Kayla and I did something uncharacteristic and actually rented a video game over the weekend. I had played it briefly once before and been intrigued by its game mechanic- you’re a surgeon, you go inside people and use the wiimote to carve them up like the Christmas turducken and save their lives. That’s great, and this part was a lot of fun, and challenging even on easy, but it was the interstitial narrative sequences that made me wish that the Wii was a more powerful platform and the Japanese gaming culture a bit hungrier for innovation. The cutscenes comprise what is known as a ‘visual novel’, and what that means for the player is that you sit there and click A while pictures of the characters pop up in front of static backgrounds and you read their dialogue. Don’t get me wrong… the plot was engrossing. Starting from some half-retarded JD from “Scrubs” bullshit, it moved to some neat stuff that seemed to combine elements from the wildly underrated Hugh Grant vehicle “Extreme Measures” and the mystical conspiracies from “Alias.” Still, I found myself giving up and skipping all the cutscenes to get on to the next operation. Not a recipe for success.
That’s why I wish the Wii was more powerful. If between operations you were immersed in a combat situation, and had to prowl around looking for wounded, that would be great. Or at least something better than… oh, I don’t know, silent movie-level media? Remember how cool the talking heads were from “Fallout”? That’s because they had some powerhouse voice acting like David Warner, Tony Shalhoub, and Tony Jay. Make the narrative portions a trifle interactive, perhaps adapt a property like “Black Jack“… and you have a recipe for an awesome game.
One minor quibble is that the operations can be a little obtuse even with the onscreen help and relative simplicity of the tools. A particular procedure had me “treating the epithelial” which did not immediately translate to “inject blue solution from your hypodermic into those five billion red spots on the intestine.” Kayla didn’t want to play at first… she said it looked stressful, and mind you, she occasionally has to hold peoples eyes open with forceps for a living. Yowza. And of course the ‘click-everything-a-hundred-times’ strategies you learned from Something Awful will not help you, as you not only have a time limit, but repeatedly suturing the patient or lasering them for no reason really tends to, well, kill them.
I did come up with quite an idea, though, and let it be known that it is my idea alone. I hope. Let’s call it… “SPACE CHAPLAIN.” You’re the chaplain, a Zen monk or similar, on some futuristic starship, ministering to the brutal Space Marines of a galactic empire (why? I fucking love space marines!). Being on the ‘wrong side’ would force you to look at all sorts of tough moral and ethical issues, and here’s the rub… you’d have to go through the conversational trees and solve the puzzles or whatever with a new Wii controller… the WiiKG. Or biofiidback machine. You’d have to maintain satori while being emotionally taxed. How cool and unique an idea is that? I think that like playing Rock Band drums on expert is supposed to make you a passable drummer, I think playing SPACE CHAPLAIN would eventually make you a damn Zen master. Or drive you insane. Of course, it would require extensive beta testing…