Cyber Sled – PlayStation
Release Date (NA): October 18th, 1995
Nerd Rating: 2 out of 10
The month of April is here, and we all know what that means: Time to bang our heads against the wall as we delve into games that are nothing more than complete wastes of the plastic and aluminum they were printed on. Nerd Bacon’s April’s Foolish Games is here, and today I’ll be reviewing Cyber Sled.
Cyber Sled is an arcade port made during the early period of the PlayStation’s life-cycle. It’s a 3rd-person shooter reminiscent of the BattleTanx series, with slightly more mobile vehicles and, somehow, slightly less enjoyable action. Taking control of the eponymous vehicles known as cyber sleds, the player is expected to play through encounter after mind-numbing encounter, eventually achieving next to nothing amid frustration and boredom.
The gameplay in Cyber Sled is not particularly compelling. It’s extremely simplistic; behind the wheel of a cyber sled, you can move side-to-side very quickly, forward and backward very slowly, shoot rockets, and fire your machine gun. Each encounter consists of battling a single NPC character in an abstract map with obstacles, firing away at each other until one’s health bar is depleted. The name of the game is move-and-shoot. This usually ends up in a sort of ballet dance with the opponent, trying to keep the other in your line of fire. This format continues a series of times until the final boss showdown. After you beat the boss, you win, I guess. There’s no story, as the developers kept the title true to its arcade origins. A single campaign takes less than 30 minutes to complete, and it’s the same thing every time. There is a tidy assortment of different cyber sleds to choose from, and to be fair, they do alter the feel of the game depending on which one you choose.
Cyber Sled is not hard. Enemies can be dispatched with minimal effort and are easy to predict. They are not very aggressive, and also have more than a few mental hangups, capable of getting stuck in processing loops that make the game’s health recovery system easy to exploit. I would argue that the hardest part of Cyber Sled are its controls. This game being made during the early PlayStation days, it relies on the D-pad, with no analog option. The D-pad moves and strafes, while R1 and L1 turn your sled from side to side. This is a very wonky way to play, and takes quite a bit of time to get used to, especially if you haven’t played a classic PlayStation in a while. The turning mechanics are also extremely sensitive, making it easy to over-aim.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Cyber Sled is that it’s not even interested in playing by its own rules. While the player’s machine gun can overheat and they have a limited amount of missiles they can use before having to replenish them, the enemies seem to be working with an untethered amount of both. This means they can fire away at you haphazardly, hitting you when you need to retreat, which is a very unsatisfying way to play, diminishing the enemies’ credibility. By the way…
Where are my missiles, even? How many do I have? Is there a way of finding out how many I have? What’s this ‘item’ box here, and why is there never anything in it? Why can’t my missiles go in this box? Besides health, missiles are literally the only pickup in the game. It would make sense to put them in the item box. What’s this stupid item box even there for if nothing goes in it? Also, why is there a lose/win counter? It’ll count your wins, sure, but one loss in the single-player mode leads to a game over. So what’s the point of a lose/win counter? Who designed this game? What drugs were they on?
Besides one-player mode, there’s also a two-player mode, and it’s…okay, I guess. Each player takes the reins of a cyber sled to duke it out in one of the handful of levels. Interestingly enough, the game forces you into first-person perspective for this game mode. I’m not entirely sure why this is done, but it adds an interesting dynamic and perspective. All in all, it’s about what you’d expect, extremely reminiscent of that weird sled match thing in Superman 64, more capable of destroying friendships than anything else.
The level design is equally fine. It’s there. It mostly consists of a lot of polygons plopped down onto a flat surface. There are no inclines, archways or anything interesting like that. Just a bunch of obstacles to move between that impede visibility and stop projectiles. There are only about 8 or 10 unique levels, which is kind of weird. They’re so simple and unimaginative, you would think it would have been easy to push out a lot of them, but no. There’s simply nothing to write home about here.
The music in Cyber Sled is extremely basic, consisting of a handful of 5-second techno loops that play over and over and over. It can get pretty annoying. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of dead air during menu navigating, making Cyber Sled feel that much more hollow and lifeless. And don’t even get me started on the dumbass announcer voice. Whoever they hired for that role is overacting to a large degree, sounding like a really bad impression of the tournament announcer from the Dragon Ball series.
At the end of the day, the gameplay, overall design, and sound mixing of Cyber Sled achieve an atmosphere very reminiscent of all those old PlayStation titles with empty, forgettable worlds that didn’t seem to have a context, existing in its own in some sort of Twilight Zone realm. The gameplay is poorly executed and dodgy, and is ultimately not very fulfilling or enjoyable. The HUD is equally depressing, hiding away missile count (a core component of the game) as if it’s some great secret. The levels are poorly designed and uninteresting, possessing an overall glitchiness that prevents any sort of interesting gameplay from occurring. Overall, Cyber Sled feels like a game that wasn’t given much love. No one on the development team was passionate about this game. This was not some inspired developer’s lovechild, carefully crafted to the best of their ability. This is a sad, tired port of an arcade game that only exists because someone, somewhere, knew that a poor sap like me might buy it. But hey, maybe the arcade version was pretty good.
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