Title: Gorillaz GES
Developer: Gorillaz Partnership/ Zombie Flesh Eaters/ Mr Goodliving
Publisher: Real Networks, Inc
Version: 0.9.43 (beta)
Platform: Mobile phone
Requires: Colour screen, internet/ WAP access for download, approx 300 kb free space
Release date: April 2006
Let me kick this off by saying that I’m not a big fan of mobile phone games. I come from the generation whose ideas of portable entertainment technology were the original Walkman and GameBoy. Luckily for me so do the guys at ZFE, and their latest offering in conjunction with developers Mr Goodliving is the fashionably retro GES or ‘Gorillaz Entertainment System’ (Famicom fans in their thirties sit there sighing with joy at this point). The similarity to Nintendo ends there, however; with the game itself referencing a console obscure to anyone outside the UK – the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It’s at this point I start to worry. The look is wonderful and will appeal to Gorillaz’ older fans as well as their teenage audience, but whilst the deliberately long load times complete with strafing stripes of colour flickering across the screen give me that wonderful warm fuzzy feeling of waiting for Side Two of a Speccy tape to load on a rainy Sunday; to younger gamers brought up on the PS2 et al it’s an unconscionably long time for a game to idle, especially when it doesn’t tell you what it’s doing. “Is this thing broken? I could have loaded Warcraft by now!”
Despite referencing the clumsy stylings of the Spectrum interface heavily; the GES has quietly impressive graphics. There’s a lot of deliberate pixilation when you’re in – game, whilst the Start and Menu screens display some Jamie Hewlett artwork of the Kong Studios interior and a fairly ancient videogames console; both of which are clear and well – rendered. The character animation is deliberately basic but highly effective; taking advantage of Hewlett’s recent artistic foray into Giles – like facial characterisation by using simple, highly comic devices to make the characters react when you fail at a game – which you’ll do quite often. It’s worth buggering the Noodle one up several times just for her fantastically wobbly smile when a block hits her in the shin, by the way.
To the games themselves then, and these, like the games on the Gorillaz website; are amusingly redesigned ports of 1980s classics. Like all retro games they’re ostensibly easy, but fiendishly difficult to achieve a high score at. If ‘Nintendo’ means “work hard, but in the end it is in the gods’ hands”, then GES means “drive yourself mental, break all your fingernails on your stupid Motorola buttons and still don’t get higher than third on the leaderboard”. 2-D’s lobotomised version of the most pointless bit from Track and Field is the easiest to achieve at, for those of you who want a quick and dirty high score and aren’t afraid to punch like a girl to get one. Murdoc’s leering, knicker – clad version of Breakout is, in my opinion, the hardest of the four games; although maybe that’s because I’m too busy laughing to play it properly. Noodle’s zen, block – breaking beat – ‘em – up is probably the best of the bunch for those who want a bit more action; although you’d better have the reflexes of a ninja on wiz to get further than level three. Russel’s game is a biscuit – eating button – masher that looks simple and calming but leaves you criminally insane if you play it for longer than five minutes at a time. FACT.
Overall the GES is a great little timekiller with some nice features and suitably challenging gameplay. A game designed for a hardcore fanbase, it nonetheless has some wider appeal amongst retro gamers too; although sadly it’s unlikely that many will ever discover it. My one major concern is that, once bought and initially fiddled with, it will languish largely unplayed on many phones. The 1980s ethic of tough high scores and lack of discernible reward may make it less appealing to the band’s younger, Generation X – Box fans than Gorillaz had hoped, which is a shame. Still. About ten or so post – 25 Gorillaz fans worldwide will be utterly delighted with it.
April Madden is a freelance writer and journalist. She has written for a variety of technology and entertainment magazines in the UK, including ‘The GAME Mag’