Don’t knock Death until you’ve tried it.
Far away in a rather dusty dimension of the multiverse, lies a reality where humor is more important than paltry considerations like physics or logical thought processes. Slowly wading through the vast interstellar distances of this dimension is Great A-Tuin, a space turtle so enormous, he dwarves the chintzy little planets of our solar system. Standing (a little precariously perhaps) on the back of this titanic terrapin are four huge elephants (which may or may not have names), who seem small only in relation to A-Tuin himself. Finally, resting upon the back of these elephants, is the flat, disc-shaped, and extremely well named, Discworld.
For those of you who have
no idea what I’m talking about, Discworld is the invention of self-proclaimed
‘author’ and ‘human being’, Terry Pratchet. The whole series of Discworld
novels follows the exploits of dozens of unlikely heroes as they adventure over,
under and through his strange universe. Certainly, the most unlikely of these
heroes is assistant wizard, third-class, Rincewind. And it is he that plays
the starring role in Discworld II: Mortality Bytes.
Diskworld II, like its predecessor, is an animated, atypical, typical adventure game. You control the cartoony Rincewind as he wanders the unclean, if cosmopolitan, city of Ankh-Morpork and the larger world around it. It’s quite a bit like playing a slightly jerky Disney cartoon, only much more bitter and sarcastic.
To begin with, lets start at the beginning: the opening sequence. It is easily the longest opening sequence I have ever seen in a video game, at least 10 or 15 minutes long. You do have the option to skip it at any time, but if you do you’re a fool… for two reasons. First, you need to see it to really understand the plot of the game. Second, it’s genuinely funny and includes a great opening song and dance number by ex-Pythoner and voice-of-Rincewind, Eric Idle.
One amusing interlude later, and it’s onto the game… It seems that Death has taken a holiday. That is, people are still dying, but death himself (skull, black cape, etc…) is on vacation at Club Dead (little joke). He’s relaxing down under… further than the usual 6 feet (much littler joke). So nobody is collecting the souls, and the dead are still walking around, taking up space, demanding rights for the dead, and being a general nuisance.
The arch-chancellor of the
magical Unseen University (where you, Rincewind, are quasi-employed) demands
that you get right to the bottom of this whole death business before he thinks
twice about it and simply turns you into something nasty. So off you go on your
Which involves solving a series of puzzles and talking to dozens of different people. The voice acting and scripting are great. Some of the puns are awful (good or bad? I can’t decide) and the jokes and Rincewind’s dry wit will make you laugh out loud. I can’t believe how many settings and how much dialogue there is in this game. They must have used a good compression scheme to fit it all on one CD. (The PC version has smoother animation, and 2 CD’s).
The puzzles, on the other hand, are pretty much all of the inventory-based sort. Excuse me, I mean “natural thinking exercises.” This can get a bit old and infuriating at times, because many of the objects are difficult to find, and their uses are obtuse at best. Rincewind himself, with his usual humor, puts it better than I can: