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The (un)funniest games of March

Entries by Mikel Reparaz, Chris Antista and Henry Gilbert

When it comes to comedy, no other medium is quite as hit-or-miss as videogames. It’s rare to see a game that’s genuinely funny (on purpose, at least), and most of the games that try range from passably entertaining to insultingly awful. Chalk it up to games and humor being subjective art forms, one man’s culture being another man’s trash, et cetera. Whatever the case, it hasn’t stopped the game industry from trying – maybe a little too desperately – to be funny, and every month it seems like a handful of ideas that were probably hilarious on paper wind up clogging bargain bins (or at least deserving to).

Above: Hey, remember this? Bad Day L.A. is a perfect example

March 2009was unusually fruitful for comedy gaming, with at least fivemajor releases reaching for the brass ring of hilarity. Some got closer than others, but none of them quite got it right. Is it the games’ fault for sucking, or are we just being uptight comedy snobs? Take a look at the best and worst bits from each and decide for yourself.

•Allows crude ‘tude to take center stage over one of the most unique gameplay experiences on any console.
•Contains one of the most potentially racist characters of the year.
•Turns the joy of cursing into something cliched and almost corporate.
•Uses 85 percent of its Mature rating for unparalleled immaturity.

The effing commentators
We should preface this by saying we love Greg Proops as a comic, as well as John Dimaggio’s voice work (Futurama’s Bender and Marcus Fenix!). And we love cursing! But imagine for a second if you got Navi and Roman Bellic to do a running, John Madden-esque play-by-play and only let them use F-bombs and blowjob puns. That’s the MadWorld commentary in a nutshell.

They treat their M-rating the way an irresponsible teenager abuses a vacated house to throw a big old “let’s see what we can get away with” foul-mouthed kegger when the parents aren’t looking. Not only is it equal parts homoerotic and homophobic, it’s as hackneyed as it is unnecessary to the events taking place onscreen.

Gay jokes, fart jokes, dick jokes... hell, they even threw in an oh-so-tasteful Hurricane Katrina joke! And if it’s true that comedy comes in threes, someone should tell PlatinumGames; if the looped music weren’t grating enough, even the handful of amusing quips from Howard "Buckshot" Holmes and Kreese Kreeley will get repeated several hundred degrees beyond tiresome during the course of a single play-through.

The Black Baron
If you’ve ever needed more proof that the mainstream media doesn’t play the games it condemns, MadWorld is a point of controversy solely for not being Wii Sports. For all the allegations of racism levied at Resident Evil 5, it’s a shock no one’s pointed a finger toward MadWorld’s atrociously depicted Black Baron.

Above: Al Jolson (inset) is not a role model

As the bedazzled overseer of Varrigan City’s minigames, The Black Baron is an unbelievably brazen stereotype that would have the NAACP’s head spinning if they ever decide to pick up a game console. Morning radio DJs have been fired for far less.

Your white friend who does the horrifically offensive impression of black people, despite never having met one? That’s the Black Baron. Thanks to the art style, there’s even a debate over whether or not he’s a white guy in blackface. But since he certainly conjures the taboo and long-retired minstrel shows of yesteryear, we decided to go ahead and give him a little Al Jolson music to complete the developers’ vision.

The violence
Earmuffs, parents. The creative lengths gone to just to “end a guy” are quite simply some of the most chuckle-worthy and commendable acts we’ve ever seen. In most games, heads and limbs don’t so much explode as they disappear and get replaced by crimson confetti. In MadWorld, punk rock cadavers split, peel and crumble, while body parts bounce around like they’re trying to help you through a sing-a-long.

Anyone mistaking the cruelty exhibited by Jack Cayman and his methods of slaughter for anything other than mirthful, over-the-top fun has no business playing games, much less commenting on them. If Platinum games wants to stand atop its M-rating and vomit blood upon the masses, you won’t hear us not applauding.

The Black Baron’s death!

Hands down, The Black Baron is both one of the most obnoxious characters of the year and one of the most insensitive stereotypes we’ve ever seen. Promising challenges “fo’ that ass” and threatening to “pimp smack” his trusty “bitch,” we were dead certain this cliched asshole would break into dated Izzle-speak at any moment. The only piecemeal silver lining you get with his appearances is watching the moron die, quite gruesomely, over and over again. Thanks?

Credits commentary
Perhaps it’s hypocritical to cite the same entry in both funny and unfunny categories, but it can’t be helped: MadWorld’s play-by-play commentators aren’t funny… except when they are. Rumor has it that both voice actors were allowed to improv, so when they’re not regurgitating dismemberment puns or mining the human anus for comedy coal, some genuinely amusing quips occasionally emerge. One of their more inspired applications has to be taking the esoteric piss out off the people involved in the actual game during the immensely watchable credits sequence.

Above: Spoiler FREE!