I’m always impressed when an artist takes some kind of a stance with his work — be it technical or political or social or personal. Well, let me buffer that. I’m impressed when an artist has something to say, and choses to use his chosen medium to explore that idea rather than just get caught up in the trappings of the medium for its own sake. If you give me, for instance, a really excellent, polished shooter that plays like a remix of four other games I’ve already played, then okay — that’s some decent craft there, but to what end? It’s not saying anything. Then if you give me something simple and awkward, that tries its hardest to translate something unrelated into the language of the medium — say, the artist’s obsession with physics or an overactive curiosity about the man who sells hot dogs down the street, then I feel like I may get something out of the work. Maybe not a whole new perspective on life, but maybe a few angles I hadn’t noticed before.
I don’t mean to big up Mark Hadley’s games too much, but I find it curious that his games try to have a sort of a point to them beyond simply being another videogame. Given the limitations of the software, whether they succeed is almost beyond the point. The effort is what counts.
Parsec Man 3D
This game has a very simple, clean, almost Colecovision-esque presentation that (come to think of it) rather reminds me of Daniel Remar’s Hero Core. You play as a little spaceman with a jetpack, avoiding monsters and collecting letters. It’s somewhat nonlinear, in that you can choose your level from an array of planets. It’s all in black and white, with cyan and magenta highlights to pull the experience into red/blue 3-D glasses territory. You rarely see Game-Maker users brave enough to pull back and, rather than trying to push the engine as far as it will go, actually stripping down the design to its basics. That’s what Hadley does here, and with none of the typical edges showing the result barely feels like a Game-Maker game. Instead you get a simple, elegant experience enhanced by a novel 3D effect — all the better to create an original space.
Pro or Congress?
I won’t say this is the most clever or interesting satire on the planet. Still, if you’re going to make two games in your life, it’s interesting that a man would choose to go this route. An ostensibly nonviolent game, you’re being chased around by congressmen; if they touch you, you lose money. In the short term your only defense is to try to vote them out of office. Eventually you go on to oust IRS agents and majority leaders.
Yes, okay. Well, it’s kind of charming in its way. As with Parsec 3D, the game is presented so cleanly and simply that it stands on its own rather well. Though unlike the earlier game, it can’t avoid a few of the familiar Game-Maker bugs. Fun, then, that Hadley has actually used some of those bugs as a design feature, hiding super items out of the way in locations that the player can only reach if glitched through a solid wall.
As neither of these games will be at your local 7-11, I provide them for your edification here.