When it comes to great multiplayer games on the PlayStation 2, nothing sticks out in my mind with quite so much nostalgia as Mashed.
Not dissimilar in its concept to kart racing games such as Nintendo’s Mario Kart, in Mashed players must drive around top-down tracks, aiming to either outrun or kill their opponents, either by knocking them off the track or using an array of weapons. The main difference to those games, and the one that really makes it unique, is its simplicity. Die first in a round and you lose two points. Avoid death, and you gain two. First to fill their points meter is crowned champion.
The controls are equally simplistic; accelerate, steer, fire weapon, drop weapon, aaaaaand that’s about it. Don’t take all this to mean that Mashed is easy though. The steering is purposefully sensitive, meaning that a slightly heavy nudge of the analogue stick can send you veering off a cliff.
Play for the first time with experienced players and you’re likely to get your ass handed to you. A great feature taking this into account though is airstrike, an option in the settings before beginning each game. With airstrike, players that have been knocked out of a round are given the ability to bombard players with missiles from above.
The learning curve is relatively steep, but stick at it and the rewards are great. At first, you’ll be knocked out of rounds within seconds, but as you and your friends’ skills improve, you’ll face epic battles to nab the two points. A brilliant feature is ‘endgame mode’; if the game hasn’t been decided after a certain amount of time, no further points are deducted, only added. This can – and often does – lead to a winner-takes-all situation, which are every bit as tense as getting blue shelled on the final strait on Mario Kart.
The selection of tracks and cars is relatively small, but this just adds to the game’s simplistic charm. Despite the low track count, the tracks that are there are well designed, and varied enough to keep you returning to Mashed for years and years. The creators of the game released a spiritual sequel for PS3 and Xbox 360, Wrecked: Revenge Revisited, which I can only really recommend for die-hard fans of the original.
The same concept is retained, but the cars’ handling is far more realistic, stripping away much of the appeal of the original. Still, I suppose it’s easier to use the PS3’s wireless controllers than fiddle around with a multi-tap.
Mashed is a brilliant multiplayer experience, perhaps one of the last great multiplayer games that pre-dated the online gaming era. Its simple to learn yet difficult to master nature means that absolutely anyone can get involved in the carnage, whilst leaving enough for those who want to dedicate their time to it to really get stuck into. I could go into the single player campaign, but that’s not really what this game is all about.
Dig out your old PS2, get your hands on four controllers and a copy of the game, invite your friends over for the evening and strap in for one hell of a ride.