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Mashed: Fully Loaded

Cheaper than before, and better too.

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If you've clicked this far, you should know that Supersonic is behind some of the most insanely addictive racing games ever devised, and Mashed is one of them. Taking its cue from the 90s classics it devised like the criminally underrated Circuit Breakers and the ludicrously charming Micro Machines 2, Mashed emerged in the barren desert of summer 2004 to take the top down racing principle even further than it had managed before.

The premise was just as simple as it ever was: up to four players race cars over a variety of environments and attempt to battle their way far enough ahead of their opponents to gain a point. Just like its previous titles the gameplay was a mixture of dirty tricks and pure driving skills; one second machine-gunning your opponent to their doom or barging them off a cliff, the next taking an outrageous shortcut and keeping to your racing line perfectly. It was the archetypal example of 'multiplayer mayhem' and as such was best played with some mates. The real difference with Mashed, arguably, was the visual polish that current generation consoles afforded them. With 3D visuals par for the course now, Supersonic tried its hand at dynamic camera angles, with swooping, zooming views allowing the action to be close up one second and then pan out to afford the player an overhead appreciation of the action. For the uninitiated, er, initiate yourselves with our review.

Empire strikes back

Most people loved it for being so damned addictive, but - sadly - few bought it. There were some good and not so good reasons for this. On the one hand, it wasn't what you'd call a 'big' title. They probably won't appreciate me for reminding them, but Empire aren't one of the big guns, and unless you're a big name with a whopping marketing budget you don't get the front page coverage, the shop window and prime shelf space support, and such underground games almost always go by the wayside as a result - no matter how good they are. The truth is, if the general everyday punters don't get told - forcefully - to buy things, they usually ignore them, and that applies to all forms of entertainment, but is especially applicable to games thrown into the market at full price. The point is, very few impulse gaming purchases get made at top whack.

But publisher Empire hasn't given up that easily. It has noted the critical acclaim, realised the potential and has wisely just delivered Supersonic's spruced up version of the game addressing a few of the niggling issues with the original, adding some new content and putting it out once again at a new low price. Essentially, what you get for your money this time is everything that was in the original, plus more vehicles, more tracks, more 'environmental variations', more single-player challenges, more tournaments and a host of technical tweaks designed to alleviate some of the annoyances.

So, to be more specific, you now get three new tournaments (Turbo, Ice, and Night), 30 (instead of 13) tracks to race on, for a total of 60 player challenges (over bronze, silver and gold variants), 15 vehicles, six all-new training modes and the usual nine weapons to unleash on your opponent. It's safe to say there's a lot more game in there for your money now. No danger there.

The good old days

On the technical side, Supersonic has also been busy giving the special effects and graphical polish an overhaul, as well as improving the slightly unhelpful camera system. But to be brutally honest, it's not that you'd notice that much. The visuals we can live with anyway - they're basic, cheerful and do their job rather nicely but are never going to win any awards. The environments are pretty from a distance, not so marvellous up close, and the same goes for the cars. The thing that really narked us last time was the way that the camera panned back and constantly left you in serious danger of driving off the nearest bend if you were the one unfortunate enough to be in the lead. Although it's not as bad as it was before, it's still an issue.

We just wish Supersonic had have given us the option of being able to junk the 3D nature of it entirely and play it in the old fashioned fixed overhead view. Then we could reliably judge all the things that are very much left to chance in a game that demands you swoon to its clever dynamic camera. It may look good in the videos, but ultimately veterans of Supersonic's ageing classics remember a purer, more reliable system that really worked.

Still, as much as we moan like old men about how much better it was in our day, you do adapt to Mashed quite quickly and it remains an utterly compelling experience in single or multiplayer. For the price it's definitely worth picking up and wonderful addictive concepts deserve to live on.

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7 / 10