Cosmic Carnage is arguably the core definition of a "cult classic" among gamers. A cult classic is technically considered a medium that has a small but devoted fan base...so what exactly stops a cult classic from becoming a mainstream staple? Sometimes it is because of bad timing or bad marketing which results in a burying of said item. Other times it is regarded as the quality being too low for a mainstream appeal. Thus, in the eyes of some, a cult classic is considered a low end medium that is over-hyped by the few people who likes it; a guilty pleasure almost. Does Cosmic Carnage fit this definition, or doe sit fit the definition of bad sales due to its console placement (32X add-on) but is genuinely enjoyable?
Cosmic Carnage is a 2D fighting game for the Sega 32X add-on. The limited story-line provided implies that prisoners high-jacks the ship, but the ship's controls are damaged forcing the prisoners to send distress signals to crash and hijack a military craft. This results in a crash that kills all but 8 personal leaving only one escape pod. The result is a fight to the death...admittedly a somewhat interesting story and relatively plausible considering video game universes. The impression of this story line is that it would fit right into a Star Trek or Star Wars universe well, and perhaps that is where the developers got the idea, and it is definitely different than the tournament standard set by most of its contemporaries.
Visually, this is a hard game to compare to others, as the 32X had a small library and it isn't fair to compare this game to games before or after it. Normally at least. Visuals from various 16 bit games actually surpass this game in many regards. The animation is clunky, at the best, more often than not. Admittedly some is smooth but what is smooth is also awkward in that it is out of place. There is definite motion zones visible where the fighters will gravitate towards but it could be worse. The key is getting the depth perception done well in these type of games, as it needs to be accurately gauged how close the characters are and how close their attacks are to hitting. This will directly affect on how the game is played, and how much fun is derived from that. The depth perception isn't particularly good in Cosmic Carnage. Indeed, particularly with the jump estimates, this game does not do an adequate job portraying what it needs to make the game fully functional. With all that said...the game do have a charm to it visually speaking. The environments are suitable for what the game is trying to accomplish, and the actual tone is portrayed extremely well. The visuals, despite a degree of clunkiness, would be perfectly fine if they were actually sufficiently functional...but at times, they just aren't.
The audio level isn't horrible by any means; it certainly far surpasses the quality of the sound on the 32X' version of Doom. It still retains a lot of the low end bass noises that could be easily misinterpreted, but not nearly to the same degree as in Doom. The music's tone all has a space vibe but also got a good action vibe to it which blends rather well. The effects are rather forgettable but they work for what they are trying to do.
With fighting games, the experience with the game play will vary from character to character, and in part based on the personality of the gamer. While in all actuality said statement could be applicable to most gamers, it is particularly true with fighting games. In a well made fighting game, there would be various characters for various fighting styles. As well, there should theoretically be no absolutely useless characters in a well made fighting game. Even in higher end fighting games, there is always one or two (maybe more, depending on the game in question) characters that are not worth the time unless performing a 100% completion or a self imposed challenge. This game, to the untrained eye, would have absolutely no diversity. To the trained eye...there is limited diversity. An interesting aspect is that the player can utilize a limited form of customization. How many fighting games this appeared in before Cosmic Carnage isn't 100% clear, but it wasn't very dominant by any standards. The actual modifications that could be made mainly impacted whether or not the player would be theoretically heavier or lighter, but it isn't the most noticeable. It do act as a good way to change the appearances of the characters however.
The big deal is control, and more often than not there is virtually none. The jump in particular, partially due to poor depth perception within the game, is remarkably difficult to control, especially to newcomers. The special moves, even when performed perfectly, is a flip of a weighted coin whether or not they actually work. This has largely to do with awkward timing of the D Pad with the combination, which is normally attributed due to bad game design. The moves themselves are unremarkable even when they do work, and the damage can arguably be acquired in equal amounts by simply ducking and spamming one or two attacks. This game can almost be considered a rough, jerky car someone would pick up when on a budget, thinking that they would get a very smooth ride out of it due to advertisements or hearsay. AKA, the poor mans version of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat.
To conclude, Cosmic Carnage is one of those games that isn`t particularly good by any standards, but under some definitions could be that type of "so bad its good" game.. Actually, in some regards it isn't that bad at all, and no matter what one can say about this title...it is still better than Xenophage. There is a lot of cheese value, albeit the game is not as technically solid as most of its contemporaries. If one owns a 32X add-on and is looking for a fighting game, this is an option although it may be a better idea to stick to some of the fighting games on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. Someone who doesn't look at the "cheese" value in games would likely dismiss this game quickly. It's recommended as a good, cheesy, fun time though which sometimes is good enough.