I think it’s fair to say that Ratalaika are the most prolific publisher on the PS4 at this point. It feels like there’s not a week that goes by that doesn’t see a budget game published by them onto the PSN Store. The latest, Concept Destruction, released this week and it’s a novel take on Demolition Derby.
The hook here is that your cars are made of cardboard. When you boot up the game you’re treated by an intro video of a concept artist dreaming up vehicles made of cardboard. So, it happens. He builds them, you drive them, they collide and get destroyed. It’s a no-nonsense, no frills concept.
Literal Table Top Gaming
Set on table top stages that have obstacles like pens, coke cans, scissors and even a pizza box with a few leftover slices, the idea behind each event is to survive while doing as much damage as possible to your opponents. Once the lights turn green, the whole field of cars go at it, smashing into one another.
There’s some fun yet very unrealistic physics in Concept Destruction that relate to the car damage. The cardboard vehicles will dent, concertina, cave in and fall to pieces as you crash into one another. Each ding you take effects how your car handles. Lose a wheel and turning at speed can flip you over. Lose 2 wheels and you might as well be the Titanic trying to avoid that iceberg. Get mashed up while still keeping your battery and engine in tact and you can end up just limping around an arena unable to do anything other than wait for someone to finally smash you to pieces.
To win each event in Concept Destruction, you have to either be the last car standing or have done more damage to the pack than anyone else when the timer runs out. In the competition mode, you’ve got to win a series of events. Strangely, there’s no second place here. You either win or you’ve forced to restart the event you failed until you do win.
This can be a tad frustrating as the AI is erratic and events can be chaotic. This isn’t a game that requires skill and no matter how good you are at driving games, it won’t help here. A win can come as simply as watching your last 2 competitors drive off a table together. A loss can come – repeatedly – 30 seconds into an event as you get crushed by the entire pack. This is especially true when your first and only unlocked car is as sturdy as a wet paper bag.
A better selection of vehicles are unlocked as you achieve better high scores in the competition mode. A better car means the ability to achieve higher scores which in turn unlocks even better vehicles. Each car has their strengths and weaknesses and handling of their own. It’s a nice little loop but it does make for repetitive play. You’re competing on the same tracks over and over – more often if you fail – and the novelty of the game play wears off quickly because of it.
Then there’s some very odd failure conditions too. You can lose an event if you stop moving or don’t hit another car for a period of time. I understand the reasoning behind these rules – without them you could just park up in a safe space and wait until the AI cars kill each other then swoop in for the win. The issue here though is that if your cardboard vehicle gets utterly trashed and your opponents aren’t in much better shape, you can fail by simply not having the juice to bump into one another. When you’ve lost 2 wheels, and the only opponent left also looks like someone suplexed an Amazon delivery into a car crusher and they’re a long way away, it’s easy to lose this way purely because getting to one another slows to a snails pace. There probably needed to be systems in place to recognise when you’re simply unable to smash and bash or, even better, better incentive staying in the action (maybe by repairing a little of your vehicle if you total an opponent). Instead, it’s possible to take out half the field of cars and then lose on a technicality.
There’s another little niggle too – the respawning. When you’re upside down, you can right yourself with the left thumbstick. Doing so opens your boot, trunk and doors to flip you. If you’ve lost all of these in a crash, the game just respawns you the right way up. The kicker? It does it to all the opponents too. The respawn sets you a little above the ground too so as you appear, you fall a little. I lost count of the number of times I was bearing down on a car on its side ready to jacknife them in half only for them to respawn in the air, for me to drive under them and collide with a wall.
Visually, Concept Destruction is basic but it does a good enough job convincing the player that they’re competing on a table top arena made of cardboard and tools. As your car gets damaged, some of the models have weird physics glitches where you’ll see the wheels coming through the wings of the car and the likes. It’s probably the price you pay for having an extensive damage type like that in the game.
Once you’ve played the single player content for 1-2 hours, you’ll have seen everything Concept Destruction has to offer. Thankfully there’s a local 2 player split-screen mode here which will add a little more longevity to the game.
In need of recycling?
Concept Destruction is instantly accessible a neat take on the Destruction Derby set on table tops with cardboard cars. There’s some odd rules that can cause a headache and there’s not a lot of content here. After a few hours, you’ll have seen everything the game has under the hood. The local 2-player mode is welcome but the game is crying out for an online battle mode. It won’t be challenging Wreckfest for its crown but if you’re looking for a few hours of brainless crashing and bashing on a budget, you’ll find it here.
Concept Destruction is available now on PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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