Slowboat to Hades & Super Mario Galaxy

Cartoons | Jan. 3, 2008

The navigation for the Gorillaz DVD Slowboat to Hades puts you, the viewer, inside the Gorillaz world as an ersatz crime scene investigator / tomb raider, skulking through the not-quite-abandoned Kong Studios and all its leaking, shorting, smoldering disrepair. Navigation can be either an immersive or a tedious experience (depending on your point of view) as you move from room to dimly-lit room, shining your flashlight over whatever strewn detritus it is that will unlock the next featurette.

Kong StudiosJamie Hewlett’s design and animation support the themes established in the Demon Days album which this DVD is derived from. The premise, shown in broken 52″ flatscreen TVs hung askew on puched-in, graffitied walls, and studio recording equipment connected through a dizzying rat’s nest of patched, mismatched cables, states that all the money and success you enjoy will not stop the world from falling apart, and all those creature comforts will too succumb to systemic decay.

It was while immersing myself in this (fantasy… I hope) world that I noticed it had something in common with a few other games I enjoy: Super Mario Galaxy, Mario 64 and Myst.

Myst islandEach environment is an island unto itself (sometimes more or less literally so). Each game establishes a series of very detailed worlds, each with its own flora and fauna, themes and internal logic. Each is a puzzle; constrained but with enough room to allow the visitor to move freely, to explore and interact with this unique, peculiar environment. It’s comforting to know that the experience is bounded, but not limited — there can still be a great deal of variation inside its isolated shores, and maybe finding out what those limits are is part of the fun.

And is it a coincidence that they all involve islands?

Super Mario Galaxy

This reminds me of when I asked an artist friend to paint me a picture of “an enclosed space”, not really knowing myself what it meant (neither did she, which is probably why my fine art collection is floundering).

Whether it’s Noodle’s flying windmill island, the Stoneship Age, or Mario making his way across the Gusty Garden galaxy, I find something captivating (no pun intended) about each game’s world.

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