The Games of Christmas: December 13th

By RPS on December 13th, 2009 at 4:01 pm.

Talk to the hand.
In our dreams we can fly. In real life, however, we are like sea-slugs, grubbing about in the murky silt at the bottom of the atmosphere. We can do nothing but fall. So take our hand as we plummet through our seasonally festive advent-o-calendar, and think only of the indicative index finger of the one true leader of the Autobots as we discover…


AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity

Jim: The weirdness of AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! seems to have pushed it off a lot of people’s radars, but it’s somehow just weird enough to stay on ours. While base-jumping doesn’t sound like a particularly unusual theme for a game, it’s the arcade-game-with-psychedelic-unrealism take on skydiving that really makes this worth paying attention to. The entire game is wrapped in a peculiar skin of oddball humour and garish presentation. The buildings, such as they are, float in space and are shrouded in myriad colours. You, meanwhile, are making obscene gestures on the way down, trying risk your life as much as possible, without actually dying. In terms of extreme-sports-made-game this is the polar opposite of Mirror’s Edge. It’s lurid, eccentric, and actually brilliantly conceived as a game of skill. I know this is one of those titles that only a small set of people will actually connect with, but we get a bunch of those games every year, and thank fuck for that.

Kieron: Oddly, skimming Jim’s words, I find myself thinking of the comic Metabarons. Its McGuffin for much for the mentalosity was a chemical which can cause things to float, which is obviously enormously valuable. For Aaa(Snip-Ed!), it’s… oh, let’s have that opening monologue again:

In the year of our Lord, Nineteen Eighty Two, Polystructures fell from space. Massive but light, they touched the atmosphere, and stuck.
Scientists made new materials. Builders made new cities. Families made their homes thousands of feet above ground level.
Art made the floating super-sculptures, and culture made the floating caviar socials to regard them.
In the year of our Lord, Twenty Eleven, you cannot look up from beneath a city and see the stars.
But you can look down from above it. And you can jump.
The jumps you make are not about art. They are about a reckless disregard for safety.
The jumps you make are not about culture. They are about a reckless disregard for regulation.
The jumps you make are not about science. They are about a reckless disregard for gravity.

Crikey. That’s a plot.

In other words, much like Metabarons, this is the ludicrous being used as an excuse for the further ludicrous being used as the justification of the awesome. I suspect this ability to commit is why Aaa(Snip!-Ed) sticks with me when some similar purely mechanic-based arcade joys dim a little. It reminds me a little like having life-changing bands when I was younger. There were always the sort of music fan who looked down on a band who did anything other than stand on stage and sing songs. Because, as they actually rightly say, everything else doesn’t matter. That’s the important thing. But the alternative argument is… well, if you can do that, and do all this other stuff as well, you’re fucking golden. Why quit when you do the important stuff? Why not carry on pressing, because if it matters this much to you, you won’t be able to stop.

Which is why Aaa(Snip!-Ed) just piled mentalness on top of mentalness, to the post of giddy exaustion. If there was a space for an injoke, a tangent, some strangeness, they put it in there. But none of that was at the expense of actually creating a uniquely exhilerating and surprisingly deep sky-diving game, which mixes pure reflexes and exploration with verve. And there’s a random thought – this year, I’ve stepped away from a lot of Jim’s open-world-is-the-only-world approach. I never went back to Far Cry 2 or Fallout 3, despite sitting on my hard-drive for most of the year. Conversely, it was in things like Aaa(Snip-Ed!) I found my exploration. Exploration in a tiny zone. Trying things, looking for secrets, being rewarded for my imagination and lust for life. Alec’s oft-repeated cry of this-doesn’t-feel-like-a-world oddly doesn’t apply to this totally unrealistic game – in its own warped way, it makes sense. It sticks to its own internal logic with admirable ruthlessness.

But, as much as I like it, I’m never going to type its full title. No, really.

, .

32 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    I love everything surrounding the game. The plot, Dejobaan’s support, the sense of humor, the weird random unlockables, etc. The problem is, try as I might, I can’t maintain an interest in the game itself. I played it long enough to unlock about 2/3 of the available stuff (which took a little over an hour) and just can’t bring myself to go back. At heart, it’s just too darned samey from level to level, and chasing higher scores just plays to me as tedious and aggravating instead of fun and rewarding. It’s irritating, too, as I really want to like it.

