Cel Damage HD review for PS Vita, PS3, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3, PS4
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Developer: Finish Line Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It’s hard not to come away from Cel Damage HD feeling as though you’re missing something. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun little game…but unfortunately, the key word in that descriptor is “little”.

Which is odd, because in the game’s description on the PlayStation Store, they make it sound like there’s so much going on. Ten characters! Thirteen tracks/arenas! Over thirty weapons! Sure, there’s only three game modes, but if memory serves correctly, the original Mario Kart only had three as well, and it certainly got along fine with such limited selection.

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The problem lies in what Cel Damage HD does with that limited selection. Whereas Super Mario Kart — or Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, or, to lower the bar significantly, Ben 10 Galactic Racing — chained events together in a way that made you want to keep playing them one after another, here you just have three match types, and all of them act as discrete events. Which is to say: there are 13 tracks, but what you do in one race/deathmatch/capture the flag match has no bearing whatsoever on what happens in your next match. There’s no Grand Prix championship or Star Cup or equivalent here — it’s just a couple of race options. For the first little while you’re playing, you can try to unlock new weapons or arenas, but after you’ve done all that in an hour or two, there’s not really anything more to do. The Vita version doesn’t even have multiplayer — ad hoc or online — so it’s not as if you can try and match skills with other people. (In the game’s defense, both the PS3 and PS4 versions have local multiplayer, so if you have a couple of controllers, you can at least do that.)

Of course, this lack of options is only an issue because, in its small doses, Cel Damage HD is pretty enjoyable. The characters are drawn in a wonderfully distinctive style, the tracks have a decent amount of variety and, most importantly for a vehicular combat game, there’s a lot of fun weapons to use. There’s nothing quite on par with red shells or banana peels, to be sure, but giant razorblades and gatling guns have a certain charm to them.

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But still: great kart racing games work best when they’re equal parts fun and addictive. Cel Damage HD definitely has the fun part down, but without anything that keeps you coming back to it, it’s hard to give it a full-throated recommendation.

Grade: C+