And Now for Something Totally [sic] Different
It’s been one year! And yes, I am going to mask the fact that I haven’t been giving enough time to read video game comic books and review them by pretending to come up with a “creative” article for the anniversary issue. Let’s call it A Bunch of Random Webcomics Referencing Video Games. ABoRWRVG. Yes, that definitely rolls off the tongue better than “xkcd”. So here we go:
ABoRWRVG #1 – Limbo
While the “f*ck this sh*t I’m going to make a game when I grow up” memes are quite popular on the internet and arguably inspiring (for a moment or two), they hold back a very vital piece of information from the viewer: that it is insanely difficult to pull off! Imagine doing all of this on your own: preparing and developing the concept and narrative, the level design, programming, art, gameplay design, and even testing, getting it rated, distributed, and finally releasing patches and expansion packs. Oh, just go and watch Indie Game – The Movie already.
For all my fanboying with independent games, it’s quite evident I’d start with one! For those who haven’t played it, I am not going to describe how mindblowingly awesome Limbo is as a video game, instead am simply going to tell you that the whole game has no dialogue, no cut-scenes/tutorials, is entirely in black-and-white, and won’t take you more than an ordinary multimedia system and three hours to play and complete – so please go and do it if you haven’t already.
If you have played it on the other hand, thank me for the nostalgic, heart-warming smile the webcomic below by Actiontrip renders across your face:
ABoRWRVG #2 – L.A. Noire
Rockstar is one of those rare-as-a-blue-lobster studios that you don’t think of when prompted with “big production multinational developer and publisher.” What’s little known – not to insult you gamer-encyclopaedias * oh stop it you * – is that it’s owned by Take Two Interactive, who published the pioneering tactical shooters Hidden and Dangerous 1 & 2, by Illusion Softworks (now 2K Czech), and also Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Oblivion.
What is commonly known is that Rockstar created the Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, and Red Dead games. The underdog, L.A. Noire, is what is in my opinion one of the most revolutionary modern games you can expect from a big-budget developer – hint: it’s classified as action-adventure-neo-noir-crime on Wikipedia. You play as Detective Cole – who unfortunately doesn’t talk much about terrible and secret fates of life – but is tasked with solving crimes committed in the heart of Los Angeles, by examining crime scenes, collecting evidence, questioning suspects and judging the truth in their statements based on not only the evidence collected, but the facial expressions and gestures of the NPC! (Rockstar used motion capture to achieve that, and certain critics complained about how lifeless the bodies are neck-down because the clothes “don’t move”).
The game is pseudo-open-world (linear storyline), has the classiest jazz music I have ever heard in a video game, is peppered with amazing art, and involves real-life serial killers and mob bosses that terrorised California in the 1940s.
Warm goosebumps. Every time.
Here’s an amusing take on the gameplay independence by Ctrl+Alt+Del.
ABoRWRVG #3 – Portal/Half-Life
Imagine working for a flat organisation – where there are literally no bosses, and where you can move freely between projects at will. Add some icing to the cake: said studio also created the first online platform for indie developers to publish on, and keep 70% of profits. Cherries on top: when they release a comic book for a game, they create it in-house. Now you know why Valve is my dream company; and if you don’t believe it, here’s The Valve Handbook for New Employees as proof. So here’s how I make up for putting my favourite big studio third in a list: I link a five-part mash-up comic of two of their epic games, by GalooGameLady!
The comics are hilariously amusing and mostly centre around Chell obsessing over Gordon and cat-fighting Alyx, while Barney nurses a semi on seeing Chell. The only missing item is a bunch of terrorists whose bombs these buggers would then run around defusing. Yes, ever since I played Portal, I keep imagining what other games with portal guns would be like. And no, it’s not retarded. Evidence:
Pull a Luigi
ABoRWRVG #4 – Contra
Among all the 100-in-1 BS, I had one NES cartridge which had only three games: Super Mario, Tetris, and Contra (I can hear some nerdgasms already). Unfortunately, pitifully, and shamefully, I have lost it. Though I don’t really play Tetris any more, I can still pull off a single-life Contra (given, after a few failed attempts). The progenitor of all FPS/TPS, developed by Konami, Contra is a relatively small 8-bit game – it only has eight levels, all of which have such brilliantly and meticulously crafted MIDI soundtracks (okay, technically seven – Hangar and Jungle share the same track) that there are covers of the soundtrack in varying genres on YouTube.
And remember to keep your metal head gear on for this one-page strip by Jeremy Arambulo:
ABoRWRVG #5 – FTL
It isn’t very often that you encounter a game which has some serious replay value, and FTL definitely fits that bill, at least for RPG fans. Faster Than Light isn’t a typical video game RPG, but instead you’ll be reminded of the classic tabletop, where which card you play at what time plays a major role in determining the endgame. Subset games have mixed RTS (real-time strategy) elements to that and created a very tight and well thought out, top-down universe that the gamer will soon come to love. As for the soundtrack, I will very rarely be spotted talking about modern electronic music, but this is one game where I found it to be quite interesting and melodic! For those of you who have played, you’d know how valuable the Rockmen are to your crew, and here’s a pane paying tribute to their indestructibleness, by Virtual Shackles!
Since we are talking about Rockmen
ABoRWRVG Bonus – Luigi blues
There’s been too much amusement here today; a StripTease article is not an amusement, it’s history. The time has come for all of us to contemplate history. And we shall do that by revisiting the video game, Super Mario, and a dark and grim comic in tribute to the underdog, the number two, Luigi and his troubles in life. This is now so obscure that I don’t even know where it resided originally or who created it. If you have an idea to it, tell us! On the other hand, if you haven’t read this yet, do so. It is that piece of rare fan fiction that has depth. To whomever created this work of ingenuity: I salute thee.