Beastly: The Wii Game that Critics Forgot

By Abe Rose

I’d like to see all demographics get good quality video games in equal amounts, but perhaps that line of thinking is a bit too progressive for this era. Beastly is a game that has nothing but mockery and condescension towards its primary audience, the tween girl. The game is a string of mini-games that have no bearing on the actual plot of its Beauty and the Beast story. More baffling is that the game also has a string of movie clips that are bizarrely out of context, which makes deciphering the plot a enigmatic impossibility. The game is a loose adaptation of the movie Beastly, which it itself is a loose adaptation of the book Beastly, which it itself is a loose adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. I gathered that there was a beast and a beauty, but when the game suddenly interrupted the storyline to include beating a blind man at darts, the plot lost me.

darts

The character design is nonsense, but the game-play takes the nonsense to an absurd level of surrealism. The very first mini-game has the player trying to take down negative campaign signs for a high school jerk trying to give a class presidential speech. Seriously. This is the first level of the game, and you are required to spin a high school election. Voices of dissent and opposition must be crushed, totally disregarding the First Amendment. Disregarding the fact that no student actually cares about high school elections, everything else sounds like typical high school…

davidlynch

…But a high school run by David Lynch?

The next mini-game is to ask ten people to sign up for a school trip. You literally have to walk around all school and ask all of the students. It plays like a school assignment, not a game.

signup

After trying to get ten people to sign up for a school trip, the next mini-game is trying to get into a night club. Finally! A sneaking mission, right? Something that actually constitutes real gameplay? No, the game forces you to wait in line. The game tells you to “wait here.” And then “keep waiting.” The Beast and Belle are already inside the club, and yet the story is experienced through the eyes of an unpopular kid who isn’t cool enough to get into the club. Sounds like a sorry attempt at a Guildenstern and Rosencrantz Are Dead.

It would be interesting to play as the Beast inside that club, diving into his unraveling psyche of beauty products and nail polish. Instead we only get to choose between two nameless characters. There’s bland boy and cross-eyed girl.
character

She sort of looks like the Botched Ecce Homo painting.

potato

It doesn’t matter which one you choose. The same events and the same story play out the exact same crappy way. So, kudos to the game developers for gender equality by giving both genders an equal serving of terrible gaming.

alarm

Regardless of who you play as, throughout the game, you are commanded by a voice to do different tasks to please the popular kids. “Go talk to Lindy.” “Trigger the alarm.” “Break into the locker.” “Sneak into the zoo and take an animal trivia quiz.”

elephants.png

I’m not exaggerating about breaking into a zoo and taking an animal trivia quiz.

Schizophrenia aside, playing as the girl makes for some really strange moments. It gets truly bizarre when you are told to take a picture of a couple at a nightclub, and then the movie clip shows a male photographer. The girl character suddenly becomes a male. So, are we playing a game about a man who wishes to be a woman? A woman trapped in a man’s body? Is this socially progressive, or just lazy game programming?

The game is confused about the gender of the main playable character, yet it is also confused about the identity of who actually is bland-boy or cross-eyed-girl. There are times when the game will include a mini-game that switches your control to a totally different character without warning or notice. When the goth girl played by Mary Kate Olsen hexes the Beast, you play the mini-game as Mary Kate Olsen. When you get on the motorcycle as the nameless bland girl, the game shows you a movie clip of the Beast on the motorcycle. So what we essentially have here is a schizophrenic, gender-bending game with multiple personality disorder.

iamthewalrus

They’re all the same person. Philosophically profound, or lazy game design?

The game has no idea how to integrate game-play into this story. At one point when the Beast emerges and runs around horrifying the populous with his ugliness, the game suddenly stops everything to tell the player to put quarters into a crane game and try to win candy.

candy

Screw plot resolution, get candy.

Why isn’t there more of an outcry over this? Isn’t this substantial proof these developers don’t seem to care about the intellectual poison they are feeding their target demographic?

Essentially what we have here is a game where nothing the player does matters. This nameless student that you control, exists to only do menial tasks for the rich, popular kids. But no matter how much you work for the favor of the popular kids you can never actually be one of them. The only way in this game to truly feel even closer to the main characters living this high school drama is to find out the juiciest gossip through social networking. The playable character has been reduced to a Myspace friend.

harakiri

Developers, I hear your subliminal outcry in how much you hated making this game, but suicide is not something to joke about.

The narrative moves forward through social media gossip. Maybe it could work to follow the story in interviews, Citizen Kane-style, but the game has no idea what details are relevant to include. At one point in the game, we are on a class trip and are told to take a history quiz on Machu Picchu. Then the game ends and I have no idea what happened to anyone.

But I suppose that aspect captures high school perfectly.

The game is terrible. But when I went to the ever-reliable interwebs to look up a critical aggregate score for the game, I found only one review on Metacritc. One. The internet now has hundreds of video game critics, but only one of them bothered to review the game. Well, if you count this article as a review, the game now has TWO reviews. What should we make of the fact that almost no one is talking about this game?

A whole slew of articles could be dedicated to answering that question. Male game reviewers largely ignore games intended for girls.

beastly

I assume you now understand why I left the price tag on.

Even if these games are total garbage, it is important for all gamers to acknowledge them. Otherwise, it perpetuates the problem of silence and disconnect between the different genders of game players.

In 2012, the Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, or EEDR, sampled 669 action, shooter, and role-playing games, and found that only 24 of them had a female protagonist. That’s only 4%. These statistics are maddening when you consider that these female-only protagonist games had on average only 40% of the marketing budget of games with male-only protagonists. The female demographic is getting cheaply-produced games, and the male video game reviewers are largely not even bothering to review games like Beastly.  And according to the ESA, or Entertainment Software Association, in 2014, they polled that females made up 48% of video-game players.

If young girls get angry with the crappy quality of girl games, who listens? We accept it as an industry standard that girl games are terrible.

There has to be another solution. We can’t just sit idly by and continue to alienate girls from video games. Times are changing. Video-games should not be only meant for fanboys. Video-games should be for everyone. There should be more games made for girls, and better quality games than the ones they get now.

Why not instead join forces? Instead of alienating women and pushing them out of a Boys-Only Club, create a dialogue to include all people as gamers. Review more girl games, and point out the lazy programming. Demand better quality games for girls. By remaining silent, it is perpetuating the prejudice that video games are for boys and not girls. Girls should not be punished with games like Beastly because publishers don’t care about them as a demographic.

Originally posted on thealternativechronicle.com Nov 2013

Sources:

http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ESA_EF_2014.pdf

http://penny-arcade.com/report/article/games-with-female-heroes-dont-sell-because-publishers-dont-support-them

http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/beastly

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