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Humor site I-Mockery has been producing online satire for more than a decade now. In addition to poking fun at bad movies and marking Halloween with an annual two-month celebration, the site's creators have produced a large number of games. Among those was the NES tribute Abobo's Big Adventure, which garnered a large amount of attention (and appreciation) from fans. I-Mockery has been hard at work on its next game, Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla. I spoke with site founder, writer, game producer, and all-around good guy Roger Barr to learn more about the project.
Can you describe the basics of the game, for people who haven’t been able to see it in action?
Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla is the game that dares to answer the question that has riddled our minds for centuries: What would happen if you removed the arms of a gorilla, replacing them with chainsaws, and removed its legs, replacing them with a pogo stick? So there's this evil corporation that makes all kinds of random products that they test on animals – not like make-up and chemicals, but actual hardware. Well, one day they decided to test out their new lines of chainsaws and pogo sticks, and they had this gorilla to test 'em on. That's how Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla was born. Unfortunately for them, they didn't realize how powerful or how pissed off he would become. This is one seriously angry gorilla, and its arms flail around like a whirling dervish, stopping at nothing until everything in its path is a splattered bloody mess.
BCPG is a platformer with a fairly unique game mechanic in that your character is constantly hopping and/or jumping. You can use your pogo stick to land on some enemies and stun them while you attack with your chainsaws, while other enemies will die if you jump on them. Of course, some won't be affected by your pogo stick at all, but that's where the chainsaws come in handy. You have a standard melee attack with your chainsaws, but due to the wild nature of the gorilla and the way it swings them, you can simultaneously damage somebody in front of you and somebody behind you. Now, say you have an enemy that's a bit more out of your range. Well, in that case, you can use your bionic abilities to actually dislodge your chainsaw arms from their sockets and throw them at your enemies! Don't worry, they'll always return back to your body, for they're connected to some super-stretchy tendons that bleed a little every time you throw your arms. Yes indeed, the life of a Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla is a tortured one. You can even use one arm to perform a melee attack while the other is doing a ranged one. Keen, huh?
One of the most exciting elements of the game is our costume system. When you kill enemies, some will drop typical power-ups, but every now and then, one will drop a costume element, so you really want to kill everything in sight. In Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla, you can literally replace every single part of your body: your head, chest, legs, and individual arms. Once you've acquired enough costume elements, you can enter the "Costume Select-O-Tron" at any time and change what your character is. You see, the Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla is the default character, but with the costumes, you can become any number of ridiculous mutations. For example: you can have a merry-go-round for a head, a taco for a body, a beach ball for legs, a weed-whacker for one arm, and a teddy bear for the other. You have now become a Bionic Weed-Whacker Teddy Bear Beach Ball Taco Merry-Go-Round. You show me a person who says they don't wanna try playing as that character for at least a little while, and I'll show you a liar.
The levels are long, there are loads of different enemies on each one, and we have some huge boss battles for players to take on. You see, the Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla is just one of the many mutants this company has created, so he'll have to battle countless other mutant crimes against nature along the way if he wants to get revenge on the evil boss responsible for his current state.
How did the idea for BCPG evolve?
This is a game I came up with about five years ago, so it was one I had been thinking about for quite some time already, but we had to finish Abobo's Big Adventure before we could even consider developing it. I can't really explain how the idea came to me... I just get these weird ideas for characters and games, often when I'm laying in bed at night before I sleep. So, I write them down in a little notebook to ensure I never forget them, and I now have a variety of games I want to make (*hint* *hint* to any publishers out there looking to hire us). Fortunately, once Abobo was done, Adult Swim Games came to me and asked if I had any game ideas I'd like to pitch them. I immediately recalled the Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla character, and then began typing up a proposal for it. They later told me that they were sold on the idea based on the name of the game alone, and that's when I knew we were working with the right people for this project.
Was BCPG always based on new characters, or was it originally an homage akin to Abobo’s Big Adventure?
There are homages to the classic games of yesteryear in most of my projects, and this game still has that old pixelated art style, but it's entirely based on new characters. Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla isn't a parody like Abobo is... everything in the game is an original creation. Still, it's a platformer with big boss fights at the end of each level, and I'm sure people who grew up on games like that will feel right at home once they get used to the gorilla's unique gameplay mechanics. Judging by people's reactions to the demo at Comic-Con, that's certainly the case - and we didn't even have the tutorial added in yet, so I think that's a real good sign.
What lessons, if any, did you learn while developing Abobo’s Big Adventure that you were able to apply to Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla?
Abobo was a huge labor, which is why it took us 10 years of on-and-off development to get the job done, but it was a labor of love. I guess the biggest lesson I learned was that if you have a new idea for a game that you're really excited about – as opposed to the 20th sequel to a game that you've been "assigned" to do by the head honchos at [insert mega-corporation name here] – it's going to be far less painful to work on it. Games are not easy to make, so if you and your chums are going to go down that path, it should be something you can really all get behind, because odds are you'll be working on it longer than you'd ever expect. So yeah, I guess that is the biggest lesson I took away from Abobo – asking yourself that simple question: "Is this the game I really want to make?"
The other lesson was exhibiting the game and getting feedback on it before its release. We exhibited demos of Abobo at the San Diego Comic-Con for years, and each time it gave us an incredible amount of valuable feedback on the game. I cannot express how valuable it is for a developer to be able to watch complete strangers pick up and play your game for the first time. It really helps you see what works and what doesn't work in the game, so you can make the necessary changes before you unleash it upon the world. Plus, as a developer, seeing people laughing and smiling while they play a demo of your game can seriously help re-energize you about a project you've been working on for a long time. That's one of the tough things about game development – you work on these projects for so long without any feedback from the general public, so you just hope that they'll like it as much as you do. So yeah, we did exhibited a demo of Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla at SDCC, and once again, the experience proved to be invaluable.
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