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Aptly-Titled: Restraining Order

Jim McGinley emails us about his indie comedy-action game Restraining Order. I play it. I go and have a little lie down for a while. And now I write about it. It’s, er. Yes. Ah.

You probably shouldn’t play this.
The concept: a side-scrolling jumping/punching game, in which you are some sort of man-bean-thing chasing a woman-bean-thing. You, in turn, are chased by policemen. Lots of policemen. Avoid or kill them all to, ah, ‘get’ the girl.

The execution: a barrage of ever-changing broken half-songs about love, incest and, well, I couldn’t work out most of them, slathering violence and unexpected Robocop references. Its title, then, is more than apt. This is an insane game. Perhaps a little too self-consciously so, but nonetheless it is certainly arresting in its freewheeling, baleful oddness.

Most especially in that you’re apparently playing either a sex pest or an abusive husband/father of unspecified dangerousness and ultimate intent, so the moments when you finally catch up with the girl bring not celebration at your accomplishment, but a creeping horror as to what it might mean for the woman and her daughter (fortunately, this too is not specified). To the point that I even tried to run away from her at one point, so horrified was I by the image of this green, drooling beast approaching a clearly terrified egg-shaped girl-creature. It’s Benny Hill through a nightmare prism, basically, and there’s a part of my head that refuses to acknowledge all the implications of it. All I know for sure is that you’re definitely caught and arrested at the end of each level. For that, I’m grateful. Yeah, it’s intended as comedy, but…

Beneath the surface horror is an impressively tight game of timing and reflex, and a distressingly apt demonstration of how incapable my frail mind is at recognising and responding to just three separate colours. You hit the blue policemen, you jump over the yellow policemen and you dodge the jumps of the red policemen. Without fail, I would try to hit the yellow policemen and jump straight into the red ones. Again and again and abloodygain. My brain’s refusal to learn is impressive in its way. The blue ones, though, those I could do. PUNCH! Yes.

It builds to strange, beautiful crescendos of bouncing policemen, firing in graceful streams over your head like busybody fireworks. At those points, I get a sense of what it might be trying to do, of how it could a splendid thing rather than an incoherently disturbing one with flashes of cleverness. Then another eerily familiar and faintly hellish tune about Christ knows what starts up, the question as to what happens off-screen between each level rears its horrific head once more, and The Fear creeps up all over again. The below video tells but part of the tale:

It’s a good-looking thing, full of visual invention even at its darkest. A singular game, certainly, but not one I’m… recommending as such. More pointing at it and saying “oh God, what is that?” It’ll cost you just 40Mb of bandwidth and a night of untroubled sleep, and it’s here.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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