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What's better: temporarily piloting an enemy, or a game within the game just for funsies?

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Last time, you decided that utterly rinsing a place is better than an end credits song. This was a pretty close one, with rinsing taking 54% of the vote. Good. Onwards! This week, you must choose between two things which add fleeting novelty and surprise. What's better: temporarily piloting an enemy, or a game within the game just for funsies?

Temporarily piloting an enemy

It is always pleasing to defeat enemies using their own tools, from triggering their traps to throwing their grenades back. Perhaps most spectacular of all is defeating enemies by hopping atop a big lad and piloting him like a punch car to crush his pals. Video games were very into this murderous Ratatouille for a while.

Preparing to fight an ogre in a God of War screenshot.
Friend, you and I are about to become extremely familiar

The latest God Of War had an archetypal piloting experience: weaken an ogre and you can hop atop its shoulders, controlling the beast's movements and making it punch as you ride. Or maybe you know this from Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, or Batman: Arkham Asylum, or... it was a whole thing for a few years. And it's silly, and it's funny, and it's a big spectacle, and I'm delighted every time I turn a mighty challenge into a mighty resource.

Or maybe in the opposite direction, the best moment in Left 4 Dead 2's competitive multiplayer is riding a survivor off into a swarm of zombies. I take them out the fight as I ride away, and I inflict the bonus psychological and sonic damage of making my steed distract and irritate the entire enemy team as they inevitably shriek and screech and plead for rescue.

Some games do piloting in staged setpieces, not giving us that freeform option to spice up a fight but still letting us ride enemies to spectacular effect. I'm particularly thinking of the times Gears Of War games sat the chunky boys atop mega-monsters bristling with guns.

Honestly it's tempting to pull this idea back a step to include passive riding, just to talk about riding atop cars driven by NPCs in Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto games, but no, let's keep it focused. No mind control or possession either, we can tackle those topics later.

A game within the game just for funsies

Not minigames; those are part of a game's systems, translating some vital or beneficial inputs and outputs into a form notably different to the rest of the game. No fishing minigames which give fish you can eat or sell, no Gwent earning you money, no weird races you need to win to progress. No, we're here to celebrate games which are there just because.

Many games within games are there mostly for novelty, but what's wrong with novelty? I'm up for something slight and fun splashed into a game. The most basic which comes to mind is Doom 3's Turbo Turkey Puncher 3, an arcade game in a room where you simply click to punch a turkey until it gibs. It's not fun to play but it does serve three purposes: it's a quick silly joke; it's a nod to classic Doom; and it shows off Doom 3's fancy computer interfaces.

A common funsies gameingame is a remake of some vintage arcade game, yer Froggers and Donkeys Kong and such. That's (mostly) the case with System Shock 2's GamePig, a handheld console with pig-themed game cartridges scattered around the spaceships. It's fun enough to kill time while waiting for research to finish—or in co-op, while waiting for a pal to finish farting about with their inventory. Beats stepping away from your PC then getting jumped by roaming horrors.

While many of these throwaway little things, some stand as games you really do want to play. The many Solitaire variants found on in-game computers of Zachtronics games are so solid that the puzzlelords have released them as standalone games. Some games even embed whole other retail games. I know Homefront: The Revolution has has a full version of TimeSplitters 2 on an arcade cabinet, and classic text adventure Zork is hidden in several Calls Of Duty.

Oh, and to mention Left 4 Dead 2 again: I do like that at the funfair, you can play carnival games which do not remotely help you, because they make loud noises which draw zombie hordes. Now that's what I call just for funsies.

But which is better?

I cannot resist the silly spectacle of hopping up on a big lad and piloting him by tugging his ears. Piloting for me. But what do you say, reader dear?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

About the Author
Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice is likely in the sea.

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