Sunday, May 14, 2006

AMDB, yeah you know me

A Site Plug, plus a review of Destroy All Humans

Recently, I have been spending a very great deal of time at (having navigated there from x-entertainment). This site is probably beyond old news to everyone, but they seem to be consistently pretty funny, in a nerdy way, and they also relatively recently added a feature called the Awful Movie Database, a pitch-perfect parody of the IMDB. The idea is not that innovative: they copy the format of IMDB, then fill out the template with fictional movies like Hard Eagle (1993, Steven Segal) and Cannibal Barbarian (1982, Dir. Alan Smithee). The execution is perfect down to the smallest ethnographic details (Cyborg Warp's IMDB message board consists of six or seven posts by "CyborgKnight", all variations on "DVD??????"), but the actual substance of the parodies bears all the hoofmarks of a group of rather clever friends cracking eachother up, and furthermore is just very funny instead of impenetrable and in-joky. Take this triva from Hard Eagle:
Steven Seagal was furious when he learned that over sixty bald eagles were killed during the making of the film. In the director’s commentary track on the 1998 DVD release, Harold Wells explains that “we didn’t tell Seagal we were using real eagles, he would have shit his self. But what the fuck, a real eagle and a permit to be cruel to it costs way less than a really good fake eagle. We must have shot fifty takes of the scene where Geoffrey Lewis beats up that eagle and tears it apart. He kept asking for more takes. He loved it, he loved the feeling of power, I think. Plus we needed to kill about a dozen more eagles for the feathers on all those Indian… you know, those hats. We got really good at killing eagles, between Geoffrey and I. About as good as anyone ever has been, maybe.”

Worth a lengthy perusal. SomethingAwful's other sections are also pretty delightful, generally.

Destroy All Humans
If you want an Xbox game under $20, you actually have many, many options, most of which are better than Destroy All Humans. The premise seems like it can't miss: you play a wise-cracking alien in the style of 1950s schlock science fiction, bent on destroying the earth with your death rays and evil plots. The problem is, the developers go for humor with this. The reason that bad sci-fi is funny (much of the time) is that it's NOT played for laughs. But this game is definitely straining the sinews of its digital limbs trying to be wacky. The results brims with all the freshness and verve of Shrek II.

Maybe this would have worked if the jokes were actually funny: hearing an alien (for some reason doing a z-grade Jack Nicholson impression) crowing "It's probin' time!" before painfully electrocuting a kidnapped government agent is not really all that funny, and coupled with the game's extreme violence it embarasses rather than amuses the player. I don't know if they hired a professional writer for the jokes (my money's on "no"), but they are all of the same obvious and dim level. Your alien can (and unfortunately must) scan the minds of the unwitting humans around him, and they are all thinking something stupid that might perhaps seem screamingly funny to a group of foul-smelling men who have developed elaborate tics around their mousing technique. The male citizens of the game make searing assaults on 1950s conformity ("I have to keep up with the Jones! If only I could remember who the Jones were!") and the women think about nothing but sex and their own sex organs ("There's that not-so-fresh feeling again!"). The parentheses contain actual quotes from the game, in case you were wondering. Embarassing.

This would all be OK if the game were good, but it isn't. It's like Grand Theft Auto if your in-game character were a quadraplegic. It gives you very few things to do, and veers maddeningly between soporific ease and unbeatable difficulty. Save your money: only six thumbs up.

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