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Column: 'A Journalistic Bent: Simple Pleasures'

In his latest 'A Journalistic Bent' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a close look at the delight to be found in the arcade shooter, and spends more time watching thing
'A Journalistic Bent' is a regular column in which our roving reporter takes a hard look at all the issues of gaming, games development, and the games themselves. This week's column looks at favoured shooters or ‘shmups’ as they have sadly become known. Simple Pleasures For all the sophistication of the games we currently play, there’s an ancient species that still gives me as much pleasure as any emergent sim or massively-multi-player world. These are the shoot ‘em ups. I’ve long struggled to articulate what it is about these games that instill such happiness in me, but I assume it must be some manner of simplicity, of reduced and distilled actions. Or perhaps it’s the childish glee of destruction. A friend of mine, the editor of an obscure science journal in the UK, said that games as a whole were like a mobile phone. Phones are becoming increasingly complex, with all kinds of sophisticated features and yet, for the most part, the really popular element of phones are the text message. It’s that kind of lowest-common denominator impulse in our interactions with technology that I think makes shooters so compulsive. If there are certain needs of communication that text messages fill with the minimum of complexity, then there are certain elements of excitement and mood-alteration than shooters provide with a distinct whiff of uncomplicated pixel-fire. Three Kings When in need of shooting there are three places I regularly turn to. Being a desk-bound, info dredging, PC zealot I don’t often muster the will to shamble over to the (neglected-looking) television and punch one of the consoles to life, that only really happens when there’s work to be done, or caffeine jitters to be expunged in some futuristic racing. Instead I let my folder entitled “Other Games” do the work. Top of this list of miscellaneous entertainments is Mutant Storm, by the now XBox-bound PomPom Games. This was their second title, a magnificent iteration of the Robotron-style of shooter, one that dumps you in an arena with masses of spawning enemies which must be cleared before the next level will open up. The simplicity of the action, along with its manic-shooter precision and excellent ‘enraged’ enemy score-multipliers makes it ludicrously invigorating. Second comes Warning Forever, by Hikoza T Ohkubo. The official site explains all: “In this game, there are only you and the boss ship. The more you beat a boss, the more next boss becomes strong.” Beautiful, agonising, epic and strewn with evolving cleverness. Thirdly, but hardly ever finally, is the pixelated genius of Kenta Cho. Although Mr Cho now has a few neon-wrapped masterpieces available for download, I would argue that it is the scrolling 360-degree shooter Gunroar which is his masterpiece. It has devoured almost as many hours when I should be previewing World War II RTS games as SWIV did when I was an idly disenfranchised teenager. Conclusion Forever All of which jubilation is as prologue to saying, goddamn, I can’t wait for a bit of Space Giraffe. Take all the press-release babble of this year and contrast them with Minter matter-of-factly saying, towards the end of this YouTube video “but that gives you an idea of how you can put a game inside Neon...” [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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