Were you a Marvel or DC kid growing up? If you said Image comics, then fuck off you goddamned liar. Go back to the hipster hell from whence you came!
Anyway, when I was younger I was strictly a DC kid. Why wouldn’t I be? Who’s their best character? The whiney kid shooting his jizz around New York or the “feels bad man” green guy? Wolverine was cool, sure, but who give a shit if he pals around with a team of sulking losers? He eventually got his own comic series and what does he do? Mope around Japan.
I guess you could say that I had no interest.
When it came to video games, it’s not like there was a huge selection of comic book based games to choose from. Of the few that were available, I mostly stuck with whatever Batman game was out at the moment. Again, DC. Even when it came to arcade games, I didn’t care about Marvel. I played the mediocre and repetitive Superman game far more than the acclaimed six player X-Men arcade game.
Still, despite my reluctance to join the Marvel crowd, I was intrigued by this new fangled Spiderman game. And by “intrigued” I mean “sucked into their marketing campaign”. Everyone at school was talking about it. Every other page in my gaming magazines had that dark red ad with Carnage leaping over New York City. I couldn’t escape it and developed a need to play it. When it was finally released you better believe…that I couldn’t play it for at least three months because Blockbuster only had one fucking copy and it was never in. Eventually I was able to rent it, though I couldn’t brag about since everyone I knew had already played / beat / got sick of the game.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
What’s the first thing you make sure you can do in a Spiderman game? If you said climb on walls, then that’s certainly a thing you can do in this game, but fuck you for thinking about the most boring of Spiderman’s powers. My Half-Elf sorcerer in D&D can walk on walks thanks to his spider slippers, it’s not that big of a deal compared to the other shit he can do. In a Spiderman game you HAVE to be able to web swing or else the game isn’t worth playing. Period. Luckily, I remember being able to do a web swing kick and I spammed the hell out of it.
Okay, web swinging out of the way, the rest of the game was a straight up brawler. I think I remember a comic book introduction, but after realizing that I didn’t give a shit because it wasn’t Batman, I mashed the start button until I could punch people in the face. I remember the controls being intuitive enough to pick up and play, which allowed me to instinctively chain together Spiderman’s superpowers with standard attacks.
While ‘Maximum Carnage’ was easy to get into, the game itself was hard as hell. Enemies took a lot of hits to bring down as well as…actually, wait. Who were the enemies again? Let’s see, I remember starting the game, web slinging my foot across the screen, punch, punch, punch, get punched, punch, punch, grilled cheese. Wait, was the grilled cheese in the game, or did I have grilled cheese for lunch in my memory?
Okay, it turns out that I don’t remember shit. And I’m really trying. I thought I remembered more since I have very strong feelings towards this game, but nope. I apparently know more about the sexual exploits of ducks than I do about one of the most hyped games of my youth.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
I’ll admit, when the game first started and I saw the ‘LJN’ logo I was skeptical. I, just like most I’m sure, was burned after playing shit like ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Karate Kid’. Don’t get me wrong, I played the shit out of those games as a kid, but I think it was more out of spite than actual enjoyment. I’m sure no one will judge me for my reaction. After all, the same instinct that drive us away from LJN is the same instinct that keeps us from eating out of the garbage like all those trash beasts.
Once I started actually playing the game, things took a turn. Unlike the catalog of notorious LJN games, ‘Maximum Carnage’ is enjoyable. Well, the parts I played were enjoyable, but at this point I should confess that I could only play the first level. This was due to a combination of life simply getting in the way and the fact that this game is goes out of it’s way to be difficult.
Beat em’ ups live and die by their controls and I have to give ‘Maximum Carnage’ credit here; It does a fine job of making me want to keep punching the other characters instead of my TV screen. I noticed a bit of a delay between pressing the button and what happens on screen, but it wasn’t so egregious that it broke the game. I could move around just fine, though the more I played, it felt like I was only able to use these tight controls to determine what part of the screen I was going to get my ass kicked.
It’s easy to die in ‘Maximum Carnage’, that much remains true, but it wasn’t until now that I realized where the difficulty came from. It’s not that the enemies had too much life or that Spiderman’s punches were too weak, no, it seems that LJN didn’t scrape off enough shit after stepping in the video game dung pile.
I have no problem being hit in the middle of a beat down I’m giving if I mismanage the enemies ganging up on me. What I DO mind is there being enough of a gap between the combo animations that allows the enemy to recover and hit me. What’s the point in using a combo if won’t work half the time? Combine this with the enemy hitboxes not stacking in a way that allows me to hit multiple enemies effectively and you have the main source of frustration, not difficulty, FRUSTRATION, that made this game hard to play. I ended up using a lot of hit and run tactics since that was the easiest way to juggle enemies without taking a lot of damage. Luckily the game has several impressively animated acrobatic jumps which makes running like a coward a visual treat.
By the way, remember that swinging kick I remembered spamming to get through each stage? It doesn’t exist…I think. I had a hard enough time figuring out how to web swing, which I pulled off accidentally more times than using actual skill. Maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not, I don’t know, but I’m going to caution on the side of misremembering since it’s more likely that my booze addled brain made up some shit instead of not finding some useful hidden feature that younger me figured out, refuses to tell older me because younger me is an asshole that would find that funny.
I’m not trying to crap on the game too much, it is fun, but looking back with clearer eyes explains why I had a harder time with this game compared to others just like it. I’d go so far as to say that my assessment of it isn’t completely fair. It’s easy to see the flaws of a game right off the bat, but over time the gameplay itself either overcomes these flaws or makes them more glaring. I love ‘Splatterhouse 3’ but it has it’s own set of flaws. I might have been more dismissive of the game if I only played the first section of it and nit picked it.
I’m going to keep playing ‘Maximum Carnage’, if only to see where it goes. Maybe later baddies don’t suffer from the issues of the early enemies. The game also has a lengthy story played out in comic form if you decide to not be an impatient prick like I was, so I’d also like to see where that goes. Despite the difficulty, ‘Maximum Carnage’ warrants more playtime and I know that I’m going to make some time to play more and give it a fairer assessment down the line. Though I’m going to cheat like a motherfucker to do it.