Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
I don’t know who Gelo is. Or where he came from. Who his damn parents are. But I’ve vowed to get him. The taunting way he skips backwards, just right out of my reach, before flashing me that stupid buck-toothed smile is nothing short of infuriating. He is my nemesis now, my foil– the twirling chaos to the order I impose. I will catch you, Gelo, I think as I spit on the chalk dust confining me to my station. I will catch you, you tricky sumbitch, and when I do, you will buy my team Sarsis. For an entire week.
I’m in too deep, man. The first time I booted up Patintero, I was completely blown away by the magnitude of its features. Local co-op? Who does that anymore? The Patintero devs apparently! Patintero’s charming use of retro mechanics signals a return to form– a temporal jaunt to halcyon days where all you needed to have a good time was a couple of buddies, a shady afternoon, and a good, fat wager. Christ on a crapstick, you are going down, Gelo. I will have your Sarsis AND your Yaya Jenny’s sugar-margarine sandwiches. They will be mine.
[This week, we review the greatest video games of all time.]
Like most games that use local co-op, Patintero falls through the usual pitfalls. Firstly, sweat. One of our linemen, JB, sweats so much. There’s literally no call for someone to house this much sweat. And you’ve always wondered how JB could play with you guys so often yet still be so chunky. Is it the hormones? The same hormones that produce the caustic waterfall cascading over his manboobs? Yeah, probably. The human contact required to play the game is excessive. For those who happen to like this feature, you are better, more secure men than I. But for the rest, maybe this much invasion of personal space isn’t quite your jam.
The gameplay is quite sound, however. There’s something to be said of how the game’s sheer simplicity can contribute to its immersive qualities. If I had to construct a contrived analogy, think Pong meets Frogger meets Breakout. It’s a retro bonanza all up in this bidness! Two teams: one team acts as line guards; the other acts as passers. As passers, players have to risk life and limb to get from one end of the playing field to the next. Preventing them from this honestly dead-easy task are the line guards. Line guards act as deterrents to the passers, as they shunt themselves from point A to point B. Everything sounds simple enough, kind of like Team Tag, a game that I’m sure I’m not making up. However, the genius of Patintero lies in the limitations of the line guards. The playing field is divvied up into several vertical and horizontal lines. These are the lines the, well, line guards can move on. Step outside the line and you’re out. Shame and disgrace await you as you sit on the sidewalk, dust and debris caking the sweat-drenched seat of your shorts.
But as a line guard, the hand you’re dealt with isn’t that bad. The limitations ascribed to them allow the passers an easy cockiness that is delicious to exploit. So you’ve already passed one line guard and think that you’ve earned a breather before sprinting through the second one? Wrong. The guard you passed is RIGHT BEHIND YOU AND HE IS OUT FOR YOUR STUPID HEAD, GELO. The players run on a constant IV drip of adrenaline, always looking over the shoulder, never relaxing until the last passer has been tagged or the last line guard has been passed. The game evokes a visceral tension that never lets go until the last second tears itself from the clock. Hear that, Gelo? You will never be safe.
Some folks have criticized Patintero for its weak story. While the criticism has some merit considering the aforementioned epic conflict’s lack of background, one could argue that the gameplay itself tells the story. Patintero is a prime example of emergent storytelling at work, where the player’s experiences make up for the barebones storyline. During beta, this reviewer manged to cultivate an uneasy rivalry with one of the AI opponents named “Gelo.” I made it an effort to always tag him first, repaying a kindness he showed me during my turn as passer. This rivalry evolved into a reactionary spitefiesta, with every slight paid and repaid in an escalating carnival of aggressive oneupmanship. Man, whoever programmed the AI should be given all the medals. I have never heard an AI insult my family upbringing that creatively before. The devs must’ve spent hours recording the dialogue required to parse out my mother’s questionable sexual dalliances.
The game’s simplicity can also be its downfall if we take replay value into consideration. The gameplay’s adherence to repetitive action may be a problem in future playthroughs. Some players might not mind, as every game can offer different experiences. Once all the plays have all been executed and all the matchups have been exhausted, the game holds nothing more than a chance for a bit of fun in the afternoon. For some, it may be enough. For others, the short length of the game won’t justify the effort it took for them to leave their rooms. So far, no DLC has been announced to help pad the unforgivingly short game. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
Patintero is a solid game. It’s a bit of a one trick pony, but it’s a good trick. What few flaws it does have are easily overlooked in the frenetic mashup of physical exercise, situational analysis, and, most importantly, fun. And for a lot of us, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Right, Gelo? The point isn’t that I tripped you that one time as revenge for stomping on my toes with your clumsy ogre feet. It’s not the fact that our elbows seem to be uncommonly attracted to each other’s chins. Right, you stupid piece of garbage? Fun is what matters.
Graphics: A closeup of JB’s undesirably damp neck dirt/10
Sound: Gelo’s parents arguing if he’s really theirs/10
Fun Factor: “It will blow you away.” -IGN.com