Do something for me. In your head, picture a “cute” game. But not just any cute game. I’m talking the most kid-friendly, parent-approved, N64 can eat its heart out, rated E for everyone cuddle-fest ever made. Got it? Ok, so Death Skid Marks was released this week on Steam from Studio Whiskey Tango, and it happens to be just like that, only the complete opposite (…bet you didn’t see that one coming). In Death Skid Marks, committing murderous road rage, drunk driving, following developmentally-disabled tour guides, playing Russian roulette, and picking up equally heinous hitchhikers are just the rules of the road. Sound fun? Well let me tell you about it:
Let’s start from the beginning. As soon as you begin a new game you’re going to most likely choose the option to ride with Lernie—DSM’s mentally-challenged tutorial character. Lernie gets annoying quick, and comes across like the developers were trying a bit too hard to make fun of retarded people. His lessons are fast and a bit overwhelming, but most of it will settle in as soon as you start making your own decisions (and have likely died a couple times). Despite being a driving game, DSM describes itself as a rogue-like, which I suppose fits, since these days rogue-like pretty much means “really difficult game with RPG elements where you start all over when you die”. And yes, you will die a lot.
The setup for the game is that you are the somewhat-titular character, Mark Skid, and you’re on your way to a metal concert. Yeah that’s pretty much it. On the highway you encounter hillbillies, cops, white supremacists, robots, and others that you earn money for destroying. There are frequent road stops where you repair your car, stock up on weapons, junk food (for health), drugs (for stat bonuses; and from the most grotesque-looking female drug dealer you could possibly imagine, I might add), and to pick up new members for your hellacious crew.
The gameplay is simple but fun. You point your aimer where you want to shoot and let loose with unlimited ammo. Other passengers might be equipped with melee weapons, in which case you ram your car next to your opponent and the passengers will let them have it with whatever they are holding. Most of the battle strategy involves staying on the side of the enemy on which you have the least damage, or where they have the least armed passengers, but it can get more complex when encountering some of the less-standard enemies. The more wide-angle strategy involves choosing the best “jobs” for each member of your road crew so you can earn the most money, and then upgrading your weapons and car as aggressively as you can in order to not be burned alive by the first big baddie. The first few encounters you have will seem easy and asinine, and you will find yourself wondering why there are so many pit stops for such a simple game, but believe me, the difficulty will ramp up fast and you won’t even know what hit you.
Now although the game features callus murder, overdone cursing, and insensitive portrayals of pretty much every type of disability and lifestyle on earth, its done with levity and goofy enough of an illustration style as to stay on the lighter side of mayhem. If it wasn’t for the humor and art direction, I suppose the game wouldn’t be all that much different than Hatred, but unless cartoonish bloodbaths set you off, the game shouldn’t offend too awful much.
If you like your games crude and tough, this one has everything you need. You will die and die some more, but it will only make you eager to spill more blood on the open highway on the next go.