Stupid amounts of fun despite some serious flaws in every department
Any game that lets you control Mr. T as he beats up aliens, werewolves and all manner of lesser celebrities immediately gets my attention. It's one of those things that must literally be impossible to dismiss at first glance, much like a Snickers cellotaped to a £20 note. Of course, neither the TV show or the game based on it focus entirely on Mr. T, as stupid as that is. You might have a choice of a dozen or two other famous folk, but when there's Mr. T, why bother with any other options? Since the basic concept of the programme is to have a pair of celebrities beat each other to clay paste in a wrestling arena, it was inevitable that the game would follow a similar theme. You can either mix and match your own combatants, arenas, time limits and styles of match (standard, cage...) or go through the equivalent of a campaign: this basically amounts to fighting three matches in a row and seeing how well you do before unlocking the next one. The characters are always fixed, but you can fight as either of the two involved in each round.
Thus we get into the actual gameplay, which is as basic as it comes but still strangely compelling for reasons I'll be getting to in a moment. You have your standard array of light, strong and special attacks, a grapple move, a block button and a special über-move which you can unleash whenever you taunt or smack your opponent enough to fill a power bar. It's not at all complex or original, but it is easily picked up and any fool can figure out what few intricacies there are without effort. The action is speedy, because you're always on the move and aiming to get some hits in or nick one of the power-ups that randomly generate nearby.
Now if the game world was populated merely by stick figures and blank backgrounds this might make for an average Flash title, but luckily the people at Big Ape Productions (who previously made Simpsons Wrestling, funnily enough) didn't let the license go to waste and made their product as attractive and chock-full as a low-budget company could hope to. Every arena is completely decked out with ludicrous props and features, the combatants all look, act and speak in their own unique fashion, the original commentators voice their in-game selves (endlessly make witty quips in both the menus and during confrontations) and best of all gore and all manner of bodily fluids go flying everywhere at the slightest provocation.
Let's get into the gore some more (hey, that rhymes!). Easily the highlight of the battles is the sheer amount of blood that can be leached from an opponent: a character with little health looks like they've been slammed against a brick wall seven times, and the weapons that can be picked up have the potential to sever limbs, leaving victims hopping around with stubs. Once someone finally activates their finisher on a battered foe, the screen is simply drenched in claret. The thrill of the kill is what kept me pushing on, and I can imagine multiplayer being at least briefly entertaining.
The entire game is just so delightfully over-the-top that when you see Mr. T chase his opponent around throwing bombs at them and then dropping the A-Team van on their head, you cannot help but be amused. Another cunning plan involves recreating yourself in the "create-a-celebrity" screen and then playing against them as the Punisher of Fools. Good stuff.
At the end of the day, Celebrity Deathmatch a rather mediocre game: the gameplay is amazingly shallow, it's not at all hard unless you push the difficulty to its limits, and I noticed that the collision detection is suspect. But really, these flaws are made irrelevant when you take into consideration that what with Mr. T, extreme violence and a genuinely funny script involved, this is a real candidate for the most awesome title on the planet. This is the only game I've played that Mr. T has officially appeared in, albeit made of clay. Plus I can't help but mention that you can buy Celebrity Deathmatch for 99p on Amazon, or even just 1p if you get the PS1 version. Other than visual differences, they're probably identical, so you might consider saving the cash for a few Snickers Duos.
Regardless, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the game, and spent nearly two whole hours finishing the episodes and then randomly pitting Mr. T against unlucky adversaries. I'm arranging a game day so that I can experiment with various co-op titles, and Celebrity Deathmatch is definitely amongst that pile. If you're a fan of the show or like beat-'em-ups in general, give this a look. It's the most hilariously OTT thing I've played since Manhunt, but somehow more entertaining in the long run.
And if still you have doubts, you can murder the entire cast of 'N Sync until you tire of seeing Mr. T kicking girly man-children in the face. See? I told you this game had longevity.
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