By Al Giovetti
Kronos produced its first game, Criticom, about a year ago. Meat Puppet is not anything like the post-punk band called Meat Puppets. After loosing their lead programmer gaining two people who never programmed a game, and a producer who is an ex-magazine editor, the rocky road seems to be yielding a dynamic and most interesting game product. This ex-magazine editor is probably responsible for the most disgusting and ruthless vision of the future ever seen in a computer game, see what dealing with game writers and editors does to a good mind.
David Sears, Meat Puppet's co-producer says, "It's a cross between La Femme Nikita and Blade Runner."
Poor Lotos. For a beautiful girl with a razor keen mind, she's having a hard time surviving the Twenty-first Century. These days, it seems everyone wants her dead and those that don't want her to kill everyone else.
Lotos never asked to serve as a Meat Puppet one of many lethal unwilling agents recruited by the unseen Puppet Master to kill in his name. Each of these agents are manipulated through the RadioCranialLink, an electronic device that taps directly into the central nervous system. The RCL is capable of transmitting data, triggering explosives placed within the body, and remotely administering electroconvulsive Walken Lobotomies -- all bad things, in Lotos's opinion. These lobotomies usually wipe out recent memories and millions of brain cells. If the mortality rate of a Meat Puppet were not already so high due to to their duties, the Walken Lobotomies would soon destroy their minds completely.
This is where Lotos' luck turns briefly upward. Her partner in conscription is Dumaine, a Tech Puppeteer. He's the go between for the Meat Puppets and the lurking Puppet Master. He doesn't have a body and for all intents and purposes, is a digital ghost. Dumaine has a soft spot for Lotos and cannot bring himself to apply a remote lobotomy, even if it means risking the Puppet Master's wrath. He and Lotos are working together to uncover the true identity and location of the Puppet Master. When they find him, they intend to free themselves of the Puppet Masters clutches by any means necessary. That is to say, they will kill him. But in the meantime, they must perform the tasks set before them and that involves killing innocent men. Innocence being relative, of course.
One by one, Lotos and Dumaine must assassinate the leaders of the world's most profitable corporations. In the Twenty-first century, these leaders sequester themselves at the center of Neoteric Los Angeles, surrounded by a series of industrial strongholds. Lotos quickly learns that in assassinating heads of several institutes she may be serving justice after all.
So what's wrong with killing these nasty Ambassadors? The Puppet Master might even seem to have a commendable agenda. Perhaps, but what kind of story would this be if the manipulative ba$#*#d turned out to be a nice guy? The Puppet Master wants to use Lotos to reassemble the fractured genetic key to universal entropy and shut down the universe. That would make Lotos accomplice to the biggest murder of all time a prospect that displeases her greatly. She'd rather save the world instead.
Lotus Abstraction: a beautiful woman with a keen mind and a big gun living in a destroyed 21st century. Too bad she's been taken hostage by an entity simply known as The Puppet Master. Now it is Lotus' quest, in one night, to infiltrate the six cities (or embassies as they are called in this wasteland future) and destroy each leader. If she fails, her destiny will be as grim as the futuristic world in which she lives.
"I command. You obey. Everybody gets what they deserve."
David Sears, Meat Puppet Lead Producer and Designer shares his views on game play: "Meat Puppet takes a leap over the edge in terms of gaming excitement. Our characters are smart, tenacious and brutal. You've haven't seen anything if you haven't seen a swarm of trundling, genetically accelerated big-headed toddlers coming at you with knives in hand, giggling every step of the way. It's an experience you won't forget, I promise you."
David Sears shares his views on the game engine: "Our isometric engine is undoubtedly in the ranks of the best out there. It's so fast that we had to put on the brakes just to keep it playable by mere human beings and that's with full screen scrolling, crazy-smart AI, and over a hundred opponents on screen at any moment." There are over 300 individual rooms spread over 6 cities to explore and fight through.
Similar to Crusader, Meat Puppet is a fully interactive environment. Each level contains over 150 objects that can be used, manipulated or destroyed to suit your purpose. This means there are over 600 separate types of object in the game. Nothing is more fun than blowing up things, and Meat Puppet intends to indulge those tendancies.
Meat Puppet is not just a side scroller like Crusader it has multiple levels. The unique stacked playing areas allow you to start a level on the city street and climb to the top of the tallest skyscraper.
The characters are supposed to have a unique thinking artificial intelligence. Well that is the definition of AI. The interface has special interactive features that can be used to distract your opponents while you regroup your forces. Activating the feeders in the nursery will get the little knife weilders to go to lunch and ignore you.
In all there are 35 unique characters to interact with. The original gritty, nasty theme to the game has now been mellowed by an overriding humor. Some games make you laugh, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail did as a movie, even though the material is gruesome. David explains, " after three months, we cracked. . . and then we began making everything funny."
You can attack and target anything that you can see on the screen.
This one ain't strong on plot. In the 21st Century, there are a lot of genetically constructed bad guys from little babies with knives to another 29 twisted and vulgar characters and seven bosess rampant with equal depravity that your character, a female assassin named Lotos Abstraction, must kill in a game which resembles Origin's Crusader.
Meat Puppets are given assasanation jobs, then lobotomized and discarded. The evil Martinet is using Lotos to assassinate the ambasadors of six of the world's leading embassies for the ruling corporations. Lotos does not want to kill anyone, but is being forced to by the poisonous gel sacks imbedded beneath her skin that Martinet can release should she disobey.
Lotos and her friend, a computer named Dumaine must be able to finsh off the ambasadors, and then figure a way to kill Marinet without killing Lotos.
David Sears shares his views on graphics: "We're using every scrap of PC memory for extended graphics. Most people can't do that because they don't have enough art to even fill one small tile set. We're not talking two or three distinct looks here, we're talking many distinct looks on a level by level basis spread over seven different worlds. We've had fourteen top 3-D artists and painters working in SGI's Alias for a year to put this together. Many of these same people built our characters all twenty-seven of them--each one in 3-D. The characters you see in the game (the ones trying to kill you) look much the same as the ones you see in the cinematics."
The graphics and backgrounds have an art deco motif for beauty and function are displayed at 800x600 and 1024x768 pixel resolution with 16-bit color. You can run on lower levels of resolution if you need to. Palettes are manipulated on a frame by frame basis to increase the colors, which also precludes the use of DirectX or Direct Draw.
AnimationEach character is animated differently with entirely unique animation data. Toddlers toddle, Lotus slinks, and other characters have their own signature movement, from jumps, walks, and other information which is entirely separate. David Sears says, "There is no shared animation detail amoung and between any of our characters."
The striking cinematic sequences that can be replayed as often as needed. The over 22,300 frames of character animation and over 36,000 frames of object animation make the animation engaging and always varied. Characters fight with one another, nibble on body parts, play catch with gore, smoke cigarettes and have a whole set of routine animations in addition to fighting with your character, Lotos.
Voice ActorsThe squeeky whimpy voice of Cousin Cicero the hypercephalic fetus is very well done.
Music ScoreThe game uses a techno-industrial music sound track.
UtilitiesThe save game feature allows you to save your game at any point in the game not just at the end or beginnings of levels.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
ReferencesEditors, Next Generation, issue 28, volume 3, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 80 - 82,
Elliott Chin, Computer Gaming World, issue154, May, 1997, pg. 44-45.
Steve Bauman, Computer Games, issue 78, May, 1997, pg. 32.
Shane Mooney, GameCenter, Meat Puppet: A Dark Killer Preview
Bill Meyer, GameCenter Preview
Please send us your comments and suggestions.