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Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage

Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Software Creations Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1994

Quite simply, Maximum Carnage represented the “perfect storm” of video games for a thirteen year-old in 1994. I was an obsessive collector of Spider-Man and Venom comics, I was cultivating a juvenile taste in heavy metal, and to top it all off, Sega Genesis was the coolest thing going. When I saw the ad for this game, I could hardly believe it: A storyline ripped directly from the comics, the ability to play as Spider-Man or Venom, a cast of more than dozen characters, and a soundtrack by Green Jelly. I just had to have it. Unfortunately, this game couldn’t live up to my expectations.

If you’re looking for the straight skinny on this game, it is a Streets of Rage clone. The gameplay is your basic beat-’em-up: Start at the left side, kick and punch your way through a bunch of wimpy bad guys, and then fight a boss at the end. This game basically adds two new ingredients to the mix. First, you have a bunch of secondary characters which you can call on every once and a while to show up and help you by using their special powers. Second, you get to take advantage of Spidey’s web-slinging abilities.

Maximum Carnage began as an epic mini-series spanning several Spider-Man comic book titles. In short, a bunch of super-villains have escaped and turned New York into a raving pit of chaos, and its up to the good guys to stop them. The beautiful thing about the story is that it was ripped directly from the pages of the comics. Not only is it faithful to series I had loved so much, but actual panels from the books found their way into the game’s cut scenes. The game is a perfect companion to the actual story line.

One thing that really set this game apart for me was the sound track. It is common in modern games to hear pop songs from contemporary groups during gameplay, however this was the first game I had ever heard of that had tried to do such a thing. All the music for the game was provided by heavy-metal group Green Jelly. You could actually go out and buy their album and hear the track “Carnage Rules” that was in the video game. Despite the fact that the Genesis could only recreate the tune with synthesized notes, this was very cool. The music in this game is its strongest point; it just rocks. It is very entertaining, and you will never get bored with it.

The graphics were another good point with this game. As far as Genesis titles go, I’d say that Maximum Carnage is about mid-range in terms of raw graphics quality; however, the game does a great job of creating a faithful representation of the comic book drawings. Spidey and Venom look great, the animation is smooth, and all the characters are recognizable and clean. The art department clearly put a lot of work into making it look like you were playing a comic book in real time, and I’d say they pulled it off. My only qualm with the graphics is that everything is rather dull and dark looking. Brighter graphics would have really made this game shine.

On the down side, we have sounds. Although the soundtrack was superb, the sound effects are just…lame. Screams are uninspired, the “whoosh” sound of punches and kicks get incredibly repetitive, the thuds have no bite, and most of the main characters make almost no sound at all. I was constantly thinking, “Where did the sounds go?”

This game also falls flat in technical aspects. First of all, there is no save system and no passwords. The entire adventure has to be accomplished in one shot, and this game is HARD. I could never understand why such a high profile game would lack the ability to save your progress, and I was disappointed. Maximum Carnage runs pretty fast, with only a bit of slowdown, and for the most part the controls are quite responsive, yet the controls tend to be finicky. Your character will sometimes perform the wrong combos at crucial moments, costing you valuable hit points. Expect to toss a few controllers in fits of rage during this one.

As I said before, the game is hard. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone finishing it without using a hint guide. Most of the regular baddies are easy to eliminate, but the bosses are very tough nuts to crack. Finding the secrets in Maximum Carnage will provide you with probably ten times (10x) the amount of power ups that you would normally get while playing. Even with those, you will find it difficult to finish. Additionally, about half the power ups are located in “secret rooms” which are notoriously hard to enter. Combined with a lack of save points, the game is often too frustrating.

Finally, we have gameplay. As far as beat-’em-ups go, this is pretty solid. Unfortunately, beating up the common street scum is repetitive and makes up probably at least 80% of the game. In addition, the coolest aspect, the ability to go webslinging, is horribly underused. You really only need it for a few levels. The rest of the time, the standard punch combo works best. It is a REAL shame that they didn’t give you more room to swing around and make use of aerial attacks.

In the value department, Maximum Carnage does well. The game is long enough to give you hours of play time. In addition, you can take alternate routes, depending on which hero you select, so there is decent replay value. I just would have liked to have been able to play as Venom more often.

Overall, Maximum Carnage is a solid game that exhibits high production values but makes for a good to mediocre gaming experience. I would recommend playing it, but only buy it if you are a fan of the genre. Of course, for all you Spidey fanatics, this is a must-own title, at least for the story line and graphics.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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3 Comments

  1. Arovane says:

    7/10 is about right. This game could have been an all time classic if it wasn’t for some small but annoying shortcomings. The music is ok but the same tune is overused all the way through, the sound effects are horrible, there is no 2 players mode, some levels are too long which can get tedious (since you have to punch the same punks over and over again). The game is also a bit too hard, something I normally like but not here as it feels that the difficulty was misjudged by the programmers. All in all a good game, just not great.

  2. sdelfin says:

    I tried this game. The developers got the beat-em-up feel right, but I found the pacing and the level design to be lacking. I like more traditionally structured arcade-style games like the Streets of Rage games. This one seems hard in artificial ways. Also, I found the designs of the regular enemies to be bland and uninspired. I found it quite sad that the heroes could be beaten up by what appear to be skater punks and hipsters. In the end, it seems like a game a lot of people love and other find mediocre. I wonder how much of that has to do with playing it in 1994 as opposed to many years later.

  3. Greg Jurkiewicz says:

    This is by far one of the best brawlers of all time! The fantastic sprite and background artwork and excellent graphics really capture the comic book feel of the source material. The gameplay is polished to a masterpiece and the smooth combat features a huge array of attacks that far exceeds the typical punch, jump-kick and throw dynamic of most brawlers. Especially noteworthy is the fact that all these attacks are useful throughout the game, allowing for some fantastic combos and interesting battles. All the moves are very intuitive and easy to perform. The Green Jelly soundtrack is likewise also amazing and sounds fantastic on a Model 1 Genesis. This game really can not be praised enough.

    Its only shortcoming is the lack of 2 player mode. However given the storyline implementing 2p mode would be very difficult without altering (ruining) the storyline. At least this way the game stays true to its source material, something that should be praised because of how few adaptations do that.

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