Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, in space, nobody can hear you laugh. Though in this case, being in a nice echo chamber with a megaphone wouldn't help much.
It is said that, in the long distant past, dark gods working on a forge crafted from a dead star did curse their ability to craft the Anti Comedy; a sucking ball of awfulness from which no light, no sound, no hope could escape. Its jokes drank of their souls, ripping away all sense of meaning and all justification of existence from their quivering eye-balls to the very electrons in their tiniest parts; its punchlines so painful and yet so uninspired that their echoes are still with us today. Whenever a joke fails, all hear them in their hearts. Whenever a stand-up comedian demands of an audience "Is this thing on?", the absence of a laugh rings through their silent night. For every successful joke that lands, scientists reason, there must be an equal and opposite reaction somewhere. Here is where they nest. Where they bide their time. This is their eternal jail; where no toe goes uncurled, but no rib ever gets tickled.
And Star Warped is pretty bloody awful too.
Since we're close enough to Star Wars Day, I did plan this week to dig up a suitably obscure Star Wars game... but in looking around, they're either depressingly good, or even depressingly based on The Phantom Menace. Then I thought I'd dig out one of Lucasarts' most forgotten games, Night Shift, in which you play the repairman of a toy machine, churning out merchandise for his sinister bosses. But there isn't really much to say about it. It's a quirky title about keeping it charged by riding a bicycle and fixing anything that goes wrong. It looks a little something like this, and plays like it too. Only interactively!
So, instead let's dive into the completely unofficial Star Warped, which promises "Be Seduced By The Power Of The Dork Side", but at least takes a second to warn that it's from Parroty Interactive, creators of such comedy plague-pits as Pyst, Microshaft Winblows 98, and The X-Fools. What are we in for? Well, here's a taster. One of its many failures is a section that asks what Star Wars would have been like had it been written by someone other than George Lucas - Woody Allen, say, or Quentin Tarantino.
While watching this, please remember that somebody wrote this, thought it was funny enough to get actors to record it, worth a CD to store it, and good enough for people to buy with money that could have been spent on food or rat poison. Man, rat poison. I could totally go for a hit of that right now...
Okay. Maybe that was just an anomaly. Um. Let's try a Seinfeld one. It'll be fine, just as long as it doesn't start with a "What is up with that..." cliche or something. But these are professional would-be comedians. I'm almost positive they'll have something better than that.
A CD holds 650MB of data.
I have never regretted this as much as now.
The basic gag here, and I use that term in its loosest possible sense, is that two Star Wars nerds have compiled a disc of their favourite snagged, borrowed and stolen Star Wars stuff. You get to watch secret footage from Skywalker Ranch, play games, and regret the newly confirmed crimes committed in a previous life from either a bland control panel interface, or a badly drawn recreation of an actual nerd's bedroom. ("Minus the smell!" one chips in.) Running gags include choking disbelief at the quality of the writing, as well as some in-game stuff like their collection of foreign posters, like the Italian and Japanese film posters that just want to show off Leia in various fan-servicey costumes and a Russian one with Darth Vader as the hero called Czar Wars, and regular interjections for daring to not click on something every femtosecond. Mostly those are the boys whining, because that's very attractive, with references like "You there? Geez, Hoth could have defrosted by now" or "Waiting for Tatooine's two suns to set?".
Occasionally though, it's someone else, like their sister Stephanie - who to the game's credit occasionally gets to be a geek too, making her interjections annoying, but at least 327% more tolerable than the average episode of The Big Bang Theory. Though she does it with jokes like "Hey, have any of you seen my Empire Out Of My Uterus T-Shirt", which unfortunately does still keep her on the list of "People I Want To Stab With A Machete." For the full list, check the credits of Star Warped.
The producer is of course exempt from this. At least, while ravenous flesh-eating rats are a possibility.