    • Sam says:

      Vinraith: This was also my exact response to the game, unfortunately.

    • GGX_Justice says:

      Vinraith: I feel exactly the same, except for a crazy late night binge that saw me finish the game, with feral madness in my eyes…

      It’s come out as one of my favourite indie games this year – hope Dejobaan reach fantastic heights!
      (I love the fact that they added the ability to jump back in, and I love the fact that a dev personally posted a map fix before the patch arrived <3)

    • CMaster says:

      I actually completed it over the course of a couple of weeks.
      Even went back to the jums I’d done badly on and made sure I had a minimum of 4 stars.

      I’ve done maybe 5 jumps since. Still, reasonable value I thought.

    • Wulf says:

      @Viniraith

      I found much the same… I had a great deal of love for this, just as much as I had for The Wonderful End of the World, because Dejobaan are a singularly brilliant developer, but this is a game to come back to perhaps once a week in ten minute stints, that’s how I do it, and every time I return to it I remember my love for it. It’s very much a casual game, and to take it in large amounts kills the brilliance it holds.

      It’s like the most delicious food in the world. Eat it once and you’ll be overwhelmed, it’s going to be orgasmic, it’s going to take you to exotic places your sensations have never been, it’s going to leave an imprint in your mind which other types of food are going to have to live up to. And yet… if you eat the same food every day, you’ll get bored of it, you’ll learn to despise it, even if you loved it so very much once. That’s human nature, we need novelty to keep going. Novelty is an intrinsic human need, not a want, a need, and we die inside without it.

      By playing Wheee–er, Aaaaa in small doses, the novelty can remain without being quickly diminished, and it can be enjoyed for so much longer, but if it’s played all in one session, the brilliance will be sucked away, the novelty will dull from a bright shine, to a glimmer, and then… nothing, and why have that happen so quickly? I realised that early on, and I realised that Aaaaa very much needs to be a casual gaming experience.

      I look forward to Galaxy Rage as their next bout of pure novelty, perhaps I’ll be able to play that one in larger chunks, due to the more sizeable chunk of content present, and perhaps because Galaxy Rage seems even more mental than Aaaaa. No, strike that, I know Galaxy Rage is more mental, it’s set in a post-Singularity future. Who the bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody hell gives a computter game a post-Singularity setting[INTERROBANG] (Sorry.) I want Galaxy Rage, I crave it. I crave it as much as I crave anything that presents me with something genuinely different.

      One day, I think the rest of the world is going to catch up with this realisation that I — and apparently Kieron — have that novelty is a necessity, and that developers should be unrestrained and brilliantly intellectual in their efforts, because that way, 10 minutes of a brilliant game could have so much more of an impact than even 10 hours of a slog of a dull old thing.

      I love those Dejobaan guys.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I can add nothing new here. Vinraith said it first. Although I reached this point earlier (during the demo) and it didn’t take long to stop playing the game altogether.

      voice of dissent

    • Jakkar says:

      Summed up; I love the presentation, but don’t actually enjoy the game very much. If only they made something a little deeper. I laugh every time I receive an email from them, but never even bought it because I could see clearly what the full game would contain.

      From a design perspective, to attack a niggle; there is just a little too much time spent ‘falling’ without guidance or objectives, during long wallhugs or sequences of points.

  2. qrter says:

    The thing I like most about this game, is the writing. It’s conceptual, funny and quite exact.

    The intro Kieron quotes is a great example. The writing in the game constantly balances between ludicrious and tantalising (as in: what kind of world is this?), sometimes tipping over into one or the other, always refinding that balance at some point.

    It also proves how good writing can boost the overall enjoyment of a game – sounds like a pretty obvious thing to say, but it’s not that obvious to most developers, it seems.

    • Wulf says:

      I couldn’t agree more with this, I really couldn’t. It’s also why I feel like slapping someone with a wet haddock whenever they tell me to look to literature if I want a good story. A game can be greatly enhanced by good writing, I’ve stressed this many times, and Aaaaa is just another game of the sort.

      I mean, why should we not want to constantly ask those most important of all questions?

      Why is this like it is?
      How did they do that?
      How can that work?
      Where are those familiar things I recognise and cling to?
      What’s going on in this reality?
      What the fuck?

      It brings so much more to a game than actually playing it. On the Torchlight forums the other day, it was brought up why I desired to have truly exotic races present, playable races that people might not immediately understand. And this is why.

