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November 16, 2011 / jwaxo

Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant (Defying Genre)

Cel-shading before it was cool.

We’re halfway through November and I’m getting pretty darn tired of writing, but I’m also running out of the shorter topics I wanted to talk about. Stories that I didn’t have a lot of pictures or fully-fleshed-out posts for. Meaning I’m getting down to either the ones that were a title scribbled down in the middle of the night, or ones that I definitely want to devote a good 800 words and four doodles to in order to give them justice. Meaning I’m probably going to die sometimes soon or something, I don’t know.

Bottom line is, Goosebumps.

We talked about Goosebumps for a short time a few months ago, humorously for a Father’s day post. It’s humorous because today is my dad’s birthday, and also humorous because this post has little to do with his ability to make anything work. Or maybe it has everything to do with that, because Attack of the Mutant worked fine after kicking the computer around a bit and getting all of our drivers in order.

The Goosebumps book that inspired the game was pretty cool, and I always liked the concept: kid gets stuck inside a comic book as his favorite villain is making an appearance, and has to help the local superteam get together to fight the Mutant away. Like most Goosebumps books, it wasn’t very scary, and it came with the required cliffhanger ending that I still remember reading as clearly as day: after getting home, the kid cuts himself while slicing a tomato for his sister and finds that he still bleeds in comic book-style dots.

Would have made my almost daily nosebleeds a lot more interesting.

The game must have been a sequel, because all of the characters reacted to you as if you had all met before, and, as I recall, the story didn’t make too much sense. What really blew me away about it was just how difficult to describe it was. Okay, so it was from a first-person perspective, and you sometimes used weapons (including guns) like you would with a normal FPS. But there weren’t too many bad guys that you had to fight throughout, and you were mostly just exploring the Mutant’s mansion, like in certain bestselling adventure games. It wasn’t entirely an open world, though: there was a definite story, a somewhat easy-to-follow plot, the puzzles weren’t entirely impossible, and there was a definite a set amount of health that the player had, although there was an almost complete lack of heads-up display.

So how do you describe a game like that?

Genre-defining is what you call it when a billion new games are based off of something strange and new, but I’m probably one of the few people who remember this game with any fondness. And it’s probably not even the first game that I can’t think of a particular genre to define it to. Not quite action, not quite adventure, not quite puzzle, not quite interactive story, but something in-between them all that worked fairly well, to my nine-year-old brain. There were no sudden jumps in gameplay change (like from a top-down RPG to a sidescrolling action game, for instance), it built on game concepts that were introduced from the beginning.

Plus, that art style. Was just sweet.

In short, I guess some of the smallest, most lame games can teach us even the dumbest lessons about experimentation: that sometimes it just works. That genres don’t have to be adhered to. And that turning into a cartoon character is somehow a scary event.

My Greatest Dream

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