Gamefront 2010: Funniest Games

Humor is an underrated quality in games — they seem to be getting more serious and stentorian by the year. 2010 had some humorous high points, including the re-release of classic LucasArts comic capers Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. A lot of the side-splitting fare seemed to appear in games that are otherwise quite serious. Let’s see what the Gamefront staff has to say…

Mafia II

Ben Richardson’s Pick

I’ve already waxed complimentary about Mafia II’s writing, but nevertheless I found it particularly compelling when it came to the humor. Mob dramas since the beginning of time (significantly The Sopranos) have shown the importance of jokes and “breaking balls” to the criminal fraternity, and the game‘s writing really nailed this quality of la cosa nostra‘s culture and argot. It also captured the banter back and forth between protagonist Vito Scaletta and his best friend Joe Barbaro — the pair trade barbs with all the mock vitriol of lifelong acquaintances.

For sheer comedy, it’s hard to beat the scene in which Vito, fresh out of jail, gets taken to a brothel to celebrate, only to end up designated driver for Joe and the alcoholic hoodlum Eddie Scarpa. The gag reveal of a dead body in the trunk of Scarpa’s car is priceless, and the drunk mo-cap and voice acting are spot on.

Deadly Premonition

Phil Owen’s Pick

When a Japanese developer decides to make a game that is making fun of other Japanese games, it usually results in plenty o’ laughter. Half-Minute Hero was a good example of this from last year, and this year we got Deadly Premonition.

A weird mash-up of Silent Hill and the recent Resident Evil games, with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure, Deadly Premonition is basically a jokey, Japanese Alan Wake. (That’s a weird thing to say, since Alan Wake came out a few months after this game, but the similarities are undeniable.) It’s got a protagonist who constantly addresses the player (he calls you “Zach”), wildly inappropriate music cues, and lots of the typically ridiculous dialogue one would expect from a Japanese game.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this game is playing it straight, but that’s just not the case. This game is certainly in on the joke, and what a wonderful joke it is.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC

Ron Whitaker’s Pick

I was wondering how Rockstar would present its Undead Nightmare DLC. Would they take the route of a serious zombie survival story, as Left 4 Dead did, or would they go for a campier take? I was very satisfied to find it was the latter.

It didn’t take long to figure this question out, as John Marston leaves his infected wife and son hogtied with a raw steak for each of them, telling them to “Stop biting people.”  They went on to make fun of classic zombie movies, with the doctor saying, “I’m going to walk down here by this dark alley, then I’ll be back. Wait here, would you?”

There’s plenty of subtle humor on display in this DLC, from the gossiping townsfolk who blame the outbreak on everything from the English to the Jews to the ridiculous stories people tell Marston in his travels.  All in all, it was really a tour de force of all the great humorous moments you’ve laughed at in old horror films for years.  If you’re a fan of those old horror flicks, you should really check out this DLC — it’s definitely good for a few laughs.

Mass Effect 2

Ross Lincoln’s Pick

The Mass Effect series has a very serious plot about the threat posed to Humanity (and the Milky Way galaxy as a whole) by Cthulu monsters from Beyond Infinity who want to enslave or re-purpose all organic life. It also requires you to make the effort to bond with NPC’s; in Mass Effect 2, actually play HR Rep/Counselor to them as they work out their personal issues (and thus become more effective at killing bad guys.) It’s surprisingly touching, action-packed, and addictive beyond belief. Also, no joke, the villains’ actual plot is to turn every organic species in the galaxy into space-sperm, which is genuinely creepy and kind of terrifying.

It’s also full of in-jokes, running gags, brick jokes, and plain silliness that actually adds much needed brevity and does not in any way detract from the ability to fully enjoy the more serious aspects of a game. Greatest hits include:

Blasto: The Jellyfish Stings. The Hanar are a floating, contemplative race of jellyfish-like aliens with no discernible physical prowess whatsoever. They speak in the third person and float around harmlessly. During the original Mass Effect, someone joked about ‘Blasto, the Hanar Spectre’ on the BioWare forums, and it became so popular they added the gag into Mass Effect 2. Occasionally, you’ll here a radio ad for Blasto: The Jellyfish Stings, an in-universe exploitation film that closely resembles Dirty Harry. “This one doesn’t have time for your solid waste extractions” is pure win.

“I’m Commander Shepherd, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel”. You can get discounts from certain merchants by offering to endorse their shop, and this is the line you will use for every single one. Every time you walk near the entrance, you’ll hear the recording (and the implication that every single merchant believes it’s unique). It only gets funnier the more times you hear it (booze helps).

Hamlet, featuring an all-Elcor cast. Imagine slow moving, slow talking aliens who have to explain the emotion they’re feeling before speaking, performing Shakespeare. This in-universe advertisement promises “an unforgettable 14-hour experience”.

There’s so much more than there is space to talk about it, (like Mordin singing Gilbert and Sullivan), but if you want to have the funniest possible game, play as a total renegade and witness the best dialogue ever. This video shows you why.

Brill. Yant.

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