By Kyle B. Stiff
I have an idea for a 2D side-scrolling “beat ‘em up” game similar to Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Final Fight, and a dozen other yawn-inducing titles that are now completely irrelevant. My game would be called BEAT UP, which is short for BEAT UP THOSE WHO MUST NOT BE BEATEN UP.
The story of BEAT UP is told through pictures, text, and a few simple animations, pretty much the same as Double Dragon’s or Ninja Gaiden’s between-stage story segments. At the beginning of BEAT UP, we see the protagonist in a suit sitting in traffic. He narrates, “When I woke up today, I was not a legend. I’m a desk jockey stuck in traffic with a job up my ass and a dream covered in dust. I do not know anyone who does not deserve a severe beating.”
The protagonist arrives at work. He has a sullen, angry look on his face. His coworkers are very nice to him, greeting him, smiling, etc. His boss congratulates him on various duties completed. The silent, brooding protagonist narrates, “Do you see how they treat me? How they look down on me?!” Finally he explodes and narrates, “I’ll never back down when others push me down! From now on, I’ll punch, kick, and destroy anyone who tries to shit on me! THIS IS MY DREAM!!!” Then his shirt explodes and the game begins.
In the first stage, the player must beat the shit out of his coworkers using all kinds of simple button combinations. Some coworkers fight back while others run around and try to get away (bonus points for beating the shit out of a runner). The player can pick up random things to use as weapons; in this stage, there are rolling chairs, steaming hot coffee pots, heavy duty staplers, etc. The boss of the first stage is the protagonist’s actual boss. After the player beats the shit out of him, there is a cutscene in which his boss says something like, “Why are you doing this?! You’re a monster!” After a few kicks to the face and ribs, the boss says, “Alright, alright, I’ll make you an offer. You can run the company and I’ll give you all of my company stock. You’ll be able to afford anything you want. The world will be your oyster. But in exchange for all of this… you can never, ever punch or kick anyone ever again.”
At this point the player is presented with a choice, the only choice in the entire game. If he chooses ACCEPT then he will be presented with the game’s alternate ending in which we see a picture of the protagonist standing with his hot wife and happy family in front of a big house, car, and perfect yard complete with an exotic dog. Text beneath the picture reads, “You live happily ever after as a mediocre fuck, you have failed at life. GAME OVER.”
But if the player chooses REFUSE, then he stares down his boss and says, “Your deal sounds like a piece of shit. I think it’s time we flushed it.” His body is filled with rage-power and glows like a burning volcano, then he punches his boss in the head so hard that most of his head explodes in a violent shower of gore. Then he kicks his boss in the nuts, the body flies out of the window, falls several stories, then his lower back is impaled on some kind of statue such that the point of the statue rockets out of the corpse’s anus (his legs are, of course, behind his head). We see the protagonist staring at his handiwork from the shattered window, and he says, “THIS IS MY DREAM.”
STAGE 2: FAMILY REUNION
We see several lame, warm-hearted relatives at a cookout talking about how they’re proud of the protagonist for working hard, being a decent human being, etc. The protagonist arrives in a furious rage and begins beating ass. Miniboss would of course be an Annoying Jewish Mother and the boss would be none other than Uncle Krunkel.
At this point in the game, the protagonist could probably use his ill-gotten goods to buy various clothes and power-ups and all that other shit that gamers like.
STAGE 3: FIREMEN
The protagonist goes home, contemplates what he has done, then sets fire to his own apartment. He stands in flames and contemplates all things badass and refines his new philosophy of never, ever backing down. As the apartment building burns he sees a fire truck pull up and firemen hop out. He is enraged that these men would invade his home and he says something about how their weak, pathetic axes will not stop him.
So in this stage you will be beating the shit out of firemen as they try to rescue people from a building you have set fire to.
Some commentary. By now you might notice that this game is all about someone feeling like a victim despite the fact that they have a pretty decent life, and because of that feeling they lash out at everyone around them. This powerful protagonist is never even given the option of hunting down criminals, fighting bad guys, changing the world for the better, or anything like that. He is simply lost in his own labyrinth of hateful projections and he must follow through with his delusional spiritual journey. Even as your body shakes its head at this sort of nonsense, surely your inner-self must know that we have all done this at some point in our lives. Also note that it’s important for this game not to regurgitate too many elements from old, shitty 2D side-scrolling beat-em-ups because, one, masturbatory nostalgia is a sure and straight path to mediocrity, and two, this game is using an old format to tread new ground. Plenty of indie games do this very same thing all the time.
STAGE 4: HOSPITAL OF DOOM
The protagonist is knocked out by the collapsing apartment and, since no one has connected him with the genocide he’s committed, he wakes up in a hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses working hard to save his life. Horrified at the noxious mix of vitamins they are trying to put into his body, he lashes out and destroys them all, occasionally shouting, “THIS IS MY DREAM!!!” At the end of the stage, he is finally knocked out by a cop.
STAGE 5: THIS IS MY DREAM
The protagonist wakes up in a dreamworld, a lunar landscape created by his own subconscious. Here he must fight seemingly recycled assets like coworkers, family members, and firemen, but then the enemies mutate and do all kinds of fucked up things. Though horrified beyond belief, the protagonist stays true to his philosophy of smashing everything in his path and overcomes some kind of dream-projection of himself. His dream projection still wears the suit he wore when he was a slave, and the boss moves either crouched over so that he can lick the shoes of those who want to walk all over him, or he walks backwards with his butt in the air so that the entire world can line up and fuck him.
STAGE 6: ENDGAME
The protagonist wakes up in prison. He is in some kind of communal lounging area. Some prisoners approach him and say that he has to come with them to talk to the Big Boss. The protagonist responds by saying that anyone who wants to talk with him can jam an entire foot into their own mouth because he has no time to talk to spineless weaklings, and if they cannot find a foot to do this on their own then he will present them with his own foot in order to facilitate this process. A fight breaks out. During this stage the protagonist must fight hardened criminals and policemen in riot gear.
At the end, he finally meets the Big Boss – his own father. His father tells him that he once did the same thing years ago, lashing out at everyone in a misguided attempt to protect his own inner child, or his dreams, or whatever. But then his father tells him that he is a weakling, a mere pretender to the throne, and he does not even deserve to be in a county jail, much less a hardcore prison. This enrages the protagonist who laments that he does not have a time machine in order to go back in time and somehow be his own father, but since that is an impossibility because only a weakling with a lot of spare time would even attempt to create a time machine, he will simply have to beat his father’s ass the only way he knows how – through a series of punches and kicks designed to protect his ultimate dream.
After a brutal, nauseatingly violent battle against his father, the player is presented with a victorious GAME OVER picture in which the protagonist scowls behind the bars of a darkened prison cell. Some congratulatory text reads, “YOU ARE THE HARDEST MOTHERFUCKER IN THE UNIVERSE, YOU WIN!!!”
Any indie developers who feel like working on this idea can feel free to do so. Just make sure I get some of those beautiful, beautiful dollars and, oh yeah, let me help you develop this because you need someone on board who can keep you from going down the path of masturbatory nostalgia. Believe me, the less visual and auditory nods to Double Dragon and Final Fight this game has, the better it will be. Trust me.
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Hey readers! If you liked this hastily thrown-together post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder.