Saturday, March 01, 2008

Jumper, or On Bad Videogames

As a trailer for the upcoming Xbox game, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, Jumper is top-notch. Providing potential players with all manner of potentially interesting scenarios, the pic wisely chooses never to actually put anything exciting in the scenes - leaving it to the player to imagine what thrilling escapades might come to pass once it’s their turn with the controller.

Gamers will hopefully accept the level at which the characters are pitched: it’s impressive in its endless supply of lazy clichés (“I don’t play well with others!”), but sometimes distinguishes itself by managing to even get these wrong (“I can’t make heads or tails of it!”). The story, similarly, leaps clumsily from one tired trope to another without the slightest attempt at freshness: hopefully cut-scenes will be minimal.

A possible weak point in the game will be its antagonists: the Paladins, grey-clad everygrunts, are uncharacterised beyond some vague reference to the lazy videogame stalwart of religious fundamentalism. Would-be bearers of the narrative’s philosophical torch, they’re a horrid mess: “Only God should have the power to be everywhere at once,” intones Jackson, confusing omnipresence (a power he comes closest to wielding) with the pic’s central conceit (which might be called transpresence), whose inherent danger is never clarified.

Jumper isn’t even worthy of comparison to particularly good videogames. Forget your Vice City or Sands of Time: even the paddling-pool philosophising of Bioshock or wacked-out panache of Ratchet and Clank are leagues ahead of this.

But this is the only comparison that reasonably can be made: put alongside the pics for whose company it aims, Jumper barely looks like a movie at all. Jumper resembles Spiderman or The Matrix in the same way that Be Kind, Rewind resembles Robocop or Rush Hour: a pathetic parody, here lacking the tragicomic warmth of tribute.

No comments: