Review by Eleuthria

Reviewed: 01/11/05

A hidden gem

Carnage Heart is one of those rare games that is so great, yet so unknown to gamers. Perhaps it was due to the name, or maybe the odd style, but for some reason, this game never did catch on.

Carnage Heart was an early Playstation game. That being said, it looks like a mid to late-gen Playstation game, at least in models. The battlegrounds were fairly sparse, and not too great, but the models for your mechs were very good at the time. Decent explosions for the time, paired with a nice GUI during battle, the game still looks alright today.

The music was a little sub-par in most ways. It did have the future/apocalypse sound, but it wasn't something you would remember. Sound did make up for this, as explosions were okay, and the walking/jumping/bouncing of your mechs did sound very metallic, and well done.

This is a misleading category. The control is great, but that is because your only direct control is in menus. Obviously, a D-pad used on menus works wonders, and it would be a perfect 10 in that aspect. However, as you read the Gameplay section, you will realise why I mention the only DIRECT control is done like this.

Yes, the core of all games, and this one sure had a twist. You look at this game, and you think Armored Core. You have mechs, your enemy has mechs. You customize your mechs (you manufacture them with pre-built designs you create before-hand), the enemy does the same. You buy new weapon designs, invest in new mechs/weapons, you buy new ones, you make new designs.

Sounds a little plain, but there was a twist. You had to buy a CPU for your mechs. Though you would think it wouldn't have a real effect, it changes your STRATEGY entirely. Carnage Heart is a strategy game at it's peak. You manage your units (groups of 3 mechs) on a hexagon grid. What makes this special? You don't have ANY control during battle.

Carnage Heart takes the concept to a level never reached before in a Strategy game. Rather than control units on the battlefield, or have a system based on numbers, you actually create the intelligence for each mech you create. When you create a mech, you have two design phases. Hardware, where you select the chasis, the engine, the weapons, the sub-weapons, accessories, and the most important piece, the CPU. Then you enter the Software design.

Taking a semi-generic complex AI design, you are given a set of "chips", 40 if I recall. Depending on your processor, you have a given amount of space to work with. It is arranged as a large square grid, with the start of execution at the top left, working it's way to the right and down. Each chip tells the mech to do an action, or scan for a condition. So your first chip may check for an incoming object from a given angle, and a certain distance. If that's true, go to the chip on the left. If that is false, go to the chip below. Doing this creates a complex strategy, as you have to take into account all possible variables on the battlefield, and make sure your mech is ready to deal with it.

There is a second manual on programming, and a training disc which walks you through all aspects of it. After going through all of this, you will finally finalize the design, and set your factories to produce your new mech. Then (in a turn based style) you will deploy units to enemy bases to conquer them. Every 15 turns you are given more funds to work with, varying in amount based on how well you did in the past 15 turns.

This game has limitless replay value, as each time you can change the entire game by swapping a few chips. There really is no other game that has this level of strategy involved.

Rent or Buy
IF you can find it, buy it. It is unlikely you will find a place that rents PS1 games anymore, and if they do, it is less likely they will have this one. Be warned, if you are not a fan of strategy games, and you are not a "computer geek", you will probably not find this game fun, as you are not the one in direct control of the robots doing the damage.

There is a cheat that allows direct control one of your 3 active mechs, but this is more of a bonus, as the controls are sloppy. You can't blame them for that however, as they did have far more controls available in the chips than there were buttons on the controller.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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