Saturday Morning Gaming: Going for the Gross-Out
Stephen King’s Danse Macabre is one of the best books on writing out there. He breaks down how Terror works, how Horror works, and the various differences between the two. (In a nutshell, Horror is acute and Terror is chronic.) After discussing the themes that exist between the two, he introduces a third flavor: Revulsion. He’s got a great quotation about it:
I recognize terror as the finest emotion (used to almost quintessential effect in Robert Wise’s film The Haunting, where, as in The Monkey’s Paw, we are never allowed to see what is behind the door), and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.
Well, a few years back, a game came out called “The Binding of Isaac”. This was a game that wanted to communicate that it dabbled in Horror/Terror but, in truth, went straight for the gross-out. An overly-stylized (but fun!) little two-stick shooter that had your main character shooting his tears at various bad guys such as flies or who were his deformed siblings and half-siblings. As you played, you picked up upgrades and could add blood to your tears or… well, it was gross. But cool. But gross.
Anyway, there came out a prequel (of sorts) to the game recently. A match-4 game that had your character play a mini-puppet show and, in the puppet show, his avatar would go up against avatars of flies, anthropomorphic excrement, deformed siblings, and so on. The mechanic was through a match-4 game where you’d try to get 4 in a row for the various tokens on the 4x9 board. Slide a row or a column and match 4. If you do, you win whatever you matched. (And if you match 5, you get more of whatever it is, match 6 gives you a huge one, and matching 7 gave the biggest outcome possible with a little animation and everything.) If you match 4 yellow drops of liquid, you get additional movement. Match 4 green globs, you get a stun (match 5, get 2 stuns, match 6, 3 stuns). Match 4 bones, throw a point of damage (match 5, get two one-point bones to throw). Match 4 teeth, throw a point of damage (match 5, throw 2 points of damage). Match 4 piles of brown, and you get a shield that will protect against a point of damage in front of you (match 5, get a shield that protects against 2 points).
It’s all very gross.
As you go through a level, you get additional skills and additional items that help you in your quest to the end of the level. At the end of the level, you get a boss fight that has a trick to it of some sort. Maybe the boss will obfuscate the symbols in your sliding grid area. Maybe the boss doesn’t take full damage until he has been hit twice. Maybe the boss has two decoy bosses dancing around her.
And after you defeat any boss who isn’t the final boss, you can visit the store and buy/upgrade/gamble based on the coins you collected as you played through the level.
And beating the first level gives you a different Bum-bo to play with who has different skills. And beating the second level with the second Bum-bo will give you a third Bum-bo to play with who has yet different skills. (All in all, there are 5 different Bum-bos to play the game with.)
It’s a fun little game hidden behind an aesthetic that goes for the gross-out. If you liked Binding of Isaac, though, it’s a fun little game worth checking out (if you like match-4, that is).
So… what are you playing?