French Revolution: Enter the Story: Les Miserables

By Kieron Gillen on June 22nd, 2009 at 12:45 pm.

He's in the next room, you fool.

This caught my eye over on TigSource, for a load of reasons. It’s an adventure game (kinda) version of Les Miserables. You buy the game for 15 dollars, and you get the next two games in the series free (Which are based on the Divine Comedy and Roman poet Lucretius’ “The Nature of things. Apparently). Even more-so, the profits are being put towards his research into popularising Georgist ideas of Land-rent. Oh – and he’s got plans for the next five years. Ideas aren’t in short supply.

Clearly, I had to give a demo a shot…

It’s interesting. It’s all set in the sewer section of the game - which Tigsource, having played more, thinks is a shame – and showcases some of the game’s more interesting aspects. For example, you don’t actually play anyone embedded in the actual narrative, but some manner of floating entity trying to guide the story. You double-left click on any individual to get them to say what they’re thinking right now. You right click on each of them and then on something around them to draw their attention to it. When you’re not doing that, you’re able to float around the map freely. You can’t interact, but you can scout. For example, the first obvious puzzle in the game – which I didn’t get past – is to get past two guards in the junction. You’re able to prompt them into responding, but they’re not interested in investigating stuff. Conversely, the main character will make his way to most places, and happily spends a lot of time poking at the shit with a handy stick and soliloquizing.

Oh woe, etc

You may guess that I’ve never read Les Miserables, at least partially out of a belief that if it can be turned into a musical, it probably isn’t worth bothering with. Conversely, I’ve always been a big believer if something can be turned into a videogame, it’s worth bothering with – few know that Super Mario Brothers was originally based on the Brothers Karamazov. As such, this actually seems novely-atompsheric. The graphics are, abstractly, terrible – but they’re also terribly abstract, and so manage to turn their limitation into an absolute merit. It brings to mind a few rotoscoped games, but really looks like few things else. That it managed to prove quite compelling even despite being as serious as the book it’s based on. The whole project has got a confidence about it.

I didn’t persist out of time and a sense that this is really John Walker territory which I’m infringing, but I suspect that some of you will be very interested in this oblique graphic adventure. You can get the demo here.

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49 Comments »

  1. Heliocentricity says:

    Its in a sewer, but does it have crates? I don’t play games without crates.

  2. Hermit says:

    Out of interest, what would happen if he’d actually made a game out of a musical? Which belief is the stronger?

    Pick up empty bowl
    Give empty bowl to Poorhouse Master
    Use annoying musical number on Poorhouse Master

    …And so on.

  3. Brother None says:

    You typo’d Les Miserables quite a few times, including in the title.

    That said, I’d read it if I were you. I don’t care about or for the musical (or any musical), never seen it, but the novel is one of the greatest achievements of literary history, and easily one of my most favourite books.

    I’ll give this a spin to be sure.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    I thought I’d google-fixed it, but I actually forgot to past it in. Man!

    KG

  5. Helm says:

    Yes you could do much worse than to read the book, it is excellent.

    This does warrant investigation. I will, eventually. But I have to make comics for many months now, no time for playing whatever happens on the internet.

  6. Morningoil says:

    The musical and the novel have only the most tenuous connection and it would be remarkably unfair to dismiss the latter on the basis of the mere existence of the former. It would not, however, be unfair to dismiss the novel on the grounds of it not being especially good. It was the endless wild coincidences that pissed me off: some of the scene-setting is pretty effective.

    Right. Going back to Thief, I think.

  7. Clovis says:

    Errr… so Luigi killed his father?

    The Legend of Zelda is based on The Idiot, right? I’ve always thought of Link as Prince Myshkin…

  8. MrBejeebus says:

    DAMN YOU METAL GEAR.

  9. BooleanBob says:

    Kinell, KG, you may be being glib but you’re wrong on this one. The novel is utterly fantastic; I’ve never seen the musical. Hunchback is great too, but I was a little put off by the arbitrary ‘about turn’ nature of the ending. Hugo’s style has all the assurance and flair of a literary confidence trickster, but there’s no questioning his heavyweight novelist chops. Plus he has this (awesome) habit of veering off into pages-long spiels on architecture, geography, theology, history and monarchical alchemical conspiracy, providing some fascinating contextual (to his story, at least) angle without ever quite mangling the narrative flow. The coincidences do start to get a little ‘oh, come on‘, yes, but it’s a crime committed by just about every other write out there, from the most celebrated Russian novelists and the lowest hacks and purveyors of pulp detective fiction. To dismiss the fella on these grounds alone might not be unfair, but it’s still your loss, buddeh. And what a loss.

