“Jack is on fire!”
“Probably from all the laser beams.”
“It’s a figure of speech.”
“Well you’re a figure of shit!”
“Great… I’m a figure of shit… Can we move on?!”
Sega’s MadWorld was a game I had questioned purchasing long before it had been released because I wasn’t sure if it would hold up. The only information released on the game was the level of violence it contained. It’s assuring to know that the violence level might be enough to induce catatonia in the conservative elderly population. The game is just obscene, but the obscenity is reduced when you realize how over-the-top it is. I mean, you can trap someone in a tire, then shove up to five street signs in his skull before throwing him into a dumpster – whose lid then snaps the guy in half. Brutal but acceptable when one notes the level of absurdity.
The game does actually have some substance, though. First and foremost is the artistic style of the whole game. It’s black and white – and red all over, if you play it right. It looks like the comic of Sin City come to life, although the lead character resembles Hellboy more than he does anyone from Frank Miller’s comic. It looks great in its simplicity. There’s even a smattering of florescent blue when you fight space aliens!
The plot isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s there. You play a participant in the Death Watch competition, fighting your way to the number one position. The competition takes place on an island whose previous inhabitants were slaughtered by some unknown virus. Early in the game, you save a doctor who somehow never escaped but also did not die after exposure. It’s around this time that you find out that your character, Jack, is not just there to participate but to investigate the incident. While the plot gives the illusion of depth, by the end it’s all revealed to be a plot by the rich simply for the purpose of entertainment. (Oh, and to threaten other countries with a virus and whole the vaccine for ransom.)
The story isn’t the point of the game. The gameplay is all that matters, and this game delivers. It’s not just about killing people – it’s about finding creative ways to maim them before you end them. The game’s world is in a sandbox style, meaning it’s an open playground for you with tons of creative death traps. Tires, giant coins, and steel drums can be used to keep an enemy in place; signposts and candelabras can be used to (repeatedly) impale your oponnent; and giant hazards like spinning blades, iron belts of thorns, giant grinders, giant fans, the aforementioned dumpsters, and even the afterburners of a jet can be used to finally remove baddies from the playing field.
The absurdity of the action is aided by the commentary provided Greg Proops (of Whose Line is it Anyway? fame) and John DiMaggio (Bender on Futurama). They spend the entire game discussing how disgusting your actions are as well as ripping on each other without bounds. The only problem is that some jokes are repeated due to being connected to specific items (how many times have I heard the cockroach head joke after picking up a one-up?) and how long you spend running around a stage. However, they’re creative and vulgar, and that’s what makes it so damn pleasant in the end. You can just tell that the guys had fun in the recording booth the entire time.
As can be expected, the game is surrounded by a bit of controversy. The game will not be released in Germany due to violence, and I’m not sure if the rest of Europe will be receiving the game. Additionally, The National Institute on Media and the Family released a statement saying that they were disappointed in Nintendo’s allowing this game to be published on the Wii, since the family-friendly nature of the system was so lauded by them. Of course, my response is that it’s a video game system. That’s like blaming VCR manufacturers for the existence of porno vids. One final controversy about the film is that it sold only 66,000 copies in the first month, which is suggestive to onlookers that M-rated games are difficult to sell on the Wii (see previous statements about its family-friendly nature). There’s a lot that I have to say about the ability to sell so-called mature content on the Wii, but that has no place here. I have to say, though, that I don’t recall the game’s having any advertising outside of the video game journals/blogs world.
The important thing to note is that Sega is pleased with the sales of the game, and I am pleased with having purchased the game. It’s really short, but it’s insanely fun nonetheless. I wouldn’t mind a sequel with more creative tools and a less repetitive music soundtrack. And more commentary. Definitely need more dick, poop, and blood jokes.