Most of Star Warped is made up of comedic mini-games, where by 'comedy' I mean 'torture' and 'mini-games' I mean the constant sound of screaming that will never end. The sheer laziness is just... stunning. "Lazy" isn't a word that can normally be assigned to games, simply because even the worst game will have taken blood, sweat and tears to bring to life. But wow. Just, wow. Take the quiz portion, which is a rip-off of the long-running You Don't Know Jack. The joke name? "U Don't No Jedi". That's it. That's as much effort as they put in here. Like You Don't Know Jack, each question starts with a song, the best one being: "Now comes time to start the fun! Here comes question Obi-One!" Unimpressed? Well, I didn't say 'good', just better than "I like to have sex with Princess Leia. But instead it's Question 3-ah."
And then there's the action games. Two of them up front; Death Star Destructo and Whack The Ewok. In the first, you play as the Death Star in the middle of the screen, as enemies like AT-ATs, gumball machine aliens and Leia's slave bikini top fly past. You shoot them. In shooting them, you score points. Your reward is to never have to play it again. Oddly, this is also the reward for winning Whack The Ewok.
Thing is, these are arguably the highlights here. At the very least, more effort went in than Gene Splicer, which promises to show you what any Star Wars character would look like when spliced with another. Or, to be more accurate, what the ones they could be bothered with would. Darth Vader's strength spliced with R2-D2's height? Sylvester Stallone, apparently. Um. Okay. He's no giant, but he's not exactly tiny either. Combine his 'dark humour' with Chewie's long hair, and you get... Howard Stern, apparently.
Hey, you remember that scene in any of the movies where Darth Vader cracked a joke? The answer is "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
When you hear your spine crack, it's time to stop bending over backwards to think of gags. Luckily, they give up soon enough. There's a section called Time Machine for instance, which lets us spy on the Star Wars heroes before, during and after the series. Let's check in on Luke, post Jedi.
"Twenty years after the destruction of the Death Star, Luke found himself a desperate loner."
Wow! Comedy gold already! We then cut to him in a bar trying to pick up an Orion slave girl apparently. Okay. Not the greatest start really, but let's not pre-judge. Show us, oh Star Warped, the fruits of your imagination. Let us see how your expert knowledge can pluck humour from the movies, the Extended Universe, the decades of fan love for this world and your own finally honed comedy instincts.
"Hey, Foxy. I don't know if you remember me, but I single-handedly destroyed the Death Star. Twice."
"Screw off, nerd-herder."
Well... maybe the others are better? Let's try... uh... Darth Vader, during the Star Wars years.
"Darth Vader was sent spinning into space when his first Death Star was destroyed. As his spaceship spun around, Vader had an epiphany. He wasn't enjoying life."
"So Vader took up golf. He had a mean T-Shot, but he never really worked on his putting enough to be competitive."
Parroty Interactive saw itself as a maker of comedy games.
Comedy is said to be tragedy plus time.
I think that makes this the funniest game ever.
From a certain point of view.
But why should the movies have all the fun? Star Warped couldn't go by without taking a few shots at the many great Star Wars games out there, and by 'couldn't, I mean 'unfortunately doesn't.' There are three of them. First, Dork Forces, which almost risks being an actual joke, but isn't going to take the risk of being a game. You're Kyle Katarn, only instead of a gun, you have a camera. You're in a corridor with a couple of turns, all in node-movement form like Dungeon Master, with the goal being to get to the end where you find Darth Vader in bed with Boba Fett. To add a little extra comedy, Darth Vader is wearing boxer shorts. Which is funny, because that is not a thing you would normally see Darth Vader wearing. Or any boxer shorts. Though to be clear, because he normally wears armour rather than because he 'goes commando'. Nobody in the Star Wars universe goes commando, because commandos are trained at the Imperial Stormtrooper Academy. The piss at the urinal would go everywhere.
Next is a game called "Wrecked All Assault", based on Rebel Assault. You're probably wondering why they didn't call it "Rectal Assault", and the answer is that it would give away the fact that you're flying through Jabba the Hutt's gut before the hilarious end bit where it reveals that you were flying through Jabba the Hutt's gut and then you fly out of his mouth. And he burps.
What's that? You wanted to fly out of his anus? That is a fact I recommend keeping to yourself.