    So uh yeah you should definitely check it out Gills. And in the meantime, I will check out this flash game. Can’t see it besting that insane Japanese 2D fighter that was doing the rounds a few years back, though.

  10. General Ludd says:

    West Side Story is a counter-example to the hypothesis “all books on which musicals can be based are rubbish”.

  11. Clovis says:

    Morningoil:

    The musical and the novel have only the most tenuous connection

    I’m surprised by the reaction here to the musical. I can’t imagine a musical being created that could possibly follow the novel better. The differences are pretty minor. I absolutely love both of them.

    Now, if someone could just make a musical based on Crime and Punishment.

  12. Clovis says:

    Board Game + Tim Rice + Dude from ABBA = WIN

  13. Saul says:

    Yeah, the musical is actually really good. There’s also a sweet miniseries version with John Malkovich. Haven’t read the book, but not through lack of interest.

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    Sometimes, I really am lost for words

    KG

  15. AndrewC says:

    Musical Theatre fans are a HUGE pc demographic. You should work it.

  16. Chis says:

    If there’s ever a game version of Jesus Christ Superstar, it must feature Ian Gillan, lest it be deemed worthless.

  17. Heliocentricity says:

    What have you unleashed upon us Gillen? Do you at least feel shame?

  18. JuJuCam says:

    I know it’s early in the thread, but I’m a little surprised at the general close-mindedness on display here. If you discarded every work that has ever been given a stage musical treatment you’d be rubbishing Jeckyl and Hyde, Evil Dead, Queen and Monty Python amongst probably many more that I don’t know or can’t recall. You also make Hugh Jackman sad.

    I kinda get that paying at least the price of a new release game to sit in crappy seats pointed at poncey people prancing about in leotards and singing about cats or witches isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun night out, but Les Miserables is a show with balls if ever there was one. It’s about [SPOILER ALERT] a revolution where all the revolutionaries die. Including a 10 year old boy. How many games show a 10 year old being shot? And everyone who doesn’t end up dead has a pretty rotten time of it besides the thieves [END SPOILER]. It’s Apocalypse Now The Musical set in France in the early 1800′s.

    Ok, a solid 80% of musicals are crappy wastes of time at best, higher percentage if you’re only thinking the big broadway hits. But what’s the percentage of worthwhile PC games? There’s a lot to love if you take the time to check it out. In any medium.

  19. Kieron Gillen says:

    Heliocentricity: Sometimes all I feel is shame.

    KG

  20. anon says:

    rent > half-life

  21. The D-Man says:

    You diss the Les Mis musical, you can take it up with me Gillen.
    That shizzle is teh shizzle!!!1!

    Saw it just a few weeks ago for the first time, and fell in love…

  22. Robyrt says:

    Les Miserables, I like. (Both the book and the musical.) The suffocating interior monologue that happens whenever you double-click, I like.

    Pixel hunting through a dozen vaguely named rooms in the LEAST exciting venue of the entire book? Nope.

  23. solipsistnation says:

    The graphics look very old-school– like they were made using vector-drawing tools for a 680×0-based Macintosh with 4-bit graphics and most of the animation would be faked by resizing the vector graphic objects…

  24. Jp says:

    Sometimes, I really am lost for words

    KG

    Careful. That’s skirting dangerously close to ballet territory.

  25. Hermit says:

    This thread suggests a lucrative gap in the market for a musical based on a computer game.

  26. Cutman says:

    Isn’t Les Miserables the novel with the 500 word long sentence or something? Maybe it was just 50, I dunno.

  27. jarvoll says:

    ^ Oh God. I can just see it now:

    DOOM – The Musical. With revolutionary first-person-perspective moments!

  28. jarvoll says:

    Dammit, no edits:

    Les Misérables *is* a pretty good novel. I don’t know about any 500-word-long sentences, but there are two MASSIVE pauses (the first: 50 pages; the second: 100 pages) for descriptions of stuff that have only glancing influence on the plot. Crazy. I actually skipped about half of the convent section, and it made no difference to my understanding or appreciation. I just learned a little less about 200-year-old French Catholicism (i.e. no big loss).

