Back in the raging 1990s, Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton partnered with 7th Level to release a game based on his over-the-top cartoons, many of which had been seen on MTV and in the culty animation festivals that were becoming so prevalent in many cities.
By today’s standards, Take Your Best Shot, Twisted Arcade Games for Twisted Minds, was more a collection of mini games than something you could sink your teeth into and remember.
Fast forward to 2011. Plympton’s feature-length Idiots and Angels is released to wide acclaim. To me, it looks like his masterwork, a film that could become an landmark downloadable game in the hands of a humor-oriented game design genius like Tim Schafer. Or even the noir-inspired Danes at PlayDead, the makers of Limbo.
The bar in which much of the film takes place evokes a ‘Drinks for my Friends’ Mickey Rourke in Bukowski mood — with a twist. You feel as you watch the way Hobbes must have felt in medieval England as he contemplated his social contract. Life in the bar seems “nasty, brutish and short.”
So how is that a game? If it were only about a bar, it wouldn’t be. But Plympton’s angry anti-hero has a problem. He sprouts wings and becomes an angel. Every time he slices them off, they come back, stronger and bigger. The thing is, he hates being an angel. It doesn’t suit him.
He hates doing the good things his angel wings make him do.
And in that thought is the germ of a great game. Your goal would be be remain earthbound, to release yourself from the heavy pressure of doing good. But becoming bad again won’t be so easy. Once you do get rid of the wings, you become another character who is forced to become an angel with a different personality. For different reasons, she doesn’t want to be an angel, either.
The game could be informed by Peter Molyneax’s Fable series or the upcoming Epic Mickey from Warren Spector, Each time you cut your wings, you’re forced to make moral choices. You could bomb the town you hate, which happens in the movie. Or, you could fly above and save the weak in a deal with the devil to become your old, bad self again.
In other words, the possibilities for Idiots and Angels are endless.