By Kieron Gillen on May 21st, 2009 at 1:35 pm.
Oof. Painage. Now, it took a few seconds before I realised The Thrill Of Combat is from the man behind Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist, at which point everything made sense. Or, at least, I could see the point. Before we delve down this astoundingly painful hole, you may want to relax a little with his recent Party Boat. It’s kind of the demo for The Thrill of Combat, in that it features a helicopter, a boat and music by GDFX. It’s different in that it’s actually quite playable and charming, instead of The Thrill Of Combat which is… well, let me explain.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the game is that Messhof is actually charging for it. Just five dollars, but still an actual price, which ties into the recent debate about whether people are willing to pay for art games. The Thrill Of Combat is the sort of art-game you’re more used to playing for free. It’s a semi-co-op helicopter game where you fly around, zap people with lasers and then drop your gunner to the ground to harvest their organs with the aforementioned laser. Then you fly ‘em back home. In other words, it’s Choplifter meets Trauma Center with a glitch aesthetic. The semi-co-op comes in because when you drop your gunner off to harvest the bodies, the screen splits. So you have to control your helicopter – dodging missiles or, more likely, just flying away to a safe place – while simultaneously tracing the shapes of organs on the right with your superheated device. When the helicopter controls take great joy in disorientating you as much as possible – you’ll be lucky to have your helicopter consistently on its half split-screen – doing both is somewhat challenging. To say the least. Have a nose at the video, which kind of shows it off.
It doesn’t really show how disorientating the actual game is to play, I stress.
(The music is lovely, randomly.)
It’s an interesting one this. In that, it’s asking you to pay five-dollars for a game that’ll make you feel physically nauseous – this is the first time in living memory that I’m suffering anything like motion sickness in a game. I recall all those My Bloody Valentine gigs where they attempted to concuss the audience… and I’d have loved to be at any of them. With this, I’m not really getting that exhilaration of feeling my body breaking. It’s just making me feel terrible. And while I approve of the gleeful nihilism of it all, and think its aesthetic is splendid, I can’t help but think it’s a satire on paying for games (As in, the quasi-demo is perfectly playable but the thing you get when you throw down money is a load of shit that makes you feel sick). The Thrill of Combat is actually a really interesting idea for a game… but the developer has cheerfully gone out of its way to undermine that game, because he clearly enjoys pressing those buttons. It’s not disorientating in a way which implies incompetence. It’s disorientating in a way which implies a desire to disorientate. It’s also a game that we’re not going to be able to talk about in the comments thread other than an abstract idea, as I suspect none of you are going to pay for it. In which case, the game becomes about the debate and…
Oh, I’m just burying myself in semen here. I admit, I wish it was a free download, because I think some of you would find it invigorating to wrestle with for 10 minutes. But pay? Christ no. Do play Party Boat though, and keep looping to get that multiplier up.
Actually, sudden thought: I bet Quinns would love it. I’m totally forwarding the review code to him.