Bellyaches: The Thrill Of Combat (And Party Boat)

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.


  1. Wildbluesun says:

    My Bloody Valentine gigs

    Friend went to one.
    “They offered me earplugs, and I was like, I’m hear to LISTEN! Everything sounds kind of underwater now…”

  2. oddbob says:

    Party Boat is amazing. So simple, yet why can’t I stop playing it?

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Wildbluesun: Closest I ever came to that was an ATR gig when they played literally 40-minutes of whitenoise. I couldn’t hear phones ringing in the PCG office the next day.

    Oddbob: Yeah, it’s lovely, isn’t it? Which is all the more evidence that when he makes a decision to hurt people, it’s deliberate.


  4. Dave says:

    I really don’t like Party Boat, it’s just too out-of-control for me. I’d probably hate The Thrill of Combat and love it at the same time, for the music and the look of the thing.

  5. Danfishblue says:

    I’m not really into the whole art game thing.

    I can’t shake the feeling that the dev is just desperately trying to disguise his lack of ability by drawing it in MS Paint, making it offensive to the senses and then calling it art.

    I’ll just stick to Spelunky.

  6. oddbob says:

    I think it takes a fair bit of skill to make the gaming equivalent of glitchcore, or rather to do it quite as successfully as Messhof does.

    I find I’m quite immune to the disorientation and headfuckery he employs (probably due to years of rolling up to experimental industrial/metal gigs and all that comes with that sort of thing) – Randy Balma just made me twiddle my thumbs with boredom for example, but there’s something special in the way he manages to convey his intent through the games.

    It is clear he’s out to give you a bit of a kicking with them and it’s quite sinister in a way. I sorta admire that, even if I don’t often want to go back there.

  7. Markoff Chaney says:

    I always thought MBV live would be something like the loud parts of a Mogwai show throughout the whole thing. I never caught MBV live, but I’ve always wanted to (during their first period since they may be doing the reunion thing as well, it sounds).

    On another note, a deconstruction of the trading of financial units for code. Good work! Ballsy, it sounds like, but an interesting experiment none the less. Apologies if I don’t take the bait. Federal Reserve Units are getting harder to come by these days, despite my desire to always support something new, especially if independently produced.

  8. Ben Abraham says:

    I love Meshoff for Randy Balma, and so I will have to purchase this game. I will wear it like a badge of honour.

  9. hydra9 says:

    Party Boat isn’t working for me. Has he taken it down? All I see is a broken image and below it, a link to The Thrill Of Combat.

    EDIT: Okay, found a solution. If anyone else is having trouble, try link to

  10. Tei says:

    C64 graphics FTW!

  11. TreeFrog says:

    I found the video for Thrill Of Combat quite unsettling. Messhof is obviously possessed of a singular talent, and is misusing it in glorious fashion.

    Incidentally, I never thought of Alec Empire the same way after I read a review of a DJ set he did in a pub in Glasgow where apparently he SMILED.

  12. solipsistnation says:

    I saw Killing Joke and spent the whole show up front standing right in front of a loudspeaker the size of a fridge. The next day I had to give a presentation. It was really something. I was pretty sure I was actually talking, and people nodded and stuff, but not being able to hear one’sself is an extraordinary experience. Also Geordie’s riffs are incredible.

    …I actually have permanent tinnitus, probably from all the industrial shows I saw in the early 90’s.

  13. solipsistnation says:

    Re: Party Boat.

    I don’t think helicopters actually work like that.

  14. hydra9 says:

    I can imagine laying down the dollars for a cactus game, but not one by messhof. Not yet.

  15. Don Risotto says:

    Yeah I paid for it. Music rocks! anyway I’m a little disappointed with it, just because it doesn’t really feel like a complete game. there’s no high score table (I don’t think, I haven’t come close to finishing it) and what you see in the trailer is pretty much the whole game. As to paying for an “art game” well I see it as contributing money towards someone or something that produces things I like. I generally have the power of choice and in this case I choose messhof!

    I’ll be pulling this one out at parties for sure.

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