So Meta It Hurts: Ginormo Sword

By Alec Meer on July 30th, 2009 at 1:04 am.

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At what point do games which satirise the stereotypes and foibles of other games stop being funny and clever and become a stereotype themselves? We’ve had quite a few this past year – You Have To Burn The Rope, Achievement Unlocked, Upgrade Complete… I suspect free webgame Ginormo Sword could be one of the last to get away with this kind of snipe for a while, before everyone gets a bit ticked off with being told they’re an idiot for playing videogames. That it does get away with it is mostly because it has a ginormo sword.

The target this time is Diablolikes and MMOs. You kill stuff to get a bigger sword to help kill stuff to get a bigger sword to help kill stuff to get a bigger sword to help kill stuff… Well, you get the picture. It’s pretty much the same gag as Progress Quest, but rather than reducing the genre to self-inflating statistics this one rubs your face in the banality of your own actions by making you perform them at their most basic level. Monsters here! Nastier monsters there! Back and forth, back and forth, until you can afford a bigger sword. Then back and forth and back and forth again, and so on. That sword just keeps on getting bigger.

There’s nothing more to it than that. And that, once the frills of graphics and cutscenes are brushed away, is often all you’re really doing when you play Diablo et al. Probably Borderlands too.

Sickeningly, it becomes rather compulsive. Despite the horrible combat controls (mouse only), the beyond lo-fi graphics and the grating music, I kept playing. Because I wanted a bigger sword. That’s probably the most damning statement Ginormo Sword makes – that even the most mindless hack’n'slash RPGs are only really taking advantage of some hard-wired weakness in our covetous brains. Maybe, though, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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44 Comments »

  1. Noc says:

    So I checked this out a while back, and gave it up pretty quickly because it was too grindy and not all that interesting.

    On the other hand, I enjoyed the crap out of Upgrade Complete, but didn’t think it was nearly as funny as Achievement Unlocked after the first few “Buy essential components of the UI.”

    There may be a lesson here.

  2. Jonas says:

    Nice collection of gaming satire there, we just need to add Linear RPG to the list and I think we’ve got everything. I’m a little embarrassed to see how many of them make fun of the RPG genre trapping because I love RPGs :(

  3. PleasingFungus says:

    …I’m not actually sure this is a parody.

    (And You Have To Burn The Rope was over a year ago, for whatever that’s worth.)

  4. Metal_Circus says:

    In all fairness, I was bored of this kind of thing after the stupid frenzy of LOL over YHTBTR.

  5. Serph says:

    Don’t forget “Press Space To Win”, the RPG that plays itself!

  6. h4plo says:

    At what point does criticizing a satirical piece for being a stereotype itself fall into being .. a stereotype? It seems like these games are specifically engineered not for people to play and say, “Hay! This is an extreme abstraction of my love and joy!” so much as to play and say, “Hay! This here is some fodder for your FORUM to talk about how everything is a stereotype!”

    So meta it hurts, indeed.

  7. Gpig says:

    I don’t think reducing games to just the addicting core that the rest hangs on is anymore an indictment than reducing food down to its base nutritional elements is an indictment on cooking.

  8. Gpig says:

    I don’t think reducing games to just the addicting core that the rest hangs on is anymore an indictment than reducing food down to its base nutritional elements is an indictment on cooking.

  9. Mman says:

    “and the grating music”

    Where is there music in this?

  10. perilisk says:

    “Nice collection of gaming satire there, we just need to add Linear RPG to the list and I think we’ve got everything.”

    They featured one of those a while back. It was literally linear, you walked along a line, lost health, gained XP, regained your health at waypoints. While you walked, a story scrolled by in the background.

  11. Beastman says:

    I remember playing this game what seems like about a year ago…I didn’t get further than about 3 screens in, but I’m not entirely sure it was meant to be a satirical game.

    Pointless, but not necessarily satirical.

  12. unique_identifier says:

    i played this for a whole hour. this is why i should not subscribe to any more mmos.

  13. CMaster says:

    I think I actually played this before all the above mentioned were out. Not sure about Burn the rope mind.
    Still, I actually found it kinda fun for a while, before there got to be stages hwhich you had to repeat many times over.

