RETRO REBOOT | Twisted Metal (Sony PlayStation)

Remember when vehicular combat games were all the rage? Even though Mario Kart precedes it, the success of Twisted Metal launched this medium into the stratosphere. Combining its hectic gameplay while embracing the rebellious attitude of the mid-90's, this game arrived at just the right time to identify with the angsty teens who wanted to put away those Mario and Sonic toys (only to come back 20 years later and RE-love Mario and Sonic as adults, but I digress). While embracing the counter-culture, the game itself is certainly playable, yet a little rough around the edges.

The first Twisted Metal was developed by Sony Interactive Stuidios/Singletrac (with producer, now old-man-yells-at-cloud podcaster David Jaffe as game designer) released in 1995, being one of the PlayStation's first generation run of software, as the platform took the world by storm. The vehicular competition is hosted by a maniac named Calypso, who will grant one wish to the winner of the eponymous contest. The 13 riders and their customized vehicles must demolish each other through six combat maps and an increasing number of opponents as you progress. There's some good vehicle variety, commandeering everything from motorcycles and low riders to a dune buggy and a semi-truck, all with unique speed, power, defense, and handling properties. 

At the time, I thought the controls were serviceable. 26 years of Dualshock analog sticks have left me spoiled, and the first Twisted Metal takes some reverse engineering of the brain and reflexes to get a proper read on. Credit where it's due, there are some control presets to suit your play style. A good handful of games experimented with layouts, as this was still uncharted waters for game mechanics. Not to mention this was the period before aim assist, so landing a lot of your shots comes down to getting some good reads. The physics are annoying at this point in my video game playing tenure, hitting a tree and coming to a complete stop only causes the blood vessels in my already deteriorating brain to swell.

Like a lot of games from this period, the graphics are the most dated aspect of Twisted Metal. Overly blocky, sure, but it's also pretty choppy and disorienting. Objects and enemies scale weird when far away from them, the buildings resemble a sixth grader's cardboard diorama of a town, and the pedestrians are low-res pixels of people. probably staffers. It took me a moment to get the hang of the visuals, but there would be times where I'd miss the healing stations because I'd drive right past them. The vehicle designs are pretty distinct and memorable, though.

The bizarre world of Twisted Metal is probably one of the reasons it's maintained such a fanbase. The endings usually end up as more of a blessing than a curse for the winners, as their efforts to change the fortunes in their lives become dark irony, courtesy of Calypso's punishment/reward. 

For a first entry, it's not a bad game. There were certainly areas to improve upon, and the renegade attitude it presents, along with some tongue-in-cheek humor carries some charm. Needles Kane, known as Sweet Tooth and his iconic ice cream truck has always been synonymous with the PlayStation brand, he was a strong candidate for being a mascot or spokesperson of sorts. The music is pretty good, and the multiplayer duel mode can be entertaining in bursts. A good learning experience for the sequels (before the franchise burned itself out), TM1 did what it needed to do for the time.

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