A lot of people like to say that video games aren’t art. Frankly, this is an assessment I disagree with quite strongly, and it’s for the exact same reason people claim movies aren’t art: while the stuff which most people tend to see is hardly artistically demanding (I don’t think most people will be campaigning to have Call of Duty regarded as a grand artistic achievement), the stuff that people DON’T see (or, at the very least, don’t stop to consider) is often far more artistically rewarding than you’d expect. Take Brutal Legend: on paper, a hack-and-slash game with a huge amount of RTS elements shouldn’t be a grand artistic achievement, but the art style is heavily reminiscent (quite deliberately, it should be noted) of what you’d expect to see on the album covers of various metal albums and it can look pretty cool as a result. The art design is pretty interesting as a result, which helps it to stand out surprisingly well. Similarly, Comix Zone (a beat-em up on the Sega Mega Drive which I am always going to bang on about as an example of a very good game, if one with the game difficulty so far up the wazoo that I was impressed with myself for beating it without a single death once!) doesn’t exactly scream art on paper, but, when you really look at it, it deliberately captures the style of 90s comics so well that it’s hard to not be impressed with it.
However, I will acknowledge that video games don’t have to be artistic to be fun, because sometimes, you’re not playing a game because you want to be impressed with the art style: you’re playing it because you want to blow off steam. Painkiller is one such example of a game like that: the plot is handled purely through text screens and the main appeal can be summed up as “here’s the legions of hell, you need to be on the other side of it, they don’t need to be alive, you do, go nuts”, and it is a hugely satisfying game that, while not exactly a grand artistic statement, is absolutely glorious mindless fun.
There’s now another game to add to that list of games that, while not grand artistic statements, are mindless fun that are great for blowing off steam: Iron Snout. The story of the game is basically that you are a pig and a bunch of wolves want to kill you so they can eat you, so you have to punch, kick and use a variety of weapons to survive for as long as you can.
Yeah, OK, so the plot’s about as substantial as a packet of Skips that have been left out in the rain, but that’s not what the point of the game is. What you’re there to do is go nuts on a bunch of wolves because they want you dead and you don’t want to be, and it is surprisingly good as a stress reliever as a result. There’s nothing really to fault the execution for: it’s fun, it’s intense (once you get past forty wolves, you can guarantee that you’ll not be allowed a second to catch your breath) and it’s guaranteed to keep you pretty much glued to the screen from the moment the game starts. No major goals to add to the game beyond a few Steam achievements, either: it’s just you fighting to survive.
The controls are…well, they are definitely responsive, but I think there’s a bit of room for improvement, in all honesty, as you have to press down to do down attacks, not the direction button while crouched, which threw me off a bit at first and, even once I got used to it, there were more than a few occasions where I accidentally hit the direction button rather than the down button and got hit by a flying butchers knife as a result.
The art style is pretty simplistic, looking a bit like it was done in flash. Not a bad thing in and of itself, admittedly, but some people may find it a bit on the simple side and the cartoony look of it can make the surprisingly large amount of gore and violence seem a bit odd. I personally quite liked it, though, as it prevents the game from coming across as too graphic (although I’m saying this when you can throw a butchers knife into a wolf’s face and it stays in his face until you punch him again, so that doesn’t mean there isn’t potentially graphic material in the game).
Ultimately, this is a fairly short review, but, frankly, I don’t feel I need to say a lot about Iron Snout. It’s mindless fun that is worth a look into if you like beat ’em ups and, while hardly a game that’s going to go down in history as a grand artistic achievement, it’s the sort of game that shows that, if you are going to create a game full of mindless fun, you might as well go all out on the fun part!