DONE BY: Neuralscan Productions (Tom Vine)
IT'S FOR: Windows
You can talk all you like about how videogames should be original and ‘innovative’ – originality won’t count for much if the game isn’t fun. Likewise, a game that is openly derivative can still be a great game: great fun, and ‘great’ in an artistic sense too: an interesting and engaging expression of an author’s unique voice.
With that in mind, I’d like to recommend to you an excellent little Metroid rip-off called Plasma Warrior, by a guy called Tom Vine. It’s freeware, and it only takes a couple of hours to play, so my advice would be to go and download it right now! But if you need more convincing, keep reading.
You could also download it and keep reading, because reading is healthy for the brain!
TRIM THAT BRAIN FAT, YOU DROOLING ORANGUTAN.
Old school, or what?
Imagine a frustrated, would-be novelist, swept by the careless hand of Fate into a career as a copywriter. Day after day, year after year, he composes endless paragraphs of punchy gobbledygook for the backs of DVDs and PlayStation game cases – every buzzword another wasted drop of creative fuel. Eventually he goes mad. He breaks into my apartment as I’m writing this review, holds a gun to my head and screams:
“Enough of this superfluous bullshit! Describe Plasma Warrior in one word – one word – or I’ll blow your fucking brains out!”
My first thought might be ‘old school’, but that’s no good, for two reasons:
1) It’s two words – he’d blow my fucking brains out.
2) Tom Vine, I believe, may have chosen an ‘old school’ style for artistic reasons – that is to say, Plasma Warrior is not old school simply for old school’s sake.
Games of the 8-bit period featured limited colours, blocky graphics and uncomplicated music. And they were fun, right? Masterpieces, some of them. And the greatest games of today – even the masterpieces – just don’t feel the same, right? Yeah. Why is that?
“I don’t know!” reply a hundred bedroom game designers, but regardless, they try to capture that old feeling by making games with those same 8-bit limitations. And hey, why not! It’s good to experiment.
But as for Plasma Warrior... yes, it features limited colours, blocky graphics and uncomplicated music. But it seems to me that this stylistic choice was a little more thoughtful than, “I wanna make a NES game!” I suspect that when Tom Vine sat down one day to make his Metroid tribute, he asked himself – perhaps consciously, perhaps not – “Why do I love Metroid so much? Why does it feel the way it feels?”
And his brain may have replied: The large areas of flat black suggest the vast unknown, and emphasise the feeling of isolation. The beeping music is weird and otherwordly. The strange colours and indistinct images seem and unreal and far-off, like a dream where a loved one is in danger, but there’s nothing you can do to help them.
And Tom Vine thought, “Huh! Interesting. Well, I can use that.” And he did.
So, rather than ‘old school’, my one word to describe Plasma Warrior might be ‘minimalistic’.
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