Total Carnage | Retro Review

Midway Entertainment’s Total Carnage is a top-down shooter that makes a brilliant two-player game with its chaotic gunfights, hordes of evil mutants and ludicrous gibs. It’s a step-up to the fairly samey gameplay and level design of its predecessor, Smash TV, and includes even more content than ever before.

General Akhboob has been developing secret weapons in his totally-innocent ‘Baby Milk Factory’, until a whistleblower revealed it was a poorly-disguised chemical weapons mutant production plant. Covering up the case by capturing all reporters and tourists in his home country, the Doomsday squad — consisting of two muscle-bound weight-lifters called Captain Carnage and Major Mayhem — are dispatched to save the day.

Blow up getaway vehicles for bonus points!

The visuals hold up really well. Everything looks smooth and detailed, from the ugly mutant bosses to the weapon-hauling badasses you play as. Blood and bodyparts fly in all directions, and some of the proagonists’ death animations are particularly nasty and over-the-top at times. The cutscenes can be pretty knarly as well, but they’re all the more entertaining, especially with the General himself yelling incomprehensible gibberish at the player. Top it off with a decent soundtrack, quirky dialogue and crunchy weapon sounds, and you get a title that looks and sounds brilliant.

Its game-play is smashing stuff. Since you can aim in one of eight directions while moving in either of them as well, it feels fluent and smooth to control.. It makes combat all the more satisfying as well, especially when you ditch the flimsy rifle and bag a bazooka, grenade launcher, and two types of flame-thrower (the second one has a blue flame, which deals more damage and has a bigger range), all with limited ammo. Invincibility and projectile-spreading power-ups are also available to help you bring the pain, while short-fuse time bombs can be scattered around like mad.

There are many alternate routes to take, some leading to much tougher areas.

Hordes of enemies await you, as well as some tough-as-nails bosses with very imaginative designs and disturbing appearances. One hit will be enough to kill you, as it was designed to gobble up your spare change, but you’ll be wanting to dive back in straight away when it happens – especially with a second player. The game constantly throws new twists, with enemies ambushing from all sides, tanks rolling in to cause issues, and the occasional minigame, like a button-masher to save your skin.

Its sense of humour and oodles of secrets is a big plus-point. Funny messages, level warps, and bonus treasure are all to be expected here. Collecting the 220 keys spread out through the entire game to get the best ending is just too daunting to even bother trying (unless you know the code…), and besides, it’s actually bugged. All that happens is you get to meet the crew of Smash TV at the end.

With blood, explosions, humour and mutants, Total Carnage is testosterone personified in the form of a cheesy, exaggerated and addicted top-down shooter that is infinitely more fun with a second player. Any ports of the original arcade release (it was bundled together on Midway’s Arcade Treasures 2 for the PS2) is going to be the best version for you to snag, compared to the lackluster and watered-down ports of the era. Good luck frying Akhboob, soldier!


4 Stars

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