People who play video games love Yahtzee Croshaw, the sardonic bringer of wit and shit of ‘Zero Punctuation’ fame.  If you don’t know his style, you can visit him here:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation

And the Facebook group with to-the-minute updates here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Zero-Punctuation/7546255825?ref=ts

Yahtzee released a novel this month, “Mogworld”.  I was all prepared to do an amusing Flash video review utterly slagging it off, but as it happens I wasn’t up to the challenge (or rather, my mic turned out to be rubbish), and so I’ve given up and posted the script as a review on Amazon instead.  It’s here in all its not-very-funny glory–

— It’s in the delivery, mostly.

——————————————————————-

Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw is best known for his scathing Zero Punctuation video reviews of computer games, routinely ripping out their innards and squeezing little poo-nuggets of ironic humour all over them, although apparently he’s done other things including actually writing for games, so he’s at least partly vindicated for slagging them off so thoroughly and then moving onto writing his first novel.

“Mogworld” is an easy slice of light fantasy, although it crosses genres regularly like a tram-hopping college-droppout.  You’d have to be a bit of an idiot not to realise that the GAME-REVIEWING Yahtzee writes a book about MAGES and NECROMANCERS and LEVEL 60 SPELLS and NOT realise that this is set inside a VIDEO GAME, so I shouldn’t be spoiling anything for you here.

The twist is that not all the character necessarily realise this.  It’s a sort of ‘edge of the world’ scenario without the benefit of the readers undergoing this revelation WITH the characters, leaving you disappointed that they were too stupid to figure it out sooner.  In fact it couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d stapled it to the side of a stegosaurus and paraded it through Hull on a market day.
The inclusion of pirates into this gameworld early on in the book seemed a bit strange, until they all started talking about becoming undead pirates and then it begins to come together.  It’s like Yahtzee is DELIBERATELY prancing along the fence of cliché, with the unoriginality goblin beckoning him in  and his proper writer/critic self occasionally shouting NO YOU IDIOT and hurling his mighty boot of common sense.

The characters might be flatter than Paper Mario’s credit card, but at least they’re proper characters with individual personalities instead of blandly merging into one another.  This would be great, but one major problem is that they’re all so ANNOYING, and the fact that the protagonist acknowledges they’re ANNOYING doesn’t make them any less ANNOYING.  The first half of the book is like sitting on a bus surrounded by  half a dozen people all with their iPods on too loud listening to boybands, Slipknot and ASWAD.  There’s the jaded main character who, like the best and worst of web-comics, is the only one who acknowledges how strange everything is while everyone else blithely slither through the linear plot; there’s the chirpy one who comes down to reality at the end; a fire-and-brimstone religious nut who never shuts up; a sneak-thief who constantly talks in the third person; a villain with his own silly dialogue-related idiosyncrasies; and a smack-talking wise-cracking mutated otter-weasel sidekick … Okay I made the last one up, no-one would create a character is THAT annoying.

In the interest of fairness they DO develop some depth as the story progresses and as a direct result of the events of the story, not just something insipid like ‘falling in love’ or just through a sequence of trials like the laziest storytelling.  The best characters come with the best gags about a third of the way in, being closer to real-life people than the zombie/mage/blah-de-blah hacks, but sadly only get a few lines here and there in amusing e-mail or instant messaging format which made me SAD because they were actually very GOOD.

The writing is hardly spectacular, but this isn’t a literary venture so it can be forgiven, and apart from the odd atrocious lines like ‘We descended into a sort of disused basement-sewer type chamber’ he manages to not to COMPLETELY mangle the almighty English language.  In fact there are a number of cracking sentences worthy of Douglas Adams (or at least an unworthy rip-off sequel), and it definitely has a more Hitchhiker’s feel going for it than a Terry Pratchett one, which is a good thing in this case because I prefer my humorous fiction WITHOUT the bland caricatures, but this brings us back to cliché and it’s a sticking point with me that with this kind of semi-parody is the laughs derive from the archetypes – Doctor Evil’s cat wouldn’t be nearly as funny if you hadn’t expected it to be fluffier than a fledgling barn owl.  But unoriginal is still unoriginal, even if it IS trying to be funny.

Maybe it’s out of his system now and he’ll go back to doing what he does best; you always know you’re in the wrong part of town when the bus shelter’s been kicked in and you’re standing in someone else’s orange vomit.

——————————————————————-

If anyone shows any interest I’ll update with some screenshots of the nearly-finished video review, in the Zero Punctuation style.

Incidentally, the book is alright really – about 6.5/10 if you’re into his humour … and shit fiction about video games.

– db

Help the old farts understand what video games are really about

Advertisements