Inspired Interaction: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

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  • When I was young my father and I used to go to a dude ranch in Downsville, N.Y., called Roundup Ranch. It was a little over 2 hours away, up the New York State Thruway to the Roscoe Diner. Roundup Ranch was a great place for families to go to around holidays like Father’s Day and New Year’s. We would meet up with a few groups of friends, and all the kids would play together and go horseback riding, race R/C cars and play lots of manhunt. There was also a small game room with some arcade cabinets and a jukebox. I remember only one thing about the jukebox – that terrible Matthew Wilder song, “Break My Stride.”

    I mention all of this because that game room was a special place for a young Chuck. Aside from Westwood Arcade, the Roundup Ranch game room became one of the most important gaming locations of my youth.

    Among the cabinets was the often-played, classic Stern-produced scroll shooter, Scramble.

    Scramble, developed by Konami, was about a small spacecraft that fought on an alien world through several varied terrains. The graphics compared to today’s standards were quite primitive; however, the cabinet art played a crucial role in explaining the game’s premise. Simple and to the point, the attract mode screen would read, “How far can you invade our Scramble system?”

    Long ago the story of a game might not just be told through the game medium but through the artwork on the cabinet. The cabinet art for Scramble told the story of an alien world being invaded, by you.

    There is one memory that stands out when I think about Scramble. In the lower corner of the glass, right next to the play field, was a picture of an attractive female alien deck officer. The picture is simple enough, and it shows the female deck officer holding a microphone alerting the enemy. However, this fine-looking female has that distressed look of what could be erotic ecstasy, and that microphone looks more like a space dildo which that dirty, dirty deck officer is about to fellate. (See how quickly things get out of control in the mind of a 12-year-old?) With just a minimal amount of cabinet art, I was able to see some of the higher resolution details of the game story without having to increase the pixel count.

    With the modern age, we continue to lose those physical connections between the video game and the player. Game cabinets, instruction booklets and box art are becoming things of the past. Without those things, we have to change the way we connect with the physical side of the art, so as not to lose it.

    There is no stopping change or progress. I feel as though Fuelcell Games’ Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a return to a more inspired time. Solid game play and well-designed levels aside, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet stands out as an example of interactive art.

    Artist Michel Gagné and game designer Joe Olson capture the idea of interactive artwork in a very natural way. The story is simple; you play a member of an ominous alien species that is attacked by another life force even more mysterious and provoking. “How far can you invade our Scramble system?”

    I get that same soulful sexual presence in this game. I feel as though I am watching this planet create life and breed itself inside of me for the purpose of my destruction. I am the alien, I am your virus, I am your threat.

    I enjoyed this game; however, I don’t think it is for everyone. I highly suggest you try the demo and check out the trailer.

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    Follow Chuck’s magical cabinet ride on Twitter @JapanDudeGirl

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