Vehicular combat games are a consistent rarity, and the same goes for arcade-fueled shoot-em up’s where score multipliers and power ups are the order of the day. Wasteland Angel – the first game from the Finnish, indie studio Meridian4 – tries to justice to both ends of the spectrum, in it that lets you wreak havoc with a red-tinted, gun-toting car while you collect devastating weapons and protect settlements from waves of roaming bandits. It sounds like a neat concept on paper but the execution is only half as exciting. Wasteland Angel makes practically no effort to make its old-school aesthetic and mechanics seem interesting, and though it’s fun and frantic in relatively short burst, its repetitive nature, short campaign and complete lack of any multiplayer options make it a disappointing romp throughout its decayed wasteland setting.
Wasteland Angel offers minimal exposition; you’re a female hot-shot named Angel, a woman who spends most of her time driving around in her red colored and armed vehicle dubbed “The Gypsy”. The world has fallen into a state of disrepair by way of an apocalypse, and bandits and mutants are roaming the barren landscapes. Seeing how there are still a good chunk of active, colonized settlements who are defenseless against the dangers of the wasteland, Angel decides to help them out. You then play a through a very strict series of missions where all you’re doing is driving around and blowing up all opposition.
The Gameplay is very basic; you play the game from an isometric perspective and as you kill enemies they drop powerups and upgrades and you’re also awarded with points. Enemies come in waves and between them are moments where you can take a breath and find the nearest recharge station for a quick fix. Enemies come in only three types – there are standard-fare vehicles called “Killers” that will try to, well, kill you. Then there are “Slavers”, huge vehicles that will invade settlements and capture civilians, meaning you have to blow them up before they abscond. Last up are “Duals”, which can pose both as killers and slavers, meaning they can both decimate you and raid settlements. Every chapter in the game is structured exactly the same as you play through two missions, then face a boss and finally end the chapter with a bonus level. The latter have objectives that run the gamut from racing through checkpoints to add additional time before a timer runs out, killing as many enemies as you can before dying and little else. One incredibly odd thing about these bonus missions is the fact that they are played from a first-person perspective, which is a perplexing design choice since it doesn’t spruce up the gameplay one bit and it instead just highlights how plain and often dull the game looks.
Repetition is also an issue in Wasteland angel – irrespective of what chapter or level you’re playing; you’re always given three lives and tasked with destroying every wave, that’s it. There are a few side objectives in certain missions, but these are not mandatory at all, only giving you a couple of extra points and they instead just feel thrown in there as a distraction. The Powerups however are hands-down the best part about Wasteland Angel, as they are fun to use and come in a good variety. You can place mines and spike traps, deploy sentry turrets, activate electro-magnetic pulse bombs, clear an area with nukes and so on. They also incorporate a bit of strategy as you can set up all manner of traps around settlements, effectively thwarting vehicles that will try to attack them. These are also crucial when you go up against one of the bosses in the game, but these encounters aren’t all that particularly challenging or all that fulfilling to participate in.
It should also be noted that Wasteland Angel is an incredibly short game, as I completed it in less than two hours. You’re graded after each level and there are multiple difficulties and leader boards to mess around with, but there are no multiplayer modes at all here, making it a scant and very short lived experience.
Even for a budget made game, Wasteland Angel looks surprisingly dull. The car models look blocky and the environments all look plain and uninspired. Sound design is nothing to write home about and the alarm sound effect that triggers whenever civilians are being captured is very grating. The comic book style cutscenes that bookend every chapter looks solid and the frame-rate and load times are both tolerable; it’s still a very generic looking game.
Is there some fun to be had in Wasteland Angel? Yes, provided you play it in short bursts. The combat is frantic and racking up multipliers and collecting powerups is enjoyable for a few minutes at a time, but with very little variety and a campaign that can easily be played and put down in half an afternoon, it’s hardly a good proposition value. It’s mindless fun but nothing else.
Wasteland Angel won’t blow anyone away and you’ll likely just feel like you’re just going through the motions on an autopilot and never really engaged in all the action and chaos that ensues. Its few flashes of fun are derived only from the frantic pace and the neat special weapons, but it’s all bogged down a general lack of variety and it’s over before you know it, resulting in a game that’s average at best.