Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catastrophes a plenty

Yes, there is a chance that a huge city like L.A. might suffer from a major catastrophe one day. There might be an(other) earthquake, a tsunami, some terrorists, a meteor shower, fire or something else. But now, imagine every possible catastrophe hitting the city at the same day.

That's what the game "Bad Day LA" is about. In the role of Anthony Williams, a former artist's agent who's been homeless for quite some time, you have to survive this day. First there are planes crashing into LA, each of them carrying terrorists and a gas that turns humans into zombies. Then, once you've reached the first 'safe house', a school, there's an earthquake. On your way to the hospital you're not only attacked by terrorists, no, there's also a meteor shower. Once you've boarded a train, it crashes into a truck, leaving you to deal with a group of drug dealers and a neighbourhood on fire. And even after you've managed to get on a plane leaving L.A., it's not over. The plane is shot down and you find yourself in the middle of a gang war. The boat that should take you out of the city is pushed back into it by a huge tsunami and while you're making your way to a helicopter, you meet a group of bank robbers. And, as if all of this weren't enough, the guy with the chainsaw you thought was on your side turns out to be the general of the Mexican army which has come to take over California. And after that you're right in the middle of a crowd of zombies, trying to manually activate the failed "zombie bomb" while the rest of your group is escaping.

One hell of a day.

Like everything in which American McGee had his hands, "Bad Day LA" is fun in a 'strange' way. Yes, it's full of blood and corpses - although the whole look of the game is so much comic-like, you'll not take it more serious than, for example, an episode of "South Park". Nevertheless, 'right' behaviour is rewarded and 'wrong' behaviour is punished by the game. For almost every action (except for running or jumping) you get either smileys or frownies. 'Healing' a zombie (whether by giving it a shower with a fire extinguisher or simply killing it) earns you a smiley, lowering a meter showing how 'dangerous' you are. Killing a normal bystander, on the other side, will heighten that meter. The more dangerous you are, the less people will help you (for example showing you the right way), they might even attack you. Smileys, on the other hand, mean you're going to get more help throughout the game.

The game isn't very difficult, especially as you will not 'die' in the game, you will simply life again whenever you go down with no health left. While some might think it stupid to create a game like that (and while higher difficulty levels than the one I was playing might change that), I found it rather useful. That way I could advance without always cursing about the moment I should have spared to save the game.

"Bad Day LA" is a game to spent some time with, provided you like games by American McGee (I'd personally also recommend "American McGee's Alice") or cartoons like "South Park". If you don't, it's not something for you.

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