    I’ve actually been meaning to get a copy in French for a while now; apparently the moment when Javert switches from addressing Valjean with “tu” to addressing him with “vous” is chillingly emotional.

  29. AndrewC says:

    Dude – put those side curtains on a conveyor system (like ski lifts) and you can have the ‘walls’ constantly moving towards the audience. Spring loaded trap doors for the monster closets. Gause curtain over the front for UI overlay.

    Musical theatre IS fps.

    Now all you need is a rhyme for Cacodemon.

  30. Clovis says:

    Isn’t Les Miserables the novel with the 500 word long sentence or something? Maybe it was just 50, I dunno.

    No… I’m sure Finnegan’s Wake pulls that off. Ulysses might as well. Both by James Joyce.

    Also, I’m glad there’s been some defence of Les Mis. It is wonderfully grim, but [SPOILER] in the end all the good people go to heaven![END SPOILER]

  31. Hermit says:

    “Now all you need is a rhyme for Cacodemon.”

    #Dream on!
    Do you think you can beat the,
    Cacodemon?
    You’ve not even got a B-F-G#

  32. Hypocee says:

    Jeeeez. I love to hear arguments for radical reform, but that guy’s not sane. I agree with what premises I can make out, I’d love to agree with the conclusion, but I trawled through about a dozen of his pages and the logical fallacies and unsupported or counterfactual statements are best measured on a per paragraph scale. I wonder if it comes through in the puzzles? I suppose it can be no weirder than ‘use mayonnaise on statue’.

  33. Ozzie says:

    Fate of Atlantis, right? That wasn’t an illogical puzzle. Well, okay, I’m not sure if it would really work that well in real life, but I guess it would.

    Anyway, I played the demo some months ago. It didn’t convince me to buy the game. I also tested a beta version before release and I thought it looks interesting.
    Certainly a unique game, but I doubt that it’s very playable. Really, the sewers suck.

  34. Ozzie says:

    Regarding the mayonnaise puzzle: It begs the question how Indy got the mayonnaise under the statue. Hm…

  35. DBeaver says:

    Depending on how you look at it, Ulysses contains a sentence sprawled over 60 pages of dense writing, probably putting it into 10 thousands of words. Though it’s not quite grammatically correct… you can find it here:
    http://www.claddaghireland.com/library/molly.htm
    Since it is the last chapter, it could be considered spoilerific for ppl, but if you seriously think that Ulysses is read for the plot, then…

  36. Hypocee says:

    No, it wasn’t especially illogical for an adventure game, I just wanted to call back to a weird-out-of-context solution that many people would know about :)

  37. Vanderdecken says:

    Les Misérables (accent police!) is, as has been mentioned, teh shizzle. Book AND musical. Anyone who listens to the original London cast recording and writes it off as crap because the entire orchestra is played on a shite electronic keyboard is right to write off that recording, but not the whole show. Listen to the proper version.

    Epic show. Epic story.

  38. Kieron Gillen says:

    This is the last time I’ll make a joke about musical versions of Victor Hugo novels.

    KG

  39. AndrewC says:

    I give it a week.

  40. sinister agent says:

    I’ll add myself to the roster of people saying it’s a great book. It’s got by far the highest great sentence to boring sentence ratio of anything I’ve read for a good couple of years.

  41. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    I’ve always thought that musicals and RPS did not go well together. Which is why I couldn’t help but imagine them combined–like peanut butter and chocolate. Snarky, British chocolate.

    And am pleasantly surprised to see so many people leap to Les Miz’ defense. I think this calls for a song.

  42. Vanderdecken says:

    @Dorian: heehee, Austrian guy is funny. As is Japanese guy, Hungarian guy and Swedish guy. That DVD is epic, the album I linked to above is simply the audio recording of it. I have both. <3

  43. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    @Vanderdecken: Hopefully Japanese guy will look familiar.

  44. jarvoll says:

    ORLY? I can’t stand the 10th-Anniversary edition. They skip half the material, and don’t act. MUCH prefer the full-London-cast edition, though 10th-Anniversary Fantine pwns that puncy Fantine in the FLC; wow, what a voice!

  45. malkav11 says:

    I am reaffirmed in my strong commitment to never, ever read James Joyce.

  46. MD says:

    @ malkav11

    I feel that I must urge you to reconsider.

  47. mister slim says:

    I look forward to Gillen’s cutting review when that Phonogram comic is finally adapted into a musical.

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