The final game is X-Schwing. So of course, it's a parody of... Speed? Yep. Leia... played by Sandra Bullock, because... uh... is flying an X-Wing, and it will explode if it goes under 50 parsecs per hour. Asteroids fly in and hit the ship, slowing it down. "You're not such a bad pilot," you're told if you do badly. "Actually, you're a terrible pilot. On the other hand, that Sandra Bullock can pay my fare any time."
I... Yeah, okay. Let's go with that. If it makes this stop, let's go with that.
Yes, there's a reward at the end of all this - access to the Vault, where Star Warped keeps its Grade A material. Like their royalty-free version of the Star Wars theme, which is enthusiastically humming the Death March. Or their shelf of action figures. "For one reason or another, they never made it into the commercial market," we're told. Okay. At this point, I'm just looking for one joke. One definite, can-point-to-that-and-say-that-was-a-joke joke. Just one. Not even a good one. Just something that reminds me that I once knew a thing called happiness, and that some day everyone involved with this will be dead.
One joke. Just one. Not even a good one. I'll even settle for "Knock knock," "Who's there?" "Yuuzhan Vong," "Yuuzhan Vong who?" "Yuuzhan Vong house have broken into, but Yoda, you forgives."
It's called 'Flawed Fighters', because heaven forfend anyone spend more than five seconds on anything here. Main characters - Leia I. Joe... in an infinite universe, there is no planet where that even works, never mind works and is funny... and Cool Handless Luke. Okay. Also not funny, but at least if you touched it against something that was, you probably wouldn't get a full apocalyptic explosion. Such is the hilarity of these characters though that they appear again elsewhere, in a line-up of rejected action figures like Anatomically Correct Jabba, Creepy Peeping Yoda and Wookie Sheds-A-Lot. Oh, and Greedo.
I suppose the makers get a few marks for avoiding a Han Shot First gag, but only because they couldn't pass up this slice of hilarity:
"Pizza flipping Greedo. The pizza flipping action is incredibly realistic and makes for some really unique battles."
"Yeah, sucks though. They pulled it just because too many kids choked on the little plastic pizzas."
"Yeah, like that's a good reason."
I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE JOKE IS MEANT TO BE. I Googled 'Greedo Pizza', and the only references are to Star Warped itself. Was it meant to be Pizza the Hutt, until someone pointed out that stealing from Spaceballs is like stealing a snot rag from a baby? Some reference to "Greedo" maybe possibly sounding slightly Italian? I really have to know! It would be awful to have witnessed the funniest thing ever written and not have known about it, like picking your teeth with a winning lottery ticket or something. I'm not saying this is likely or anything, but... dammit, WHAT IS THE JOKE?!
I'm not sure my brain can take much more of this. Let's wrap it up.
It's probably fitting that throughout the entire agonising Star Warped experience, it managed to draw exactly one laugh... and that was by accident. Either that or the writers made up for being as funny as a bowel cancer diagnosis on your birthday with some serious prognostication skills. It's in the Vault, where if you look very closely you can see a certain Dark Lord of the Sith wearing... well, let's just say something that became a lot more relevant a couple of years back.
Take it away, guys. Your Moment.
"Aaron, did you put mouse ears on Darth?"
"Yeah. I thought it would be the ultimate humiliation."
Wasn't that special?
Semi-related, there are at least five copies of Star Warped on eBay at the moment. This seems a crying shame when there's a newly vacant landfill in New Mexico they could be helping to fill. No longer is Jar Jar the Star Wars universe's biggest comedy vacuum. The true Phantom Menace was unsold copies of this game on the shelves, waiting to snare fresh fans who thought the light of goodness still shone in the world. The shame George Lucas feels for the Star Wars Holiday Special should be nothing compared to the fact that he in any way helped facilitate this game's existence. I just hope it helped its creators reach the heights they were so clearly destined for; Dark Lords of the Shit.
Now let us never speak of Parroty Interactive again. Death was too good for them.
But, y'know, still a pretty damn good start.