“I wish I had junk food from here to the sky!” wishes Max Conner.
“Why not? Higher than high!” laughs the rapping genie.
It has been fourteen years since the magnum opus of Shaquille O’Neal’s acting career was inflicted upon an unsuspecting public. I was an easily impressed, nine year old in 1996 and even I thought Kazaam deserved an “avoid” review. More than a decade later, my only lingering memory is watching the junk food rain from the sky, fulfilling the wish of young Max Conner, and my fellow third-graders everywhere. Now that both Max and I have had some time to mature, I wonder how that wish would change for a modern audience.
The result would likely resemble the premise of The Incident. The sky is falling, showering the protagonist with deadly consumer goods. Tilt the iPod to run from plummeting flatscreen televisions and guitars. Tap to jump atop the accumulating sofas and arcade cabinets. On screen indicators flash warnings of impending vending machine, modern art and sports car showers. Perhaps the biggest dilemma is deciding whether to dodge these objects or furnish a studio apartment with them.
Just as genie stories are ultimately warnings about the dangers of wish fulfillment, The Incident is a cautionary tale of consumerist lust. Seemingly every desirable retail item of the 21st century is raining from the sky, yet they threaten to crush our hero with their weight. The game is about trying not to be buried alive by the gradual accumulation of junk that eventually envelops the planet and pushes our hero into outer space. But is it any wonder that the trash continues to pile up? The power-ups are coins and diamonds. What does money bring except more stuff?
Upon finishing the game and discovering the cause of the current calamity, an option to replay the levels as a bearded version of the protagonist is unlocked. The unoptimistic result is an older looking hero who continues to face the same problems. Regardless of the answers found at the top of the trash heap, implied is that the real “incident” is the destructive habit of ceaseless accumulation.
Pixel Perfect: If I could afford an iPad, this is the first game I would want to play on a bigger screen. The colorful, pixilated graphics are sharp enough to still feel modern while invoking old-school sentimentality. I want to hang those adorable little 8bit representations of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Mondrian’s Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow on Mega Man’s living room walls.
Less is More: The Incident milks impressive mileage out of an uncomplicated concept. Simple and streamlined are often underrated merits in game design.
Comic Sensibility: A goofy sense of humor often averts the frustration of questionable deaths. Upon being crushed, the player is rewarded with a gold trophy commemorating the lethal meteorite. When I die, I hope I too will receive a gold trophy that reads “Killed by Tyrannous Rex Skull. 10,000 meters.”
Heavy-Handed: While tilt sensitivity can be increased in the options menu, the controls were often too unresponsive to meet the demands of the final stages.
Game Over: The simple gameplay remains engaging largely because of the variety of power-ups, falling objects, and other difficulty modifications that are revealed as the game progresses. However, the harsh leap in difficulty during the final stages replaces challenging advancement with frustrating repetition that seemingly requires equal measures of luck and skill.
The Incident’s message is particularly made ironic by the game’s basic design elements. It preaches against consumption habits, and yet is available only on the iPhone, one of the most sophisticated and trendy mobile devices available for purchase. But regardless of its obvious consuming-is-evil message, The Incident is unquestionably worthy of purchase and deserves not to be buried in the pile.