    I notice it seems to have recieved a few extra features (eg shrines) since I last played.

  14. CoreyW says:

    I played a TON of this game around this time last year. It was an insane compulsion. I don’t remember what kept me playing. I lost interest in the giant sword fairly early, it was just a tool to get something else but I don’t know what Maybe I just wanted to see and kill every kind of monster.

    Anyway, if I recall correctly, I grinded enough to get to the last zone or whatever and then found out there was a lot more grinding to go. I gave up. It was so so futile.

  15. Collic says:

    You have to burn the rope is still brilliant. I didn’t really care for this one.

  16. Wazzle says:

    You know, I think this genre is tired as well… but in Ginormo’s defense, I believe it came out well before most of the others.

  17. fearghaill says:

    for the record, the red part in this:

    http://usera.imagecave.com/artifexite/hahaha.jpg

    is that person’s sword.

  18. fearghaill says:

    For the record, the red part in this:

    http://usera.imagecave.com/artifexite/hahaha.jpg

    is the person’s sword.

  19. sockpuppetclock says:

    I remember playing this a year ago for a month or two, and now I look at it and see I got to about 1,000,000,000 and a sword that fills the screen a hundred times over. Sheeeesh.

  20. Hypocee says:

    I suspect free webgame Ginormo Sword could be one of the last to get away with this kind of snipe for a while

    I’m surprised to find out Ginormo Sword’s only a year old. Seems like it’s been out forever. Huh. I’d describe it as parody over satire – and though the mechanics definitely reflect Diablo, it’s unsurprisingly aimed more at the JRPG’s grind, encounters and…well…ginormo swords.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve discovered Babarageo. Other good stuff by him:
    I wouldn’t describe Robodome as good, actually, but it is unique – something I’d like to see remade, just better. I think folks would benefit from taking a one-life spin through it.
    Babarageo itself is pretty interesting, an exploration of the shmup in a space we wouldn’t normally recognise as gameable. It also has the common, er, Babarageo trait of a frame-breaking powerup system.
    Uchuforce and Uchuforce 2 are good fun pixel shmups. Uchuforce 2 has a fairly demanding powerup system, and actually takes the radical step of acknowledging that for all shmups except Ikaruga* the fire button may as well not be there.
    * and the others I don’t remember or care about
    Indigo=Roger is just a little ditty in the key of Game and Watch.
    And last but not least, Boschvos ate me alive for weeks when I discovered it. The ‘Plasma Ball’ ship is forever The Ovipositor to me. Right arrow skips to the next ‘level’, just keep pressing/holding it until you get something other than ‘undefined’. You can skip anything you don’t like. Other people apparently get the proportion of cocks you’d expect, but I’ve run into about four ever. It’s weird. I get lots of joke one-tile or explosive ships, but very few phalli. NB: One type of tile boosts the strength of armour tiles as long as one booster tile is still alive; I think of them as ‘heatsinks’.

  21. Hypocee says:

    ‘I love HTML and no preview’, said the tool-blaming workman. Semidead links take 2: Babarageo index and Uchuforce 2

  22. Light_Bahamut says:

    A Freudian psychologist would have a field-day with this game and you.

    “So Alec, why do you feel that you need to have a bigger sword? Do you have a fascination with large phallic objects?”

  23. apa says:

    it’s really not a good game

  24. pignoli says:

    Yeah, getting a git bored of these.

    Now, to find that kick-arse bow in Titan Quest…

  25. Xercies says:

    Please stop punishing me for playing these kind of games, I know what I’m doing…I don’t care.

  26. GreatUncleBaal says:

    I shouldn’t have tried this since I’m playing through Diablo 2 again at the moment – it feels like it’s taking the piss out of a family member, or something.
    That said, I played Ginormo for longer than I should have, given its appalling controls and design, which says something about me and reward systems in games, I suppose.

  27. merc says:

    It really is almost exactly like Diablo 2 – a hint of fun buried beneath tons of dull boring clicky stuff to get better gear.

  28. FhnuZoag says:

    Someone needs to make a meta-meta-game.

  29. aoanla says:

    @Hypocee: “for most shmups the fire button may as well not be there”.

