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December 19, 2004 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Comedy Returns to Video Games?
I've been searching for a funny computer game to give my father for christmas, after last years gift of Grim Fandango went over brilliantly. Unfortunately, it seems that in games as in any media dying is easy, comedy is hard.
With the upcoming release of their first game, Psychonauts, Double Fine productions, hopes to resurrect the art. How do I know it's going to be hilarious? The company is headed up by headed up by Tim Schafer of Grim Fandango, Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle fame. Oh, and they're all utterly insane
And lest anyone accuse me of corporate shilling, check out the scummVM and FreeSCI projects which allow you to play classic LucasArts and Sierra comedy adventures on your linux, mac or palm computers. Don't forget to tip your waitress.
posted by Popular Ethics (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by jimmy at 6:29 PM on December 19, 2004

My handkerchief will wipe up your blood.
posted by interrobang at 6:40 PM on December 19, 2004

Mmm. Corporate shilling. But, to be a little fairer, comedy is kind of hard, isn't it?

Well, isn't it?
posted by cgc373 at 6:56 PM on December 19, 2004

Nice post, PE.

Tim Schafer is a very talented, funny guy. He gave a great talk at GDC this year, during which he described how he fleshed out the characters for Psychonauts by creating Friendster profiles for them.

But he's not the only guy making funny games. I reccommend checking out The Bard's Tale, created by Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment. It's a very well-written comic RPG, and it features the voice of Cary Elwes as the Bard.

Official Site
IGN Review

It's out now on PS2/Xbox and due for a PC release on March 15th.

I don't have any non-product links, so call me a PepsiBlue shill if you like... I'm just interested by anyone who tries to push the narrative ability of games in new directions, and Schafer and Fargo are definitely two people working towards that goal.
posted by Fourmyle at 7:02 PM on December 19, 2004

Grim Fandango and Monkey Island (the 3D one) were two absolute works of art in multimedia.

the games were innovative (in the year of their release), superbly written, and totally engrossing beyond expectations.

another great work: Sam & Max Hit The Road
posted by NationalKato at 7:18 PM on December 19, 2004

Sam and Max having a sequel cancelled not once, but twice, remains high on the list of "what the fuck?"s of the twentieth century.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:35 PM on December 19, 2004

Grim Fandango, now there's a great game! Not that I've ever had the time or patience to actually beat it, but I've enjoyed playing though the first third a few times. :)
posted by tiamat at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2004

Nobody should be bragging about featuring Cary Elwes after Saw.
posted by mek at 8:16 PM on December 19, 2004

I still have my Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, and Day of the Tentacle CD-ROMS out of the archive of dead games box. They are classics of the adventure genre. Here's to Psychonauts making it.
posted by linux at 8:24 PM on December 19, 2004

Be sure to check out Tell Tale Games' site. They are promising to revive the adventure game genre. Rumor has it that they are obtaining the rights to an old Lucasarts adventure game. PS - the site is down right now, but I included the link anyway.

Also be sure to keep an eye on Bad-Brain Entertainment, who are releasing a few adventure/comedy games in the future.
posted by whoshotwho at 8:44 PM on December 19, 2004

For my money, the king of humorous adventure games is Steve Meretzky of Infocom. His text adventures included Planetfall & Stationfall, Enchanter, Sorcerer & Spellbreaker, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

But his best -- my all-time favorite computer game -- is The Space Bar. Grim Fandango is good, but puzzlewise it just can't compare. I got a new copy off Ebay for $5 a couple of years ago. Warning: this game is hard -- but for all the right reasons.
posted by Aknaton at 8:50 PM on December 19, 2004

Nice fpp, but if you ever say anything bad about violent video games again, Ill fucking kill you.
posted by rosswald at 9:02 PM on December 19, 2004

Aknaton: The Space Bar looks interesting, but you have to admit that games such as Grim Fandango and Monkey Island add a unique artistic style through their use of innovative graphics (2D & 3D, oftentimes mixed).
posted by NationalKato at 9:44 PM on December 19, 2004

Oh dude... Scott! Heh, heh... Bagel... Yeah! (tears of joy)
Hooray, the days opposite of chillin' are over... 94107 roxorz!
Seriously dude, ghosts are scary and all, but nothing is scarier than a civil war ghost. Man...
posted by numlok at 10:03 PM on December 19, 2004

I second Steve Meretzsky, who gets credit for all the funny stuff in the Hitchhiker's game that Douglas Adams was too procrastinated to write.
posted by inksyndicate at 10:48 PM on December 19, 2004

Great title, Popular Ethics. One of the funniest lines in the game.

I don't usually like games that are strictly comedies, but I've found alot of humor in more serious games. The first Gabriel Knight and Full Throttle (ok, not totally serious) come to mind. Even Half-Life 2 had some funny dialogue in it (What cat?).

Grim Fandango is truly a work of art, though. I introduced it to a friend of mine who doesn't play games but was a Spanish major (and obsessed with Day of the Dead). Manny Calavera is still her dream man.
posted by deafmute at 12:13 AM on December 20, 2004

I liked Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island games, but I always ended up downloading walkthroughs to finish them. The puzzles weren't difficult per se, but I like puzzles that can be figured out logically; after one too many "combine [random object] with [random object]" type solutions to puzzles, I just get tired of guessing.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:17 AM on December 20, 2004

I dug out Day of the Tentacle just last week and, after some fiddling around with DOSBox played the whole thing through in all its pixely goodness. Nothing like founding fathers humour, or freezing a hamster in an icebox for a few hundred years.

Comedy would be about the only thing to bring me back to gaming after all these years, so here's hoping.
posted by szechuan at 1:19 AM on December 20, 2004

My handkerchief will wipe up your blood.

