Monday, 20 January 2014

Seaside Special



It's 1985, the Conservative government has been in power in the UK for... far too fucking long if you ask me. One group of programmers thought it'd be funny to lampoon the Prime Minster and their immediate cabinet members and make a game that ultimately allows you to kill the ruling government and in a rather amusing, tongue-in-cheek, Spitting Image kind of way that only British comedy seems to get these days.

The concept and background is firmly steeped in Britain and hard to get into if you don't get the subtle nuances of the politics at the time. Basically, the country was on hard times and the people blamed the ruling branch of government that seemed to do the one thing it knows really well how to do, look after itself and its posh, rich, friends that ran companies. Privatisation being a lovely by-word for the time and we end up with a Prime Minister that became infamous for decades long after their rule.

Watch any political satire comedy and you'll hear quotes of Thatcher's Britain where the working class is solely the plucky underdogs and the middle/upper class are usually toffee-twits with more in common in their portrayals, with the 3rd Reich than anything else. Anyone in a uniformed job was usually portrayed as a Gestapo member and police were seen as the bodyguards of the rich and in-power.

Now we're getting an idea behind the game.

The game's premise is simple enough. Get down the beach where another nuclear reactor has leaked and pick up the radioactive seaweed that gets periodically washed up on the shore. Once you've got 10 or more of the lovely glowing muck, you can rush it down to 10 Downing Street, the ruling government's address, and proceed to hurl it at the various cabinet members while they try to bombard you with various comedy themed items. Except for the PM who tries to nuke you with a lovely H-Bomb, we know it's an H-Bomb because of the big fat H on the side of it. Nobody ever said Maggie played fair.

The game is split into two sites, the Beach and 10 Downing Street. The Beach is where you navigate a rudimentary maze of rocks and gather up the seaweed while fighting off the effects of radiation poisoning (your in-game timer), mutant jelly fish which kill on contact, a goose-stepping (read: Nazi, see above for reasons) guard and his rifle that only shoots if you're on the same X-Axis value and only hits if you're twat enough to hang around long enough to be shot. Later enemies include crabs that bump you around, quick-sand that can claim you if you're too slow and seagulls that can abduct you. You can shoot the seaweed at the enemies on the beach, but then you're stalling the real fight and time isn't friendly.

The battle at 10 Downing Street, has you running back and forth firing your collected seaweed up at the politicians-in-power, scoring a hit has them change colours until green, upon which they'll die. The more colour changes they go through, the faster that they appear and change from window to window and the more rapidly they throw things at you. Being hit will cause you to drop a seaweed and once all seaweed have been fired, it's back to the beach where the layout and difficulty has increased somewhat.

The game is very tongue-in-cheek regarding the humour and political satire, doubling up as both a stab at the ruling class and those in power at the time, while also taking a dig at the use of nuclear power and the hazards of such things failing, made at a time shortly before the Chernobyl disaster (1985 as opposed to 1986) and as such grimly foreshadowing events. Though I know of nobody running around in Pripyat with radioactive seaweed, but then we ended up with S.T.A.L.K.E.R as inspiration to be reviewed at a later date.

Audibly, the game utilises a pseudo-white-screen hiss for the sounds of waves breaking on the beach, renditions of "I do like to be beside the sea-side" for the game's death-notes and intro/attract music and a few sine wave effects for the projectile events of tossing seaweed at the enemies, there's little else on the table for this game though regarding the sounds and effects.

The shift in graphics from the beach area to 10 Downing Street are rather jarring the first time you do it, with your character effectively 3x-4x the size they were on the beach level, but this allows for more detail and easier identification of the Tory cabinet ministers and Maggie herself, which would have been a lot more difficult to render on the previous set up and likely not been as engaging within the game.

All in all, an ok game if you get the background and understand/appreciate the politics, otherwise it's a generic, run-of-the-mill 8way directional maze game with a side mission in shooting at pixelated turrets. While the flow and speed of the game is rather quick, it's not enough to keep the appeal going.