Euclidean-space arrow. Initial-point-A-to-terminal-point-B. Monkeys.
At last month’s Sony editorial preview, the “big” console titles—Uncharted, Warhawk, Heavenly Sword, and even the now-available Rise-of-the-fagodsakes-Silver-Surfer—hogged the lion’s-share of notice. Hell, even the handheld games—not to mention some cringingly-unpolished console entries, as well as some stuff they weren’t even ready to show us yet—managed to cull considerable editorial eye-time. But to the best of my recollection, nothing caused quite the same temporary, time-stopping ripple of unease-tinged attention as the moment when friendly, super-chill producer Travis Williams unexpectedly announced to the gathered audience his I-dare-you prowess in the “monkey-spanking” arena (and in this Cheetos-and-hentai crowd, you’d think that somebody might have at least challenged him).
[image1]But no, no—before it even got to that point, Williams explained that he was talking about the mechanics of Pain, the forthcoming Playstation Network title that might be described as a warped, pseudo-casual-gamer transporter-accident involving ragdoll physics, the targeting from Worms World Party, the Crash Mode from the Burnout series, and the kind of pulsing, human empathy to be found only in the Postal games.
To wit: Crank back a sub-jihad-worthy mime (there are other characters, including an ‘extreme’ hair dude and a monkey, but why not a mime?) in your human-capacity slingshot (in a typical modern-urban setting, teeming with overhead railway tracks, passing vehicles, billboard advertisements, plate-glass windows and the sorts of sidewalk-loitering, ass-spanking monkeys that are endemic to any modern inner-city setting these day, really), line up your launch to cause as much resultant, ballistic damage as possible (to both obstructing inanimate property and animate biped alike), and launch his mime ass. General kinetic hilarity and crotch-grabbing virtual sympathetic ouches ensue. And be sure to aim for the really funny and/or breakable shit, for maximum whoopah! Check this out.
[image2]And that’s it—if you somehow miss everything interesting, and your slingshotted mime plows white-face first into an unyielding brick wall, you get squat—Insert Quarter, asshole, and try again!
It doesn’t really sound like much of a “game,” does it? In all objective fairness—at least, at this juncture—it frankly isn’t much of a “game,” at least in the arguable, on-paper sense. It’s more of an amusing tech-demo… but oh God, it’s compelling, in some terrible, wrong way. It’s one of those things you laugh at…but you know you’re probably going to Hell for it, too—kind of like when they pulled that superstition-based, scare-prank on all those adorable Japanese girls on the Morning Musume show. Funny, perhaps…but, ultimately, wrong.
In Pain, players are able to subtly affect both the in-flight trajectory and bodily sprawl of the mime/projectile in question as he hurtles towards his doom, and even the slightest tweak to the flight-plan can make all the difference: Splay those pale arms out as you streak down into the outdoor-table-cluttered thoroughfare of a streetfront café, and you just might be able to clip an extra ambient monkey (who is, in fact, spanking his own ass), or clip the fragile edge of a plate-glass window. Lower, more direct-angle shots might be obstructed by passing vehicles—but if you get the timing and force right, you might be able to skip your hapless mime off the pavement like a mute black-and-white stone off so much cement-lake surface. Bonus points—at least, from what we saw—for picking off potential targets atop skinny overhead tram-tracks, or hitting just the right sweet-spots on billboards.
[image3]“Spank the Monkey” mode involves using the built-in billiard physics of the environment to take out as many meandering monkeys as you can in one shot, while still another, more-involved mechanic requires players to grab a dancing mime in mid-flight, and then fling him off in one deadly vector or another to cause the most secondary-projectile damage possible—a sort of Barnum & Bailey M.I.R.V. act.
In my editorial heart of hearts, I keep finding myself trying to bash this thing as a one-trick pony…but the one trick is so good, and every time I thought the schadenfreude physics had lost their laugh-appeal, I’d suddenly witness my launched surfer-dude character *pthwang!* catch his head on the edge of a light-post and violently pinwheel into a pair of innocent-bystander monkeys, before turning a plate-window into a storm of glass-shards…and all for points. There’s even a multiplayer “horse” mode, in the basketball sense, and Cthulhu only knows what else the development team is working on, in terms of other modes or downloadable content. Pain is very much a work in progress, and those of us who admire it so much at this early stage could only lower our heads if somebody pointed the Lowest Common Denominator finger at us for our fourth-grade giggles…but holy crap, it looks like beer-and-pretzels-and-more-beer fun.