Sometimes you just need to play a simple little game. No plot, minimal controls, straightforward premise. They can be found everywhere, I suppose, especially on mobile, but perhaps you're looking for a specific simple little game.
Maybe you want to race. But you don't want a lot of racing. Some racing. And perhaps you like silly action. Things blowing up. Fireballs. And your attention span is short, so you want a pick-up and play title.
It looks like you want Mashed, which will scratch all your peculiar itches as it combines Micro Machines style racing with a little bit of Carmageddon. Surely a winning combination.
Mashed opens with what looks like a typical kind of race until you see one car making a risky jump to save some time, and then some fireballs, cars falling off cliffs, rockets and explosions...
It's not every day that you see a GT40 with some mounted weaponry sticking out the back. What is this game, though? It's not just a friendlier looking Carmageddon, is it?
At first, it's not Carmageddon at all. The first event open to me is a tug-of-war race against an opponent. If you drive far enough ahead that your opponent falls off the screen, you secure a point, and they lose one.
Despite there being only two buttons to worry about, accelerate and brake, I wasn't quite getting Mashed early on. The controls are very Micro Machines-like, with driving sensitivity that you won't be used to if you play regular old weapon-less racers. It's zippy, and it often isn't long before one car pulls ahead enough to score.
Once I learned that pressing the accelerator too early, before the red lights turned green, would result in getting bogged down and usually letting my opponent jump ahead, I started to warm to Mashed. Once I got a little more confident in nudging my opponent into the walls to slow him down, I warmed up to it even more.
But I saw weapons in the intro video. Where are my guns?
After a straight forward race that included weapons but was somehow uneventful, my third event was a two on one tug-of-war, with weapons. If either my opponents shot out of view, they'd score. What could I make use of to try and even the odds?
Machine guns, mines, oil spills... yeah, now we're talking. Driving through a colourful pick-up plonks a weapon on your car, and at the press of a button, you can fire your machine guns for a few precious seconds, drop two anti-vehicle mines into the road, or dollop huge puddles of oil across the track.
This was fun. Made even more fun when I found out you can be caught out by your own mines.
After so much to- and fro-ing, the game initiated 'End Game Mode', which I assume to be "whoever scores, scores, and the other side doesn't lose anything". Essentially, stop tugging, start winning clearly already.
While on match point, I flew off the track in a fireball, right when my opponent was similarly dispatched. It was deemed that I had been destroyed first, however, so the score was tied. The next win would win the event, and there were two of them and only one of me.
We were reset right in front of the shortcut...
... which I didn't have the speed to clear, plunging into the water below and losing the event.
What a way to go out.
As more events opened up for me to try my hand at, I saw more reasons to enjoy Mashed. It's silly, and often devolves into chaos, but sometimes things go oh so well.
Two mines I had placed on a previous lap were up ahead. They don't care what car drives over them, they'll explode if something is nearby. If I explode from my own mines, I'm an idiot. If I don't accelerate, and let my opponents drive on ahead of me...
200 IQ strats. Gotta love 'em.
A change of scenery from the desert to the snowy mountains shows that the Mashed gameplay can work anywhere. It also shows that cliffs are dangerous, and your fortunes can change in an instant. Plunging down the scoreboard, I'll have a tough time to recover.
Because anything can happen, though. The comeback might still be on.
Despite driving off cliffs, sliding on the ice, getting blocked by swinging cable cars and driving over my own mines, the ball ends up in my court. I just need to hold on for the win. I just need my opponents to get mashed.
Another Gold. I can't win 'em all, but I do enjoy the ones I can.
Mashed continues with variations on the theme. Team battles, races, tugs of war. They're all present, and you'll have your favourites, but will you get bored of your time with it all?
Playing it single player, you might. It's a stop-start kind of game by its very nature - only the straight races have you driving for more than twenty seconds at a time. While I enjoyed the tug-of-war and all it brings, I am glad the game decides that, at some point, there needs to be a winner; otherwise this could just go in circles and get us nowhere.
It feels like you get through a challenge and head to the next one, just to tick it off. You won't go back and do better. You don't need to go back. On to the next one, until you've had enough or just can't win.
But as a multiplayer game, where the tame in-game insults are replaced with your mates' more refined verbal beat-downs to accompany a well-placed rocket, well, Mashed becomes something else. It's no longer just a set of rules and a tick box, but a track, a goal, and the need for a clear winner. And it's not going to be anyone but yourself, is it?
I've not played Mashed against humans, however, but I can see how it'd be far more fun and engaging with them, than without. Some games require another brain playing beside you. Mashed's single-player offerings will entertain a little. It's multiplayer offerings probably entertain a lot.
Either way, it's an enjoyable, fireball-filled ride.
The PlayStation 2 version of the game features four-player gaming with only two controllers. Suddenly, that's the only version of Mashed I want to play.
Mashed, developed by Supersonic Software, first released in 2004.
Version played: PC, 2004.