Sunday, March 9, 2008

Retro Sabotage

An introductory note: I know that this is my second post in a row concerning video games, but you'll have to excuse me because they are a fascination of mine, and the content of this post will be very different from the content of the previous one. Now, on with the show!

Most everyone has played some of the more classic video games: Pong, Breakout, Adventure, Pac Man, Space Invaders, Defender, Asteroids, Tetris, etc. These things have been around since the '70s and '80s and their gameplay is a very pure experience, usually undiluted by things like narrative and control scheme and other such trappings which usually turn people off to the modern samplings of the medium.

In a way they've become archetypal of the conventions we see in modern games. Pong was not only the first video game for a home console, it was also the first game of the sports genre, being a crude approximation of Tennis. Text adventure games such as Zork had been around a while, but Adventure was among the first graphical representations of the genre with which it shares its name.

Tetris was one of the first games of the puzzle genre which has lately spawned sensations in the casual market like Snood and Bejeweled. Space Invaders (along with its relatives Asteroids and Defender) was one of the first of a genre known as shooters which eventually split into several other genres including: top-down (Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaga), side-scrolling (Defender, Gradius), first-person (Doom, Halo), third-person (Grand Theft Auto) and some other minor genres. Each was based on both the player's perspective of the one doing the shooting, and the freedom of the shooting individual.

Whew, after a little history lesson there, we get to the meat: Retro Sabotage. This site does riffs on classic arcade games and explores some of the symbolism employed in each by presenting the classic games with a twist. For example, a version of Space Invaders, named simply Invasion, questions the futility of the mission of the last defender of Earth. A version of Pac Man, which they cleverly title The Morning After, explores the various psychedelic effects of the Power Pills which Pac Man eats that allow him to go after the ghosts that normally chase him. The version of Tetris they have up, called Compromise, allows the player to experience playing two games of Tetris simultaneously using only one controller. Each screen is given different pieces, and the player has to decide where and how to place them on both screens.

They have several others uploaded right now, and the site promises weekly updates on every Thursday. I am adding them to my bookmarks in the hope that I will soon see a version of the Super Mario Brothers in which each of the mushrooms Mario eats makes him hallucinate and think that he is seeing oversized pipes everywhere and that small brown mushrooms are skulking about, trying to kill him.

- Via Neatorama.


Alex said... dark.

While we're mentioning dark video game paraphernalia, apparently this new Smash Brothers has a level in which you scroll through the ruins of Super Mario Bros. World 1-1.

Such depressing games these days...let's just get back to something wholesome, like Doom.

christopher said...

There was a little dive of a coffee shop in Memphis when I was high school called "The Hideaway". They had Miss Pacman and Space Invaders.

I was horrible at Space Invaders, but would always pony up the coins to play if there was a cute girl playing Miss Pacman.

Jeremy said...

I was playing Drew's new copy of Smash Bros. last night, and that Super Mario Bros. level was sort of cool ... everything was in sepia tones and decaying. The flag at the end that Mario used to jump to was tattered and worn, and the bricks throughout the level were falling apart.

And Chris ... nice. :)