PAIN (PlayStation 3) review
"PAIN is strangely complex for a game that's so obviously aimed at getting a few laughs from gamers who want to play something quick in between chugging Car Bombs. The point system is based on an ornate series of crash combos and scenarios that are actually quite difficult to pull off, such as knocking a bowling ball off a building with just the right timing to land on a police car to send it bouncing towards an explosive crate which kills a guy in a cow suit. The controls aren't intuitive, either. Somehow, Idol Minds found a way to unnecessarily incorporate every single button on the PS3 controller in their control scheme, including the d-pad and the SIXAXIS motion controls. The few times I loaded up the game, I had to retake the 30-minute tutorial just to remember how to play. "
Slowly video game companies have become aware of a strange newcomer to the gaming playground. His lunch box said "Casual Gamer." He arrived on a cool afternoon in the fall, shuffling his feet and looking distinctly out of place. Fat Jimmy Microsoft gave him a once over, curious to see if he had any lunch money to steal, before going back to pulling Sarah Sony's hair. The new kid stood uncomfortably for several more minutes until finally Stan Nintendo, the playground geek, asked him if he wanted to play wall ball. The two became fast friends, inventing all kinds of games for the other to play. They weren't always very good ones. Many of them distinctly sucked, actually, but they always seemed good for a laugh, however short lived.
PAIN, a game that Sony really wants people to download off of the Playstation Network (judging from how much they continue to advertise it despite it being nearly a year old), feels like the company's effort to re-write its role in the story of Jimmy, Sarah and Stan. I got my copy for free when I bought my PS3, though I didn't download it until months later. I played it for one night and have barely touched it since.
Immediately upon starting the game, anyone will recognize that PAIN is aimed at a specific crowd, namely the beer guzzling frat boy demographic. The game consists of launching a hapless avatar (one from a list that includes such memorable personalities as Santa's naughty little sex nymph) from a giant slingshot into passers by, traffic, buildings, and other fun environmental fodder. You gain points mostly from causing serious damage to the environment as well as to your avatar, who twitches, contorts and screams with comical grace as he or she bounces from one obstacle to another. PAIN isn't above base humour. In fact, it seems to revel in it. The common population of a map includes old ladies, mimes, and lots of guys in cow suits (apparently someone's idea of comedic gold). As your character flies through the air, he can perform stunts--such as whooping and farting--to gain more points before landing on an explosive crate, police car, citizen, or some chain combination of them all.
PAIN is strangely complex for a game that's so obviously aimed at getting a few laughs from gamers who want to play something quick in between chugging Car Bombs. The point system is based on an ornate series of crash combos and scenarios that are actually quite difficult to pull off, such as knocking a bowling ball off a building with just the right timing to land on a police car to send it bouncing towards an explosive crate which kills a guy in a cow suit. The controls aren't intuitive, either. Somehow, Idol Minds found a way to unnecessarily incorporate every single button on the PS3 controller in their control scheme, including the d-pad and the SIXAXIS motion controls. The few times I loaded up the game, I had to retake the 30-minute tutorial just to remember how to play.
Such complexity seems out of place. On the one hand, Idol Games has given me a game that relies on sex, fart humour, and blowing things up as its key methods of entertainment. On the other hand, it's presented a game that actually takes time and patience to master. Maybe the combination is genius, but I know my beer guzzling friends aren't going to want to waste time with points and tutorials. They're going to want to launch naked women into polar bears at high speeds with a minimum of effort, then invent a drinking game on the concept. Maybe Idol Minds is trying to appeal to that crowd as well as the intellectual gamer who can string together massive combos with dextrous fingers, but I can't really see intellectual gamers spending much time with this one, and there are far better uses for their fingers. Which brings me back to Santa's Nymph, because here, at least, is universal appeal. Of course, if you want to play with a nurse without panties, you have to pay for it (just like real life, sadly).
Like a child in a sweet shop or a blind date, PAIN keeps begging the player to spend more money on it. The game (which costs ten of your hard earned bucks) comes about as equipped for gaming as Sarah Palin at a Vampire LARP. Nearly everything is locked, from new levels to new avatars. You get a single map (downtown in a city), the most generic skater punk avatar I've ever seen, and a few scenarios. Everything else costs money, making PAIN feel like a demo that you've paid for. It's like buying a copy of Monopoly only to find out that the game includes the shoe and the blue properties but that you have to special order everything else. In any case, this means you'll either play PAIN for a couple hours and a couple laughs before tiring of it, or you'll feel compelled to buy more options for the game until your ten dollar demo is a sixty dollar rip off.
I'll be the first to admit that the PS3 is sorely lacking in games for the casual crowd, but I'm not sure that PAIN really fits that bill. Beer guzzling or otherwise, it's hard to imagine someone continually shelling out money for this game, money that could be spent on either another month of World of Warcraft or more beer (depending on your demographic). The point is, despite a few laughs and a fun premise, PAIN just isn't worth the money you'll have to spend to keep it fresh.
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (November 18, 2008)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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