Sometimes a game deserves recognition for what it tried to pull off rather than what it actually accomplishes.
Double Fine Productions deserves a ton of credit for what it achieved with “Brutal Legend,” an action-adventure game starring Jack Black. While the game has a few flaws, it is undoubtedly the most original game idea of the year.
While not close conceptually, “Brutal Legend” reminds me a lot of “Mirror’s Edge,” a game published last year by Electronic Arts. Both are games unlike anything else I played at the time, and both still stand alone as two of the most innovative games released in recent memory.
Designed by Tim Schafer, who created the sleeper hit “Psychonauts,” “Brutal Legend” tells the story of heavy metal roadie Eddie Riggs — voiced brilliantly by Black — who is transported to a different world inspired by heavy metal music after he is knocked out while preventing an accident at a gig.
Riggs is thrown into a world that is best described as a cross between heavy metal music and medieval times. The protagonist joins forces with a group of rebels who are trying to rid the world of some pretty bad dudes named Doviculus and Lionwhyte, voiced by actor Tim Curry and Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford, respectively.
Armed with his guitar Clementine and a battle axe, Riggs is given a variety of attacks to unleash on enemies. You have to use a strong mix of range attacks with the guitar and melee attacks with the axe.
The signature pieces of the game are the integration of metal music and musicians in the game and the comedic timing brought to the game by Schafer and delivered by Black.
More than 100 songs were licensed for the game, including famous metal acts like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and other obscure bands from various subgenres of rock music. Black’s Tenacious D also has songs in the game. The developers also got voice work from metal icons like Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Lita Ford.
Black brought his normal comedic charm to the role, making the game continually enjoyable. If you’re a fan of him, then this game is a must-have.
Schafer is known for his ability to integrate comedy into video games, which is often difficult to achieve. I wrote earlier this year that Atari’s “Ghostbusters” was one of the funniest games ever created, but “Brutal Legend” deserves to stand alongside it.
The gameplay can get repetitive at times and the combat system can prove to be unreliable, particularly when you get into some of role-playing elements of the game. But it doesn’t detract much from the core essence.
This holiday season, be sure to check out some of the sequels hitting the market, because there will be some great games available. But none will be as original as “Brutal Legend,” and that alone is worth checking out.