The Year in Weird
Some people dig videogames for the way they can recreate reality. I like 'em because of their unparalleled capacity for delivering the surreal. 2009 gave us more than a few moments of off-the-wall strangeness, but these were my favorites.
SimAnimals introduced gamers to Least Weasels and Wigeons. Like most spinoffs of the Sims, this game fell off the radar almost as soon as it registered its first blip. But I can't help but remember how weird SimAnimals seemed the first time I saw it mentioned at E3.
The PlayStation 3 smelled like patchouli. If you had told me a year ago that one of the most acclaimed games for the PS3 would be about flowers, I would probably have whacked you across the head with a copy of Killzone. And yet here we are at the end of the year. Few critics are willing to go to bat for Killzone 2 as one of the year's best, but many are fawning over Jenova Chen's peaceful download.
Cats read Schwarzenegger. Noby Noby Boy is so unrepentantly weird that most gamers simply throw their hands up ? la Seinfeld and walk away rather than try to engage the quirky, goal-poor game. Dismiss the game at your own peril.
"Grey?s Anatomy" got busy. Causal gamers are inexplicable. There's no telling what they'll like. But that doesn't stop people from trying to cater to their whims. The "Grey's Anatomy" game made a valiant effort by trying to nail the hairy relationships of the television show's characters. The game may not have been all that great, but the off-the-wall moments it delivered were certainly out of the norm.
Zeno Clash channeled Jodorowsky. Games frequently get stuck in an aesthetic rut. Zeno Clash broke the pattern of boring by introducing gamers to a world that looked like a cross between "Masters of the Universe" and "Holy Mountain."
Mike Patton got extra-cheesy. Former Faith No More lead singer Mike Patton has an interesting history with videogames. It's his voice that you hear every time a zombie grumbles, growls, or vomits in Left 4 Dead. But his performance in Bionic Commando takes the cake for its over-the-top corniness.
Red Faction: Guerrilla armed us with an ostrich hammer. The ostrich hammer started as an April Fool's Day joke -- an exploration of weaponry what-ifs. But then Volition did the right thing and put the goofy weapon into its game. I call the ostrich hammer a major victory for the forces of weird.
The best bad game you'll ever replay gets re-released. Have fun walking. Suda51 is King Shit in the Realm of Weird. Flower, Sun and Rain (re-released for the Nintendo DS this year) gave gamers a glimpse of the game designer's early work. What did we learn? Suda has always had a screw loose.
Fat Princess got sprung. When GlaDOS serenaded us at the end of Portal a trend was born. Fat Princess followed the tradition by slapping a hilariously altered rendition of a Sir Mix-a-Lot classic over its ending crawl.
Moogles suffered horrible swelling. You know what's really weird? The way that some Final Fantasy fans will play any game so long as Cloud is in it. Fan bashing aside, the Moogles made a series of surreal cameos in PSP stinker Dissidia Final Fantasy this year. What's up with the little guy's nose?
Batman took the brown acid. Hallucinations have a long, storied history in videogames. This year Batman: Arkham Asylum gave us a glimpse at the inside of Bruce Wayne's addled brain. What we saw wasn't pretty.
Keyboard Cat made his videogame debut. Scribblenauts was a paean to gamer imagination. Knowing his audience all too well, Jeremiah Slaczka made sure that his game was full of silly meme gags -- the kind of jokes that we'll be embarrassed by next year. But right now. Hilarious.
The weirdest videogame setting ever rocked many socks. For the most part videogames take us to battlefields, alien planets and Middle Earth. Double Fine's Brütal Legend transported us to one of the strangest, most original videogame worlds ever created.
Modern Warfare 2 fans spent at least one evening hiding in the bushes. Modern Warfare 2 is the antithesis of strange. But the conformist hit came bundled with a pair of night-vision goggles -- surely inspiring more than a few gamers to slap it over their heads and creep in the dark. Every week I Google "crime blotter" and "night vision goggles" just in case some Modern Warfare 2 fan crosses the line.
Mickey Rourke cursed up a storm. The guy was an unemployable washout until his turn in "The Wrestler" salvaged his acting career. Now that Mickey Rourke is back, he's cashing in. His turn in Rogue Warrior is the best thing about the game. This clip, compiling all of his in-game profanity, makes me hope that Hollywood casts Rourke in a Rogue Warrior movie. If videogame movies must suck, let's at least make them suck hilariously.