Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Angry Birds are Evil: In Defence of the Pigs

Here's a rule of games and storytelling in general: If you want your story to have an iconic hero, you need to have an iconic villain. A Moriarty to your Sherlock if you will. What would Mario be without Bowser? He surely wouldn't be invited to the Mushroom Kingdom Court during peacetime, the lowly tradesman that he is. So why is it that Angry Birds plushies are flying off the shelves?

It's hardly a colossal fight if one side stands perfectly still... forever.

"Surely there are those evil, evil pigs to consider though Jak?" you say, but I hardly buy the role of the Green Pigs as villains. Sure they '"steal all the eggs" (speaking as their representative, no evidence of this theft and murder has ever come to light...) but the Angry Birds might as well just go steal them back since those blasted pigs never move to resist their actions against them in any way shape or form. As a matter of fact, the pigs are so hell bent on surrendering and being murdered that they laugh at you for not killing them hard enough. The truth is that the real villain in this entire situation has to be a series piles of immobile wood.

I wouldn't expect any other villain to get away with passively waiting for death other than Agronak gro-Malog and let's face it, nobody wants to get to the end of a Legend of Zelda adventure to find Ganondorf just standing there saying "Fair play mate, I'll just let you kill me now. Good effort." which is precisely what these Green Pigs do. It leads me to the only logical conclusion that these Pigs have been set up as stooges by the Bird Government to distract the Bird population from their obvious Egg Shortage. It's a sordid tactic that has served governments in domestic crises well in the past.

Pictured: A real life Angry Bird, probably a minister.

It's the perfect scheme, round up some unbelievably passive pigs (and give some of them evildoer 'staches) and house them in flimsy wooden structures. Then all you have to do is unleash a relentless wave of Green Pig demonising propaganda and all those Angry Birds that would have otherwise revolted against an incompetent government will suddenly start committing mass suicide which secures the position of your current Bird government. The population rapidly decreases as a result and the Egg Shortage suddenly becomes an Egg Surplus.

The only fly in the ointment are those white birds that don't kill themselves and use 'egg bombs' instead. These birds can report  back to society about the horror of the needless phony war against the Pigs. However these returning soldiers are easily discredited in the media because of their blatant waste of the valuable Egg resource and their cowardice. The perfect political distraction has been immorally instigated by the Birds at the expense of Pigs that are clearly in need of medical attention and counselling. In conclusion: the Bird Senate is the real enemy in this universe.

Have I thought about this too much?       

Monday, 16 January 2012

Tribute to an old friend: Pikmin

I recently have been watching Let’s Plays of a couple of games very close to my gaming heart; the two “Pikmin” games that were released for the Gamecube. Now, as I have already mentioned I grew up on Nintendo consoles, so it’s not a massive surprise that I ended up playing these gaming oddities. With the keenness of hindsight, however, I’ve come to reflect on just how clever and unique this mini-franchise is.

In many ways, the Franz Kafka of gaming.

Even when the original “Pikmin” was released as an early Gamecube title, people didn’t really know what to make of it. One of the biggest issues potential players had with it was the unconventional gameplay style. It plays as a sort of dynamic real-time strategy game, with a focus on exploration and player-character action; in simple terms, you command underlings (as in many games), but you are also on the field with them, in the middle of the action.

Now, whilst many may be (and indeed were) put off by this slightly bizarre gameplay style, I feel “Pikmin” deserves more credit for this innovation. Firstly, I struggle to think of any games preceding it that had this style of gameplay, least of all any that execute it as well as “Pikmin” does. Moreover, the exploration elements of the game really serve as a great link to the story of the game, which sees you as Captain Olimar, stranded on a dangerous alien planet with only the friendly Pikmin to assist you in repairing your ship.

It is this element that makes these two games really stand out. In the first “Pikmin”, you are all alone save for your silent Pikmin companions. Throughout the whole game, the only lines of dialogue come from Olimar, who reflects on his discoveries, has memories of his family and even starts to face the apparent inevitability of his death far from his home. Pretty deep for a game generally written off as fluff for children.

“Pikmin 2”, whilst generally a more light-hearted affair, expands on the gameplay massively, creating a more complete gaming package. Since, however, the planet surface has lost much of its mystery since the first game, “Pikmin 2” has you venturing below into the numerous cave systems, again maintaining the exploration factor. Moreover, since the appeal of this world is so appealing and charming it has none of the occasionally overwhelming intensity of bigger fair, such as the “Metroid” games, but maintains the same tone.

In many ways, the Albert Camus of gaming.

I seriously recommend people who missed these games to give them a chance. They are charming, clever, surprisingly addicting (though not too so) and will make you think more than a collection of the biggest-selling FPSs of the moment.