Written by Jenn Frank
An Only Slightly Less Stupid Way to Spend St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day has a lot going for it (funny hats, shamrocks, elves), but mostly it’s a holiday set aside so that people, Irish or not, can get hammered. And although we’d never disparage getting stupid on green-tinted beer and passing out in an alley, staying indoors with friends, liquor, and a Sixaxis seems a hell of a lot more responsible for once. Sure, there are those games that require a meticulous and steady hand, tremendous attention to detail, and the discipline of a surgeon. And then there are those games that — you swear! You swear up and down, on all that is holy — you are just a little better at when blitzed. No, we aren’t telling you to drink irresponsibly, least of all before undertaking a major task like driving or phoning someone you met the other night. But maybe science is telling you that downing a fifth could improve your final score.
- 5. Breakout – Atari 2600
- For some, the average Atari 2600 game loses its luster within the first 15 seconds. And while 2600 graphics are, to the sober mind, dated and blocky, to the sloshing brain the graphics are alive, immediate, and contemporary. I know for a fact that you can play Breakout boozily, because I’ve witnessed it. Once, I walked out of my living room just as a friend hit the reset switch on my 2600. When I walked back in, there he was, sitting on the floor with his eyes kind of misty, the paddle control in front of him. He’d beaten Breakout. “I’m a genius!” he told me. Breakout is a very twitchy game that requires fine, precise movements and astute snap decision-making. In that regard it’s practically a sobriety test. Of course alcohol hadn’t improved my friend’s hand-eye coordination (but don’t tell him that). However, he was in the Zone, in that Zen mindset where patterns and trajectories begin to make a strange cosmic sense. Also, a PBR had temporarily turned my friend into a struttin’ cock of the walk, which surely helped his game. If you don’t have Breakout at hand (and if you aren’t yet in your 30s, I can’t fault you), challenge your friends to Arkanoid. If you’re feeling really competitive, do Pong.
- 4. Rez HD – 360
- Perhaps games like Breakout benefit from alcohol consumption because they do rely on visual abstraction. Modern shoot-em-ups like Rez also seem to benefit from beer buzz: The half-awake, primal brain focuses on nothing in particular, and yet, as if automagically, you manage to rack up a phenomenal score. “Have you ever experienced shooter Zen?” Scott Sharkey once asked. “It’s that trancelike state you slip into, where your mind merges with the game and no matter what it throws at you, you’re going to survive because you’re freaking Superman.” Mike Bracken of GameCritics elaborates: “To become a true shmup master, one must enter a Zen-like state wherein the gamer becomes one with the controller and his onscreen avatar.” Now they call trance music “trance” for a reason, and Rez is one of the few games that inexplicably combines lightning-fast action with vegetativeness (which is a real word; I checked). We’re not telling you to booze yourself into Buddha — but if you’re of age, gellin’ like Magellan can make Rez even more engaging and rhythmic. Just ask Mizuguchi. If you hate electronica music, we recommend Geometry Wars.
- 3. Guitar Hero – PS2, 360, Wii, Mac
- With “beatmatching” rhythm games and alcohol, there’s a dramatic bell curve. You’re invincible after a beer, but after one too many, you’re so kicked out of the band. The reason you can play games after a whiskey is actually the same reason you don’t drive after a whiskey: Slightly impaired judgment means you’re more confident, more daring. Your score in Guitar Hero may markedly improve after a drink if only because, for instance, you wouldn’t ordinarily attempt that really difficult solo. There’s a fine line between taking risks and getting stupid, though, and it generally coincides with getting your toy guitar taken away. Waning, boozy attention spans might tire of Guitar Hero’s music catalog; in that case, we recommend Audiosurf as a viable alternative.
- 2. WarioWare: Smooth Moves – Wii
- With alcohol, it’s easy to coerce your friends into doing things they would never ordinarily do. Turn that negative into a positive! Nothing feels quite so right as finding four of the burliest, manliest dudes you can, moving the Hummel figurines out of arm’s reach, and bringing out the Wii Remotes. In an event like this, many partygoers prefer WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Your friends will look silly playing any movement game, irrespective of whether it stars Wario, but WarioWare includes a lot more hopping, ducking, and flapping than tennis does. And if booze is good for anything it’s making you unafraid to look like an ass. Don’t forget the camcorder! In a pinch, you could make your friends play Wii Sports, but if coordination becomes a problem, why not bring out SingStar or Karaoke Revolution instead?
- 1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – DS
- So, you’re drinking alone. No, no, don’t explain. I am loath to admit I completed Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney with, literally, one eye open. And while you might not think booze and detective work go together (although, come to think of it, there is a certain Sam Spade appeal there), the truth is, point-and-click adventure puzzles seem to go down a little easier with a glass of wine. Especially when they’re mysterious. But why is that? Alcohol doesn’t necessarily improve your acuity or powers of deduction — not by any stretch! — but it does make you more brash, more determined. With point-and-click adventures, in which the only real adversary is your own sense of frustration, brash tenacity is a virtue worth rewarding. If courtroom battles aren’t your thing, settle into your easy chair with a pipe and a decanter and check out Professor Layton and the Curious Village to see how the juice affects your holmesian intellect. Next week: Top Ten Games You’re Better at While on Coke. Or not.