“I kicked his head right off”
Toribash is the funniest fighting game since Mortal Kombat. Except in Toribash, you decide the fatalities. It’s dubbed a ‘turn based fighting game’ – you contract and and relax the muscles of your chosen combatant, attempting to bash the face, head, neck, arms, groin, or anywhere in reach of your opponent. There’s an ungainly rag-doll physics simulation in the background, measuring the force of your impacts. Get a smack right, and there’s a good chance you might knock some-one’s head into space. Your first attempts will see you crumpling into a heap, but keep at it. Violence will flow.
Now – here’s the interesting thing. In our office we have access to the latest, greatest games, from pre-release versions of Christmas blockbusters, to just about to be released slighty stodgy review code. Yet we keep returning to games like this. Toribash is meant as a multiplayer game, but most of the time we play it as a comedy side-show: beating up a rag-doll crash dummy, a crowd around the monitor, cheering for blood. It’s a toy.
Software toys aren’t meant to be cool. The very term puts you in the mind of 1996, Brain Eno, and some wanky multimedia display creator, or some dreadful £50 screen-saver. But I think the idea of games as toys or toys as games seems to be making a minor comeback. In the new Tony Hawks game, if you fluff a trick, you can try and cause as much damage as possible to your character. Flatout had a similar mode: driver darts. I bought the Movies for the machinima toybox: not the slightly awkward management sim on the side. The Sims is constantly referred to as a virtual doll-house, and Spore is a universe in a DVD box for you to poke and prod as you see. Nintendo seem to be basing their entire future on resurrecting the toy.
I’ve heard videogames lauded as the next great art form, as the new frontier for storytelling, this giant convergence between cinema and interactivity. Bah. How can that compete with making two stick-men kick each other in the groin so hard they split in two?