*Opens door, panting.*
So you got that job as janitor, after all!

(Sorry, got stuck in traffic.)
posted by Lornoi at 1:52 AM on December 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

Don't get me started on LucasArts' unceremonious cancelation of the promising Sam & Max: Freelance Police. It's a dark day for the video game industry when something that would be a sure-fire hit with critics and fans is shelved because of dollar-chasing.
posted by Down10 at 2:22 AM on December 20, 2004

I was unaware of this game, so thanks a lot for posting PE.

I agree 100% with Down10 - the cancellation of Sam & Max was a disgrace, I still get angry thinking about it.... GRRRR... Adventure games like Sam & Max, Monkey Island, DotT, etc. was what got me into gaming, and I still have all the original games (which is saying something since I never really keep any). There's a whole generation of gamers out there who have never experienced the joys of a game like this, so who knows, maybe we'll see a renaissance of the genre. One can hope anyway...
posted by gemmy at 4:57 AM on December 20, 2004

This is cool. Funny, quirky, genre-busting games are few and far between.

For fans of three-stooges-style slapstick, check out Neighbors from Hell and its sequel.
posted by Otis at 5:28 AM on December 20, 2004

What, no Full Throttle? Easily my favourite game from LucasArts and featuring the voice talents of Luke Skywalker himself as well as everyone's fave - Bruce Campbell.

Looks like LucasArts have a preproduction of a new Full Throttle game too! - Hell on Wheels. W00t! How come the LucasArts team made such great adventure games but wholly sucked at anything related to SW*?

*X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter excepted
posted by longbaugh at 5:31 AM on December 20, 2004

Nice fpp, thanks a lot for posting PE
I can see I wasn't the only one who adored Grim Fandango. For true fans, don't miss your chance to become Manny Calavera.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:55 AM on December 20, 2004

Please, let's not start a flame-war about LucasArts SW games sucking. All too easy.

I'm surprised I didn't see MDK2 in this review of humor in games, as that was the best example I've still seen to date. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't find this article all that well-written.
posted by Busithoth at 5:55 AM on December 20, 2004

Sam & Max: Freelance Police may still have a chance. There are rumors floating around that Bad Brain may be trying to acquire the rights to the title. Telltale Games, composed of the old Freelance Police team, want it too. This could get interesting.

Bisithoth, I hope to see more MDK games in the future. They were both very funny and quite innovative for first person shooters.
posted by zsazsa at 6:10 AM on December 20, 2004

longbaugh: They cancelled Hell on Wheels, too, I'm afraid, and I haven't heard of anyone wanting to pick it up. The press release shows up in Google cache.
posted by Sibrax at 6:59 AM on December 20, 2004


Christmas is ruined...
posted by longbaugh at 8:04 AM on December 20, 2004

No One Lives Forever 2 isn't too old, and it's one of the funniest games I've ever played. reat game all-around.
posted by Evstar at 8:12 AM on December 20, 2004

^make that great
posted by Evstar at 8:12 AM on December 20, 2004

Wow, this is cool. Bruce Campbell in Full Throttle? ...and Mark Hamill is a serious voice-acting talent (the animated Batman's Joker springs to mind; I suppose Hamill is so typecast/associated with Luke that he can't hardly show his face, so he doesn't show his face but still acts brilliantly.)

Stuff like this could get me to finally get a PS2 or something and give my brain that much needed jaw-drooping, drooling, alpha-state relaxation it needs. Psychonauts looks excellent, and I've been meaning to try out Oddworld forever now. I haven't played video games for several years.

I suppose I should check out which games are compatible with which systems...

posted by Shane at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2004

Full Throttle is also sitting there with the other old games I refuse to put in the dead games archive box. Has one of the greatest opening sequences ever (and ending sequences as well).

I have The Space Bar. It was hard. So hard I never finished it. And unfortunately, the game engine was horrible.

No One Lives Forever 1 & 2 are pretty fun, as well.

I need to pick up Bard's Tale (been waiting for the price drop, which happened a week ago)....
posted by linux at 8:36 AM on December 20, 2004

Agreed, "No One Lives Forever 2" was absolutely hilarious and an all around delight.

posted by digibri at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2004

I'm kind of surprised no one here has taken the time to rave about the Sierra games. I know that the Quest for Glory series were some of my all-time favorites, with a blend of humor, hero, and good old-fashioned swords-and-sorcery.

posted by onalark at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2004

The Neverhood is funny and strange. I like it. Also, the entire game is ClaymationTM-esque.
posted by majick at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2004

I was a sucker for puzzle games as a kid and absolutely loved Cliff Johnson's work. The Fool's Errand and, later, 3 in Three kept both me and my father busy for quite some time. Brain exercise. Yay!

If you have a newer Mac or PC, you can play these via emulation.
posted by pmbuko at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2004

onlark: The Space Quest series was definitely teh funny shit.

The Ratchet and Clank serious is has some funny, and I find myself snickering at Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:22 PM on December 20, 2004

i gotta check out scummVM... i've always wanted to play the first monkey island game, which i've heard was hilarious. hopefully can get it running on XP somehow.

also, i'm sure every person who was into the ___ quest games has throughly enjoyed peasant's quest by now, but if not... GO NOW! so funny.
posted by jcruelty at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2004

Sorry -

No Bruce Campbell in Full Throttle.

Ben was voiced by the talented Roy Conrad, now sadly no longer with us.
posted by Samizdata at 4:53 PM on December 20, 2004

I had just stumbled across Al Lowe's site last week. He was the main writer and creator of Leisure Larry series. He trashed the new LS 8 as a collection of mini-games with some crap stuck in between. No story, no plot. So sad.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:35 PM on December 20, 2004

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