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The Games of Christmas: December 13th

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.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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