Comedy is an often lamented genre in gaming. Other than some notable LucasArts alumni like Tim Schafer and Steve Purcell, there have been few game developers making their career at truly funny comedy. For all the difficulties with comedy, parody is even harder to pull off correctly.
One of the really great gaming parodies, in my mind, is Achievement Unlocked by John Cooney. It manages to perfectly walk that line between a ridiculous parody of how achievements are used in modern games and a truly fun game using that premise. The fun comes from finding all the ridiculous achievements, which can be surprising and frequently hilarious.
Elephant Quest is John Cooney’s latest game following the adventures of the little blue elephant. Is it as great an example of parody as Achievement Unlocked? It’s certainly subtler. It starts out with an NPC giving you instructions about how to move around and follow your nemesis, who has stolen your bowler hat. You then shoot lasers around various levels while killing animals and gaining experience. Pretty straightforward right?
The leveling up screen allows you to spend points in a ridiculously byzantine grid in order to get new abilities. When you check the minimap, the rooms are connected in a dizzying spiderweb labyrinth. The art style is almost a parody of his previous games, a hyper-saccharine version of the stark, pixelated style of Achievement Unlocked.
At first blush the game doesn’t appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary, but with more playtime, the game’s comedic roots start showing.
Talking Points: Does the subtle comedy here come across well in a video game? Which parts are parody and which are sincere? Is the comedy undercut by the fact that levelling is kinda fun anyway? What does this try to say about the RPG genre—do you think it’s successful?