      Does everything need to be comfortably familiar? To the contrary, I believe the comfortably familiar is wholly detrimental to the presentation of an imagined reality.

      Dare to be strange.

      Dare to make people ask.

    • Wulf says:

      @My own post.

      Oops, I missed a ‘just’.

      A great plot can bring more to a game and allow us to experience it, and enjoy it more than simply just playing the game. My point here is the difference between, say, New Super Mario Bros Wii and Uru.

  3. Toyoch says:

    Totally off-topic:
    Crafting in TF2, yay
    http://www.teamfortress.com/crafting/

  4. Crusoe says:

    Toyoch: Heh. Posting in Steam forums isn’t enough for you? :P To be fair, exciting times indeed in TF2 land.

    On topic, I quite like the sound of AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! It’s weirdness, yes, kept me away before, but I’m determined to try it now.

  5. Glove says:

    Well said!

    Dejobaan (or at least Ichiro Lambe) are funny, funny people.
    Also: don’t you just love that word, Dejobaan? It’s such a nice word.

  6. Diosjenin says:

    Your photo with the Optimus Prime hand links to the front page instead of the article. Thought you should know.

  7. noom says:

    I’ve wanted to read the Metabarons for ages. Can never find copies of it on t’internet or shops though :(

    As for Aaa, I bought it as part of that indie bundle on whichever site it was, but still haven’t gotten around to playing it. I’m ashamed of me too :(

  8. Sam Bigos says:

    I never tried this, firstly the title kind of put me off, and from looking at the screenshots and description that it was a basic reflex ‘tunnel’ like game where you have to dodget objects but get as close to them as you can, which is a bit basic for me. I would have picked it up in the indie bundle but I had most of the games in it.

    I’ll hold out for a sale before I buy.

  9. Muzman says:

    It’s funny, when thinking of recent FP games that give a good sense of accelleration it was this and Mirror’s Edge that sprang to mind. It’s not completely dissimilar to the time trials in that game.

    I never went past the demo of AAAr, it seems really good at what it does though, but I’m not into arcade games really. Although while I play it I do feel the urge to try and do slightly better, just not enough regular urge to play. I recommend it to high score nuts though.

  10. RedBeardGod says:

    I love that Optimus Prime hand pointing at a number photo. Cracks me up everytime I see it.

    • crumbsucker says:

      @RedBeardGod

      Yeah, and the way they say “the one true leader of the Autobots” every single time for no apparent reason… funny :)

  11. Heliosicle says:

    I reaaaaaalllyy need to buy this, I loved the demo but forgot about it.

  12. Rob says:

    I loved this game but there’s one thing that made me loathe it. The 2 million character long filenames.

  13. luminosity says:

    Come on, Kieron. Typing it is fun.

    AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!

    AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!

  14. Lilliput King says:

    What Vinraith said, except that I really didn’t agree with the art style either.

    Something about it just didn’t appeal.

  15. Harbour Master says:

    I’ve had a lot of fun with Aaa*cough*cough*. It sits on my hard drive for the odd casual play now and then. I’ll get through every level eventually. But god damn some of them are just too frikking rock hardcore for me to even dream of getting a perfect 5 stars on every level.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    The comments here are way too negative, so I am just going to say that I think the game is splendid.

  17. wcaypahwat says:

    I loved it. Especially the fact that it runs on my netbook.

    And what other game comes with a fancy relaxation tape?

    Om nom nom

  18. underproseductor says:

    I love the developers and how they made the game etc., but It’s just not my cup of tea. I’ll just show my appreciation from a distance.

  19. Heliocentric says:

    Grabbed it in the d2d indie bundle, had no interest initially. But then something marvelous happened. I fatally crunched off a walkway, with that realised the rules of this world existed around me and i was simply there to test them.

    Sure assets are limited, the game plays the same way if you play it the same way. Normally without the entropy of multiplayer or random environments or even the progression of a designscape i get tired of a game and add it to the “done” pile and move on, aaaaa instead goes back to the “to-do” as even though i have had my fill, i am not yet finished.

  20. bill says:

    So it’s not just ScrewJumper with better/weirder presentation?

  21. RobF says:

    Given that Screwjumper is as plop as it gets and Aaaa(etc…) isn’t, nope!

  22. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    So, yeah, really. It’ a shame.