Developer: Super Flash Bros.
Tom Hanks once said that he’d play a villain in a film just as soon as he could find one that he could understand. Videogames have a faintly similar problem with wickedness: it’s appealing to offer players the chance to explore evil choices, but how do you impose meaningful restrictions when morality – or at least the handy barriers associated with morality – have been taken away?
Super Flash Bros. decides that the best solution simply lies with not taking things too seriously. Like Katamari Damacy, From Beyond is a cheery game about world-splintering chaos. It uses physics and a brilliant sense of scale to deliver humorous brutality. The booming, pulsing soundtrack promises apocalyptic disaster, and as you choose your vantage point, pick an angle, and then casually flick devastation towards planet Earth, there’s no hint of possible retribution on the cards. None at all.
Instead, it’s all about the score as you aim for the more delicate and elaborate of man’s creations and render them to dust. All is vanity, apparently. The mouse controls promise plenty of finesse, and there’s a nice playful strategizing to be had as you cast space rocks around the Earth in lazy arcs – leading to larger footprints – or thrust them directly at the centre of the planet for localised bursts of massive damage. You’re given a decent range of things to throw, including comets that splinter on impact and a natty little UFO that just rolls and rolls, while the mandatory quirky asides – that comet comes without a tail as there was “no time to program” it – often hint at the game’s hectic genesis, according to the excellent Indie Games blog, as part of the Global Game Jam 2011.
It’s polished, personable stuff, considering it had such a hurried creation, and while it’s pretty slight, From Beyond’s got more than its fair share of memorable touches, from the schlocky movie poster aesthetics of the title screen, to the ever-unspooling breakdowns of carnage (“squid lost, palm tree burnt, Redbeard annihilated”) and the elegant cosmic index finger that prods your moon, asteroid, or UFO back towards the Earth if it ever threatens to leave its orbit.
It seems that being bad can be fun after all, then – and the trick is to approach your mean-spirited actions thinking only of the physical reactions rather than the messy moral consequences.