Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jon Caplin: Reprisal

Bothering little virtual people possessing simplified or nonexistant emotional behaviours is an important part of the cathartic function provided by videogames. When I was in elementary school, The Sims were a big thing, and everyone was playing virtual dollhouse. Making endless denizens of computerland mate, soil themselves, or start a cooking fire in a two-metre square room with no windows or doors was of constant entertainment to our young minds. cuteso101 on Yahoo! Answers even wonders if The Sims 2 is the best game ever. 

As seen above, she is helpfully reminded by another user that because she is a girl she is unnaturally predisposed to enjoying The Sims and that it probably isn’t the greatest game ever. Too bad. If it were the greatest game ever, I could comfortably write this article as follows:

So like you know that game, The Sims, guys? Duh, of course you do. It is literally the greatest game ever [no sarcasm here in the alternate universe]. It came out in 2000 and still won six awards at the 2012 gaming Oscars. Well listen, I know you’re mostly playing The Sims right now so you don’t care, but hear me out: there is another game. I know!! CRAZY, RIGHT?

So like in this game--which is kind of like The Sims--you like move dirt and stuff--which you can totally do in The Sims too, and it’s better there--and then all these people like build houses and stuff on them--just like in The Sims, except that you don’t have to build the houses, they do it for you! [cue angry screams from the audience in this alternate world that this is just The Sims for girls or moms or whoever those gamers look down on] And then you tell them to do stuff and they do and it’s great! You can also put fireballs on people, which you can’t do in the Sims, and there are like levels and stuff. If you have a minute while your Sims game is busy Reticulating Splines, you should probably give this one a shot.

(un)Fortunately, we live in a world where there is not consensus that The Sims is the greatest game of all time. That being said, there still exists the hypothesized game of pushing around soil and dropping fireballs on little people, and it’s called Populous. 

Populous was released in 1989 by Peter Molyneux’s Bullfrog Productions and invented the “God” genre of games, where your avatar is an unseen deity ruining the day of many little worshippers who you rely upon for the magical power of prayer, but not much else. How you keep them faithful is up to you. And to most players, the fun is all Schadenfreude and Sadism.

Through the next decade and a bit beyond, Molyneux used Bullfrog Productions, as well as its successor, Lionhead Studios, to continue to build on the experiences birthed by his first God game through the dystopian corporate future of Syndicate, to the slightly more humble Magic Carpet (you only get to be a wizard this time), and to its peak with probably the most majestic God simulator, Black and White, which took advantage of 3D graphics to make the cruelty of the “miracles” you provided much more thrilling.

Designer Jon Caplin has released a flash game called Reprisal which takes very fondly after Populous. It is very faithful to the original in feel, but also seems quite modern in its elegance. Reprisal is a good bit of neo-retro flashback to the early days of computer games, and if you don’t feel like loading up DOSbox to run creaky old Populous, it’s your best bet.

Scratch that, even if you have the energy and will to play Populous, play Reprisal. It’s well put together, cute, and I really feel for the little guys running around on my screen.

A thought has struck me: maybe I’m facilitating the murder of many electronic citizens by sharing this link. So, for my own moral well being, I beg of you to have a bit of mercy.

Here is the link. Now go forth and play.

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