies, unpredictable attack patterns or whatever - they've just made lots of bits where it's simply not possible to avoid losing several lives (like the first appearance of the mutant axe-men in level one), then thrown out a few 1UPs as compensation. I thought we'd left that kind of design behind years ago, but then I really ought to know better by now.
It took me an entire eight-hour day to get two-thirds of the way to the first boss, and I can finish the coin-op in my sleep.
Disk accessing is regular and ugly (and comes complete with the 'Please Wait/Press Fire' enigma every time). Overall pace is slow, much slower than the coin-op. Enemy vehicles don't blow up, they just have lots of explosions superimposed on them then drive off the screen (I hate that). And when they do (drive off exploding, that is), sometimes you can walk through them, and sometimes they still kill you, apparently at random.
The collision detection is appalling. There's an abort facility, but no pause (unless you simply don't shoot certain things, at which point the game will quite happily sit there all day waiting until you do something).
There's a bit in level one where the screen blanks to access the disk, you come back in a completely different area, and you're actually standing on top of a mine (boom, bye-bye another irreplaceable life). There's a two-player mode, but the second player can only join in from the menu screen, not during the game. How much of this do you want to hear? It's awful. Don't buy it.
But hey, let's finish on a high note. There're a couple of funny bits in the manual. I'll give it five percent for recognising a two-button joypad (and sensible control in general), and five percent for the speech. The rest of the score is for the game. The only thing it's got in common with Total Carnage is the name.