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February 15, 2012 / jwaxo

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (Inside Jokes)

Making the switch from sprite-based FPS to polygons was not a smooth transition, but we dealt with it by drooling.

Here’s my biggest nerd-based confession, for anyone born after 1980, that I think I can give: I was never into Star Wars until I was maybe 13. I knew all of the main quotes, I had seen the movies maybe once a piece, I knew the names of all of the characters who mattered, but I really didn’t care. Lightsabers seemed cool, there was something about the Force that was vaguely interesting and neato, and I guess Han Solo was a pretty cool guy. Other than this, I was untouched in terms of Star Wars pop culture.

Minor side-story confession to go along with that: The Phantom Menace, aka Star Wars Episode 1, aka “The one with Jar-Jar Binks and that annoying little kid and several racial stereotypes” was the one that got me into it. It was at a friend’s birthday party/sleepover, where we first watched The Emperor’s New Groove and followed it up with The Phantom Menace. I really had no idea what was going on in Menace, but it interested me enough to check out the novelization which later led me to watching the movies at an actual age that I could remember them, and then started me on the route of actually really liking them.

The original three, that is. The true trilogy.

But before that eventful night, Star Wars things just washed over me.

Although I did have a wicked idea for an R2-D2 costume using my brother’s laundry basket.

Our friends down the street loved their X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter game, my cousin loved watching them over and over the one time we were trapped in a blizzard in Germany, kids at school would have mock Jedi battles during recess. And I would feel kind of left out, or at least bored. The pair of words “Star Wars” just invoked a wave of haziness and boredom, a wave that many people feel from the similar pair of words “Star Trek“.

But that didn’t stop me from playing games when they were offered to me.

And so I found myself playing with my friend from the grade below me at his house, poking around on his computer. He had this awesome new Star Wars game that I needed to see. With a heavy sigh and a growing film over my eyes, I followed him to the office.

There he showed me something that, in the world of 1997, I had only seen glimpses of: a fully-3D, fully-awesome first person shooter. The enemies weren’t just paper sprites, constantly turning at the player: they were physical, polygonal models. The things he could do as a player were cool, too: he could jump and dive, look all around, throw items with his Force powers, and, of course, use a lightsaber.

But then we stumbled upon a mystery that would bug me for years.

In a random hut, in a weird, confusing level, we happened to get through a door that normally closes on you and found a small, somewhat cute, bunny-like creature.

This guy, to be exact.

Only neither of us had heard of Sam & Max. Despite my love of point-and-click adventures, I had never played the game that helped put LucasArts (the guys who made all of the classicStar Wars games) on the map. And my friend was certainly lost for words at it.

But we poked and we prodded. We pushed poor Max into the river, into lava that we found, we shot him, we used Force powers on him, we did everything we could. But his secret was never revealed to us.

You see, at the time, I was unaware of the concept of “Easter Eggs”: silly inside jokes and references put there purely to amuse some random person. I had learned about the idea of the “inside joke” in third grade, when I was rudely shoved away from a group of girls giggling at something they claimed I wouldn’t understand. But something like that in a game? Why would you do that?

And so we never learned Max’s purpose. That bouncy rabbit-thingie sat squarely in my mind, a sore on the top of my Star Wars mouth. What was his purpose? Did he give a powerup? Was it a secret to another puzzle?

Some things are just not meant for some people to know.

But shooting him was fun.

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