Oh Man, That’s Brutal

MTV Multiplayer reported yesterday that Tim Schafer’s current project, Brütal Legend, won’t be on display at this year’s E3, which starts on Monday. Schafer claimed that it will be unveiled “soon after,” which would imply a PAX appearance in August, but I want to see it nooowww.

But I’m only cautiously optimistic about Brütal Legend.

Now, I’m on the game itself, I’m completely sold. This page should make it blindingly obvious that I’m a huge fan of Schafer’s work, and Grim Fandango is one of my all-time favorites. The man’s turned out solid gold throughout his career, and his most recent effort, Psychonauts, was an unappreciated work of genius.

Although not particularly advanced in its narrative techniques, Psychonauts‘ writing is sharp, succinct, and so damn funny as to make its reliance on cutscenes forgivable. And even so, the game had its moments of revolutionary narrative. The discovery of an incongruous nursery room and its disturbing contents in the otherwise bright, cheery discotheque of Milla Vodello’s mind ranks as one of the single best moments of character development in any game I’ve played.

So I have no doubt that Brütal Legend will be fantastic. My cautious optimism instead concerns its chances of success. Despite Schafer’s brilliant game design, his most recent work has met with commercial mediocrity. Grim Fandango‘s sales marked it as the penultimate adventure game to be released by LucasArts, followed only by the lackluster, (commercially and critically,) Escape from Monkey Island before LucasArts stopped production of adventure games entirely. Psychonauts’ failure turned publisher Majesco towards the casual games market and away from big-budget releases.

So I really, really want Brütal Legend to do well, if for nothing else than to show that original game concepts can sell well in the sequel-crazy world of big budget releases. Certainly, the game has more going for it than Psychonauts had. It has Jack Black voicing the lead character, other vocal contributions by Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy, and Rob Halford, and the same kind of celebration/exaggeration approach to rock and metal that made This is Spinal Tap and Metalocalypse so successful. It’s ad campaign, although not in full gear yet, has already featured Jack Black wearing a Brütal Legend t-shirt at the MTV Movie Awards, which is certainly more than Psychonauts ever got.

So optimistic, yes. I’ll obviously be buying the game. Whether the rest of the gaming public goes with me is another story.

Still, I wanted so badly to see it at E3. Between this news and the news that Half-Life: Episode 3 won’t show up either, there’s not a whole lot left that I’m particularly excited about. I hope to be surprised on that count. Maybe Harmonix will announce more of the Rock Band 2 song list. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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