Review: "Brütal" Fandom

Heavy metal gets the video game treatment in "Brütal Legend," the new game featuring Jack Black.

 Combining unique worlds and laugh-out-loud dialogue is nothing new for video game designer Tim Schaffer.  From the alien controlled future in “Day of the Tentacle” to the Aztec-inspired afterlife of “Grim Fandango,” he’s made a career of it.  But with his latest game, “Brütal Legend” (available for Xbox360 and Playstation 3), he’s added his love of all things heavy metal.  And this affection, evident from the smallest details of a character’s wardrobe to the unnecessary umlauts in the title, helps to elevate this game, and him, to new creative heights.

You play as Eddie Riggs (voiced by actor Jack Black), a heavy metal roadie who longs for the old days when the music really rocked (“You mean the 70s?” a fellow roadie asks him.  “No, man, earlier.  Like…the early 70s.”).  When he dies in a stage collapse, he’s sent to an album-cover-inspired afterlife, one full of deserts and dragons and busty women carrying battle axes.  There, using only your blade and your lightening-spouting guitar (which, when played correctly, allows you to quite literally melt your enemies’ faces), you must lead an armed uprising by reminding the people what it’s like to truly rock. 

While the gameplay is solid, it’s the humorous and pointed details that stick with you.  Like the fact that one of the game’s villains, General Lionwhyte, who’s helped to usher in the age of watered-down rock, looks like one of Eddie’s rockers except he uses considerably more hair product.  His female minions, meanwhile, sent to seduce Eddie to the dark side, dress like Madonna, circa-1986, clad in denim and lace.  The game features many nods to keep fans of the music happy, including a character (The Guardian of the Metal) being voiced by a surprisingly intelligible Ozzy Osborne, and a soundtrack featuring over 100 classic metal songs.  In a nice touch, whenever you’re cruising in Eddie’s hot rod (“The Deuce”) you can choose which songs you want to listen to.

 The game is not without minor kinks.  Some of the side missions get pretty repetitive.  The game’s difficulty level never gets particularly challenging.  And the multiplayer battle mode is fun, but you’re only able to play other people over the internet.  Any video game players out there with actual friends to play with in person are out of luck.  

But anytime one of these flaws threatens to take you out of the game, you stumble upon a sight or a character that’s too entertaining (such as Doviculus, The Emperor of the Tainted Coil, voiced by Tim Curry, who seems to get far too much enjoyment out of being hit with a battle ax), and suddenly you’re right back in it.  Schaffer has made more consistent games in the past, but never has he created such a full and lovingly-detailed world before.  This more than makes up for the game’s slight blemishes.  Besides, if everything was perfect, it wouldn’t be rock.  

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