The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Lawnmower Man

Sometimes, I look at this crazy world, with our iPhones, our kindles, our Cadburys crème eggs and our Microsoft arm flailing technology and I wonder. What the **** happened to the idea of virtual reality?

For those who can’t tell the difference between your remote control and a stick of rock, virtual reality is the idea of computer environments interact with physical presence, basically placing yourself into another reality. In 1999, Ken Hillis wrote a book called Digital Sensations: Space, Identity and Embodiment In Virtual Reality. When  not used as a paperweight, the book gives us a more critical and theoretical academic assessment of the complex set of cultural and political desires and practices culminating in the development of the technology. Further more, it’s been researched as a therapeutic tests to get rid of phobias and to rehabilitate people. Obviously no-one cares about that and just wants to know “HOW CAN I PLAY VIDEO GAMES WITH THIS?

Look at this woman, doesn’t she look stupid? Of course, that said, I am playing bad video games for a living…

Well, Virtual Reality being implemented to play games hasn’t exactly worked out well, experiments had been tried in the 90’s with Nintendo’s replacement face service The Virtual Boy that no-one liked , but all the attempts at virtual reality made you look like an incredible tool, so not many people pursued with it. Ironically, fast forward 20 years and everyone loves the Kinect, which manages to make you look like a complete tit without even trying…I mean, the Wii’s advertising campaign endorsed wanking competitions and this… but this is just bad…where was I going with this?

So VR in IRL is generally an awful idea, but it’s been exectuted fairly well in fiction, from the land of Tron and it’s sequel making everything look all neony, The Matrix looking all greeny… The Matrix Revolutions looking like crap. You get the picture. But somewhere between these was Lawnmower Man. Lawnmower Man is a game, based on a movie, based on a book, based on a…biblical text…probably. Truth be told, I didn’t know it was a film until after I’d played the game for a substantial length of time and quite frankly, I kind of wish I didn’t know. Usually at this point, I’d go into the plot, before realising that it just doesn’t make sense. The government or someone puts experiments on a guy called Joeb, whose described as a “simpleton”…because prejudice is fun. I wanted this to be about a man with Superpowers based on gardening. That would be fantastic…in fact, I’ve even drawn up a sketch of what it might look like.

Anyway, so you start the game off in Cyberspace, which is a first person perspective. It looks incredibly dated, I mean, you thought Tron was dated, but this just takes it to the next level (cwutididthar) You literally see some bright coloured 8 bit MS paint backgrounds and your characters hands and you “fly” to the exit. It looks stupid, it feels dumb and completely blows any expectation you have for the rest of the game. Then you start the ACTUAL game.

Don’t worry, the guy at the bottom is just on tv, channel 5 are doing live probing.

And here we start the real problems with the game, yes I can forgive the flashy MS Paint adventures mini game that I just flew through, but this is just…I can’t even comprehend it. It’s a side scrolling shooting game, except throughout playing, you have no idea wether your shots actually hit anything, I fired like 20 bullets at a dog, well, at least what I thought was a dog, the sprites were so bad, I couldn’t tell and then there’s this guy in some kind of heatvision at the bottom of the screen, who occasionally pops up and screams in silent utter pain and I’m still confused why. Why? Why has that happened? Why? Why’s there an ugly guy on the bottom of my screen? Why? But enough of that. The graphics in this game are just about indistinguishable. Everyone looks a poo. A poo that shoots at other turd like objects. Occasionally you get an obvious piece of good graphics like a car, or a helicopter, but these are usually once a level. Yes, you get to drive a helicopter, which isn’t as fun as you think, the second it gets close to the ground it explodes, because of the games ****ty Michael Bay physics. Anyway, You can also hack computers by doing puzzles, but the game gives you no indication to do this and whilst the puzzles are simple “What shape connects this?” or “What’s the next number in the sequence?” and “Who assassinated Kennedy, the guy in the building, the guy on the grassy knoll or the time traveller who came to “fix things?”” The game doesn’t nearly give you enough time with the shape ones, so you end going “bwwah this one, BOLLOCKS TO THIS, I’m playing Sonic” True story.

Drugs are bad, kids.

On the subject of Sonic, this game has a stupid collect ‘em up element to it with CDs, enemies die, they drop CDs, probably data or whatever, I’d be lying if I said I was actually paying attention to this games logic, but I like to think they’ve just come from HMV with Justin Biebers album and I’m doing them all a favour. The game’s also pretty repetitive as well on top of this, it is pretty much do “Weird dated VR level, Weird dated side scrolling level, weird dated VR level, weird dated side scrolling level” WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY GARDENING SUPER POWER GAME? Anyway, so you do this a few times, then you go into Turbo mode. Wait, what? Yes, this game has its own Big Lipped Alligator Moment and by god is it glorious. It’s like Starwing set in the Chaos Emerald stage of Sonic The Hedgehog tripping on acid. Oh yeah, and you’re like a human mecha jet thing. Think about for a few moments.

Enough time? Yeah, it’s the greatest thing ever. The rest of the game is just the worst thing imagineable…Ok, it’s not Home Alone 2 bad, but it’s bad, however, the Turbo Mode  is just so fun and so fantastic, it almost completely worth it. ALMOST! Remember that Turbo mode has just about no relevance to the games story, nor the rest of the game, and the very fact that a small flashy add-on is the best part of a game speaks volumes about the actual gameplay and storyline. Plus the fact that it throws in 3 different types of gameplay just shows that this game has no identity, 3 potential games shoved together sloppily, makes it 1 bad game and with that, I give you Lawnmower Man, goodnight!


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