    Apart from the R-Type inspired shmups with a charging beam weapon, of course. Which, considering the importance of R-Type to the shmup genre, is a fairly big thing to miss…
    (There are others, but you did mention that there were trivial exceptions, so I shall omit them.)

  30. Tei says:

    Babarageo is a blast. It seems I love this type of games (:

  31. Tei says:

    Wait, NO!. I hate babarageo. I love Ginormo Sword!

  32. cyrenic says:

    That was awful. I wanted to stop after about 5 minutes of playing it, and then only played it for another 5 to see if it was going to do something interesting. Guess not :P.

  33. The Innocent says:

    Personally, I thought You Have to Burn the Rope was a fantastic bit of commentary. I don’t know how true it is that people really couldn’t figure it out — I saw the comments in the forums, people asking for help, but I truly wonder if anyone was actually that dense. If they were, we probably should feel poorly about making fun of them.

    I also thought Achievement Unlocked was quite apt. I didn’t finish it all because I’m not that compulsive, but I did play a game that wasn’t very fun for a lot longer than I normally would have in order to get little messages saying that I had accomplished… a lot of deaths, or a very long fall, or had found the number pi. Reminds me of some insane things I do in some games to get achievements, like playing multiplayer in a game that I don’t like, etc.

    Upgrade Complete, though, I thought failed. Again, I’m not generally compulsive about those things, and I didn’t get halfway through. It seemed like a game that hated gamers a tad too much. Ginormo Sword also doesn’t feel like a success, but that’s likely due to the fact that I’ve never liked those sorts of games. It always reminds me that I’ve never beaten Act I in Diablo 2, and how dorky I feel when I realize I’ve purchased the game on two separate occasions.

  34. Narwolf says:

    Is it really taking the piss at of the compulsive rpg genre though? I’m curious how people would react if it hadn’t been framed as a joke/parody. I mean it is clearly made in fun, but I detect no sneer to the simplicity of it.

  35. PleasingFungus says:

    Yeah – my brother got much farther than I did before stopping, and we’re pretty sure now. It’s sincere. (If it was just messing around, the enlarge-your-sword thing would be a much bigger deal, and there wouldn’t be any of that statue-with-flashing-eyes or armour-upgrading or magic stuff.) It’s a pretty cut-down entry in the genre, and the controls are, in fact, astonishingly horrible… but I think this is basically an extension of Poe’s law.

    Also, Hypocee, thanks for the links. Robodome and Babarageo didn’t do much for me, but Boschvos was pretty interesting.

  36. PleasingFungus says:

    (Ah – a reversed example of Poe’s law, that is. Hm. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good comparison.)

    (Sometimes I miss the edit button.)

  37. Paxton says:

    “I don’t think reducing games to just the addicting core that the rest hangs on is anymore an indictment than reducing food down to its base nutritional elements is an indictment on cooking.”

    Best.
    Metaphor.
    Yet.
    Today.
    <3

  38. Magnus says:

    I played Ginormo Sword many months ago now, but I compulsively played it for a couple of hours a day for about a week or so.

    Even then, after getting to the final square, and beating what I thought was the final boss…. there was another boss!

    Seriously risked RSI and my mouse’s health.

  39. malkav11 says:

    I never really had much time for any of these.

  40. Hypocee says:

    Yeah, see, I have this irrational dislike of horizontal shmups with a discernible vertical axis, so I think I may have never played an R-Type. :O

  41. Commenter #876789 says:

    Fun for a bit, then I got frustrated by the fact that straying off the screen takes you back to the area map. Nothing worse than having to redo a battle that you almost finished, just because you walked a little bit too far to the left. >:(

  42. damnyouRPS says:

    I just spent the last 6 hours of my life on this.

    WHY!?

  43. Kavika says:

    I’ve spent like 2 days playing this now. I also agree w/ Narwolf in that I think it is just simple because it is simple, not simple because it is parodying anything else. The author clearly has played Blizz or Castlevania RPGs, tho. Looks like something my friends or I would have made in high school, polished all the way out.

  44. Ian says:

    Since this is a full-length, enjoyable game, I’m not sure if it qualifies as satire. Sure, it may parody many conventional RPG cliches, but I don’t think the entire game was created just to make a statement.
    Also, despite the grinding, I enjoyed the game.