Brad: I appreciate Devilish’s attempt to make an adventure game based around Breakout-style gameplay, but here’s the problem – adventure games have stories. Stories that attempt to explain what’s going on within the game. Which is fine if you’re making a game about, say, a knight who goes around stabbing dragons. It gets harder – though certainly not impossible – if you’re dealing with a narrative about a plumber who likes to stomp on turtles all day long, and harder still if your game is about Shaq competing in a martial arts tournament. But when your game is basically a modified version of Pong starring skeletons and demons, well… things can get tricky.
Stryker: Which is to say, Devilish’s story doesn’t make any damn sense at all.
Brad: To illustrate our point, we’re going to put up pictures of the game’s intro screens and discuss them:
Part 1 of 4
Brad: Ok, so far, so good – this seems like pretty standard fare for video games. You just know this isn’t going to end well, though. I’m amazed video games haven’t abandoned the monarchy already. It seems like bad things are always happening to members of the royal family.
Stryker: And the system is particularly vulnerable to this kind of thing. At least when President Ronnie gets kidnapped by the ninjas, we have a Vice President and Congress to run the country while I go rescue him. But if a King becomes ill, or a princess gets captured, all of a sudden the whole kingdom is in chaos, and they just sit around doing nothing and hoping some stranger will go on a lengthy, dangerous quest and fix everything for them.
Brad: I believe that’s exactly how the Pizzaro conquered the Inca. Well, that and smallpox.
Stryker: Think back to Super Mario Bros. – Princess Toadstool gets kidnapped, and who do they send to get her back? Some royal guards? A groups of knights? No, they send a plumber. Everyone else just runs around like idiots screaming that she’s gone. This is the problem with videogame monarchies.
Brad: I don’t really think anyone sent Mario. He probably just went on his own. He was doing some pipe work at the castle when it happened, saw how completely ineffectual it made everyone else, and was like “Damn, looks like nobody’s paying me for unclogging this sink until somebody brings her back.”
Stryker: Or maybe “Hey, here’s a chance to bill some overtime.”
Part 2 of 4
Brad: I guess this makes sense. If I was a devil living in the Dark World, I’d probably be jealous of the happy couple, too. Or maybe not, you’d think devils would like being alone and living in darkness.
Stryker: What is his name supposed to be? Is that the Prince symbol?
Brad: Hmmm, it is a little strange that they’d bother even mentioning his name at all if it’s just some weird letter. It would seem to make more sense just to have him be anonymous.
Stryker: Or give him a normal name, like Karl. Karl the Devil.
Brad: Anyway, I’d bet money that he’s going to kidnap the princess.
Stryker: That’s pretty much a given. The only question is whether the Prince gets kidnapped too, or if its up to him to rescue her.
Brad: Or if he just stands by while Mario rescues her for him. I’d say that’s the most likely.
Part 3 of 4
Brad: Wait… he did what now?
Stryker: I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming. I mean, I guess maybe I should have, given the gameplay, but no, this was still kind of out of the blue.
Brad: I like the way the game is completely nonchalant about the whole thing. Apparently this is a pretty routine thing for demons to do. The whole landscape must be littered with stone paddles.
Stryker: I think it’s a trick by the game developers. The idea is that if you act like this is totally normal, maybe people will accept it without noticing how insane it is. That’s how I get my kids to eat vegetables – I act like it’s totally normal to eat Brussels sprouts, even though they taste like dirty socks and we haven’t had them in at least 5 years.
Brad: The Metal Gear Solid games use an advanced version of this technique, where they spend inordinate amounts of time explaining kind-of crazy things, and then the really insane stuff they barely acknowledge at all. It’s like “Here’s a two and half-hour long cutscene explaining why this guy is evil. Oh and by the way, he only talks in rhyme and inline skates everywhere. And can shoot bugs at you with his mind.”
Stryker: And he’s named after one of those animals at the zoo nobody ever remembers seeing after they leave.
Part 4 of 4
Brad: On it’s own, this screen wouldn’t be too weird, but it’s worth noting that this is the end of the intro. There’s no more text after this. It’s almost as if the person writing the story realized how bad it was and suddenly gave up right in the middle.
Stryker: Well, it was too late to start over. They had already written a whole paragraph’s worth of story about a demon who turns people into stone paddles. Better to just quit in the middle than give up on something that awesome.
Brad: Back when I was in high school, I had a game that was a rip-off of Breakout that I could play on my graphing calculator. It didn’t have any story at all, and for some inexplicable reason, it was named Pearl Jam. I was still more involved in that game’s narrative than I am in Devilish’s.
Stryker: At the end of Final Fantasy III, Kefka gives one of my all-time favorite bad guy speeches, at one point illustrating the futility of your quest by asking your characters “Why do you build, knowing destruction is inevitable? Why do you yearn to live, knowing all things must die?” Along those lines, I would add “Why do you write a story for Devilish, knowing it must suck?”
Brad: It’s a good point except… well, why did we sit through it, then?