Games like Portal and Shadows of the Damned know how to entertain. We’re not talking about the typical button-mashing elation that every gamer experiences. No, we’re describing that gut-busting feeling of happiness you receive when you laugh your ass off, that particular moment when a snarky comment catches you off guard resulting in an unforeseen cascade of laughter.
Video games have always had their fair share of comedic influences, some more successful than others. Daxter from Jak and Daxter, FAIL. Zeke from the Infamous series, more annoying than amusing. I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect upon the puzzle-bending, brain-twisting game Portal 2, as well as the dark, demon infested world of Shadows of the Damned and let me tell you, these games have the formula for gaming comedy down to a tee.
Shadows of the Damned (DMD)
Grasshopper Manufacture’s action, survival-horror game is an interesting contender in the comedy arena. Shooters are typically regarded for their seriousness and realism with horror often held in opposition to hilarity. This hodge-podge of a genre bender successfully fuses the gameplay mechanics of a well-crafted third-person shooter with the unexpected inclusion of vulgarity reminiscent of a high school locker room.
DMD follows the story of Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter extraordinaire on his quest to find his girlfriend who has been abducted by the Lord of Demons. Accompanied by his demon sidekick Johnson, the two enter the demon realm determined to save the beautiful Paula.
The atmosphere of DMD is not cheery in any sense of the word. Decapitated corpses riddle the streets; blood and darkness stain every inch of the terrain. Not to mention that an assortment of bloodthirsty demons reside in this world who happen to have a special taste for human flesh. Based upon the dark ambiance, I was not expecting the sheer level of crass, immature jokes, innuendos, or sexual references that I would encounter during my trip through DMD.
Let’s take a journey into the humor of Shadows of the Damned:
Sarcasm, impudence and sass are three words that specify a unique form of humor. Add a silent protagonist and a villain turned potato who is more than willing to criticize your every move, and you have a recipe for a banter-filled, comedic journey.
Chell, Aperture Science Enrichment Center’s resident guinea pig, follows the directive of the company’s AI computer GLaDOS, who forces her to navigate through a series of puzzles reminiscent of science fiction themed concepts of teleportation and inter-spatial travel. These “tests” range from easy and harmless, to laser-filled, and deadly. What a generous computer. GLaDOS is no ordinary robot mind you; its personality reflects the most contentious person you could imagine all with a healthy dose of maliciousness.
Portal 2 features only several characters: a rouge AI, lab rat, numerous robots and a dimwitted “personality sphere”. The game also introduces characters (who you never meet), through recordings and vocal demonstrations. While few in numbers, each of the characters of the Portal universe stand apart, exuding their own extreme, dissimilar personalities through witty dialogue and amusing exchanges.
Let’s take a look at some of the most humorous moments from Portal 2 including GLaDOS’s mean spirited comments and cynical remarks: