Monday, November 12, 2012

"Amidar", Atari 2600, 1983.

I like to use this game as case-in-point for my "too much cocaine in the advertising industry" argument. At this point, they just didn't have much to work with in terms of computer graphics; these blocky blobs chased those blocky blobs, and whatever Rorschach blotch imagery you came up with in your imagination was actually what it was. Then an advertising artist had the stiff proposition of actually having to render these subjects deliberately and not just due to subliminal chance. Some games tumble to their death in this uncanny valley -- have you seen the NES cover art to Mega Man 1?
Tired of seeing dots before your eyes? Ready for a video game with some personality? Then make the move to the wacky world of AMIDAR(tm).
First you're a gorilla trying to draw boxes inside a maze. It's not easy though, because you're being chased by savage sentries every step of the way. Just like in the arcade game!
Now you're a paint roller trying to paint squares while being pursued by persistent pigs. No one ever said it was going to be easy. AMIDAR. One of a kind in a dot-eat-dot world.

The world is wacky. Admittedly, through the zany, madcap '60s, the bad gorilla costume was the gold standard of wackiness in film. However, it's the '80s now and we've raised the bar. Now it requires a sassy child with a potty mouth.

The poor copywriter can't come up with any explanation for the game's surreal premises so doesn't bother to explain, just describe what is presented. (Admittedly Mario's monkey-plumber-mushroom connection is a bit hand-wavey, but advertisers tried to approach those games from a different direction. All they have to work with here is some abstract gameplay description, and they decided that their arbitrary use of placeholder clip art sprites actually trumped that in terms of consumer appeal.

There is a feverish madcap quality to the artwork however, like something out of an issue of Mad magazine that suggests "there is a totally legitimate and hilarious reason these jarringly disparate elements are on the page together, we just can't bother to tell it to you right now". The later, more aggressive, post-Ren-and-Stimpy postmodern surrealism of '90s advertising (I'm thinking of one Crash Bandicoot ad specifically, with bodybuilders) doesn't pass that test, presenting scenes so strange no hypothetical explanation will satisfy -- and even if it could, it wouldn't be hilarious.

Yep, sounds like it's bedtime to me, too!