From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week: Bibleman! Bibleman! Does whatever a bible can! Reads a verse! Any size! Catches thieves! Was baptised! Look out! Here comes the Bibleman!
There's probably a reason why the end of the demo of this game specifically says "you can buy it at your local Christian retailer" rather than "at your local game store", and I'm not including "game stores being hives of scum and villainy", as true as that is. It's far from the worst of its kind—looking at you, Left Behind, and I'm sure you'll get your turn one week—but you won't find many goofier attempts to mix religion with gaming. It's... it's quite something, even by biblical superhero standards.
I've never seen the show this game is based on, though in a world with YouTube, it's not hard to get the basic gist. As you'd expect, it's a bit of a biblical Batman, "Holy crimefighting!" indeed, with campy costumes and tongue-in-cheek villains like "The Cheater" and "Rapscalion P. Sinister." Bibleman is a regular man transformed into a superhero because (mumble) to defeat them with the power of heart, scripture, and also a lightsaber. Naughty Bibleman. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
From snippets on YouTube, it looks absolutely dreadful, though I've not looked into the politics behind it and don't really care to. It may be a great show with good moral lessons; it may have a finale where Bibleman punches the nearest atheist and both eats and shits out the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As ever when this kind of game comes up for Crapshoot, this isn't meant as a political skewering based on the fact that it's a Christian game. It's because the game deserves it on its own merits/demerits.
Need proof? Well, then you fail—you should have faith! Still, check out its intro.
So, where to even begin? These are our heroes—Bibleman, the man in armour, Biblegirl, the girl, and Cypher, the black guy who for some reason apparently isn't allowed to use the white folks' fancy purple background without supervision—rendered in the finest animation that 1993 had to offer. Unfortunately, this game came out in 2005. It's bad enough that the three are stuck showing off fighting the air. It's so much worse that Biblegirl loses, and ends up having to start praying in a kind of "Oh, I meant to do that," after getting her gun blasted from her hand. Then there's that backflip. Oh, sweetie. Just... just no. Even that though is nothing compared to shamelessly re-using the same clips and slapping a mosaic filter on top because the music's longer than anyone can be bothered/afford to animate the characters for.
Also, is it my imagination, or does Bibleman end the intro by blowing a kiss?
Clearly, these three need a villain worthy of their skill—and they get one, as seen briefly at the end. Captain Planet, to compare with a similar kind of supposedly moral superhero (give or take the whole thing where the Planeteers keep the secrets of completely clean energy to themselves instead of sharing them with the world), fought radioactive supermen, hot mad scientists, rat people, powerful industrialists and alien overlords voiced by David Warner. Bibleman has to face... Dwayne Dibbley?
Oh, wait. Sorry. Instead of Red Dwarf's Duke of Dork, it's "The Wacky Protestor", and instead of those guys from the intro, it's these others who look absolutely nothing at all like them. Also, is it my imagination, or is the computer being voiced by SARAH the Smart House from Eureka? This gets all the more suspicious if you choose to play as Biblegirl, whose 'That hurt!' noises are very, very much like a man putting on a high-pitch, and don't sound at all like the actress in the FMV sequences. FMV sequences incidentally that are obviously spliced in from an episode of the show rather than produced for the game. Crappy as they are, they're far too high quality for this. Yes, I know what I just said.
The actual game is an isometric action affair—Crusader: Buyer's Remorse, if you will. At least, it's sort of an action game. Despite Bibleman's lightsaber, Cypher's hand-punchy things and Biblegirl's antimatter gun (yes, really), you don't actually attack enemies per se. The idea of Bibleman and friends just beating the shit out of their enemies apparently not having been deemed appropriate, combat is a case of waiting for an enemy to shoot at you, then turning their projectile back on them like a cheek with "F*** YOU" tattooed on the side. This does not seem like the most effective strategy, since if the enemies though for just one second, they'd realise that all they have to do is stop attacking and get on with their day.
Presumably this is what they mean by evil carrying the seeds of its own destruction.
The demo offers three levels, which take roughly five minutes to get through. The first is set the team's Biblecave, ahem, in a Matrix-style training simulator. Here a Crime Computer that is very obviously an iMac sits in mockery of Bruce Wayne's Batcomputer, along with several Bibles that can be picked up to use in the fight. Sadly, using one just makes the nearest enemy vanish in a flash of light, wasting the opportunity for both literal bible-bashing and throwing the book at them. Shameful.
The enemies in the training area are... somewhat odd. Of all the possible things they could shout at the heroes, they go with a very effeminate "Nice pirouette!" followed by "Oh, yours is nice as well!" So... Bibleman's idea of a good workout is to go into his own personal Matrix and beat up what can only be seen as attempts at gay stereotypes? No. No, that can't be it. One minute—research break.
Okay, it's even sillier. In the original DVD version of this turkey—yep, thought as much—there's a group of hoodlums who dance around as they prepare to burn bibles, and the game uses their sound-clips. Even in context, it's dumb, but at least we're just dealing with a poorly done comedy bit rather than anything more pointed, and Level 5 almost certainly won't be Bibleman joining the Klan or something.
The first proper mission takes place in a warehouse, which as we all know is only a step up from a sewer level due to not being a sewer level. A group of the Wacky Protestor's henchmen are there to burn crates of bibles and repeatedly check their phones to see if Two-Face has gotten back to them about their job applications. Since these are just regular guys, it rather seems the police would be better suited for this than a group of superheroes who aren't allowed to throw the first antimatter blast. Still, the situation is dealt with pretty quickly thanks to the enemies being too dumb to abuse this, leaving the way clear for the final demo mission. If you're using this to time a hard-boiled egg, you have two minutes left.
Also, back in the Biblecave, this happens:
You know, there are many questions that could be asked about this, not least "The shit?" The top one though probably has to be "Why has the head of a paramilitary Christian superhero team got not one, but two books clearly labelled with a menorah on his desk?" Maybe it's setting up a plot twist.
The result though is a dirt-simple mission, in which the Bible Team just has to collect Bibles containing key bits of scripture—I'm no expert on this, but I thought the point was that they contained all of it by default—to assemble Bibleman's spiritual armour and let him begin his career of kicking arse for the Lord. The demo ends at that point though, so what happens next will have to remain a mystery, at least until you remember that this is a story about a man with a suit of power armour and a lightsaber going up against Jerry Lewis' nerdier brother. That's not so much a story as a bloody inevitability.
Hmm. I wonder if the full version had any cheat codes...
Gah! I was just asking! Never mind!