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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twisted Metal: Small Brawl is a solid game that offers a creative and surprising approach to the genre. While many of the classic characters such as Sweet Tooth and Calypso make return appearances, they now appear in younger incarnations. The real twist however, is that the vehicles are now RC mini-cars battling it out in smaller, more juvenile environments. While not the revelation that TM: Black was, itís an interesting change of pace that targets younger gamers but still has the seriesí trademark feel.

After several disappointing entries in recent years, the Twisted Metal franchise has rebounded thanks largely to the efforts of many of the original developers, who have regrouped under the name Incog. Bringing the series back to its dark roots, TM: Black was an excellent game that recharged the series. Now Incog has returned to the original platform and has unleashed Twisted Metal: Small Brawl on the PS1 platform and surprisingly takes the series in a distinctly younger direction. Things have been downsized aesthetically as TM: Small Brawl features younger versions of the seriesí cast and also the cars in the game are now Remote Controlled RC vehicles. Whatís also surprising is that the environments are much smaller and take place in Ďhang-outsí such as movie theatres, playgrounds, tree-houses, miniature golf courses, haunted houses and suburban kitchens making up the battlefields. As you can tell, the game is a definite change of pace and thatís what makes it so interesting and allows the designers the freedom to change some of the conventions of the series and make it seem somewhat fresher than expected at such a late stage on a mature platform.

This doesnít mean that the action is any less intense, with some brutal combat and a full arsenal of weapons and power-ups at your disposal. Small Brawl is structured similarly to the other games in the series as the object is to destroy all opposing vehicles on each level before they destroy you. Each level in the game has its own unique layout and some specific power-ups to catch, keeping things interesting through out. Thereís a decent selection of standard weapons like machine guns, homing missiles, and health-power-ups that makes for some exciting combat. However, in keeping with the kid-oriented theme, some of the power-ups are more humorous than usual and include Flaming Pumpkins, Bottle Rockets and Roman Candles and Ricochet Bombs. These give the game a different feel from the rest of the series and are a little bit more imaginative than expected. You can also utilize special battery attacks that drain energy from your vehicle but allow for more devastating moves like freezing your opponents. You can also use the battery power defensively to throw up some temporary shields. Donít be greedy with these, since you donít want to drain your battery too much and leave yourself vulnerable to attacks. In addition, each vehicle also has its own unique weapons to keep opponents guessing. There are also health power-ups and turbo boosts scattered around each level which can be collected by running over them.

TM: Small Brawl features several different modes of play, including Tournament, Challenge and Endurance modes. In Challenge mode, you select which vehicles theyíll face in the single round battles, and can also choose which level to play on as well. Endurance mode gives you a single health bar to survive for as long as you can. Tournament mode is the traditional Twisted Metal game, where you fight opponents and levels of the computerís choosing. You can only advance to the next level after youíve beaten all the opponents. There are also three different multi-player modes. In Head To Head mode, you go against a human opponent via split-screen in a death-match battle. Players can also try and survive together against computer controlled vehicles in the Cooperative mode or can battle each other and AI opponents in a Free-for-all mode. Each of these plays similarly, with the main goal being to kill or be killed. Small Brawl features the familiar in-game set-up and controls making the game feel familiar. Onscreen, the radar, health and power-up indicators are presented cleanly and simply for a good interface. There are eleven characters total available, though some of these are hidden at the start of the game with additional characters & vehicles to unlock later in the game. This gives some reward to players, even though the real fun starts almost immediately.

While itís a lot of fun, game isnít perfect Ė the controls seem a little bit shaky at points and turning the vehicles can be a little difficult making the action seem a bit pale by comparison. Also, the power-ups donít have the punch they should and worst of all, the game seems a little bit easier than it could have been. The graphics meanwhile, are decent but still suffer from a lot of graininess and excessive pop-in which gets in the way of the action frequently, making it difficult to get your bearings. This might be due to the age of the platform, but the environments seem to be a bit small. However, there are some interesting levels interspersed through the game with the haunted house and the schoolyard featuring particularly memorable layouts. While there are some technical problems with Twisted Metal: Small Brawl that detract from the overall experience, itís still a solidly entertaining title that offers plenty of solid gameplay. It should also be noted that this is not as violent or dark as the other games in the series and this should make it more appealing to the younger gamers out there. Older gamers shouldnít overlook this title since despite the Ďkidsí coating and some technical flaws, itís still got the classic Twisted Metal feel with solid action and addictive combat in abundance.