Review by Orb
I love bad movies. Sometimes, films in this genre are made badly
on purpose (Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!),
but sometimes the creators are really, really sincere, and the
resultant effort, considered serious art by its maker, is the
stuff by which bad-art legends are made (Ed Wood's Glen or
I've been discovering some old adventure games that seem to qualify
as a new subgenre of their own, all along this line of thinking.
I think these came about around the time a few technical advancements
were being made, CD-ROMs were first on the horizon. You know what
I'm talking about. The odious, bargain-bin-anointed "Multimedia"
titles. And like bad films, some of these are so busy reveling
in their own clever and artistic achievements, they can't see
the forest for the trees.
The game Mirage handily fits into this newly coined genre,
which for the sake of clarity I'll call Trash Adventure. Ephemeral
blips on the adventure gamer radar.
Mirage is actually a western that takes place in the town
of BrotHell. Here's a sampling of explanation from the game docs:
"The doors and windows of your imagination will open or close
if you find the key to survival. Awaiting you is your just reward
as you uncover the dead and bury the living in the hallucinogenic
terrains of the 'Mirage' desert. ... Lost in the hallucinogenic
terrains of the Mirage desert. Your thirst and your hunger for
pleasure could lead you to a phantasmagoric land trapped forever
inside your own imagination. In limbo with the ultimate deadly
psychosis called 'Mirage'."
Well. Thanks for clearing that up.
Throughout the game you are given pieces of video that spell
out the real story: your job is to rescue a girl named Jenny from
a group of desperate, ugly thespian wannabes.
The graphics are that flimsy multimedia-type. You know the kind,
a static screen that's an altered photographic image, and there
are maybe two, or even three, areas that pulse a little bit, slyly
winking at you to get you to try clicking on them and see if something
wondrous may happen?
The cast is bad-film superb. The women are leftover "actresses"
from the legendary Vivid Video's house o'porn, in their first
real acting jobs with their clothing on. The male actors look
like they were ripped off from one of Vivid's set crews. The first
giveaway to this, of course, is the notice on the back of the
CD case"All actors are on file and over the age of
18." What a hoot! For an adventure game?
Puzzles consist mainly of clicking on the right thing and finding
the correct hot spots in each room that will lead you to the next
correct room. There are three inventory items that are collected
at the beginning of the game and three more in the middle. All
but one aren't actually ever used. I kind of got the idea that
these were needed in order to get through more of the rooms, but
this isn't really spelled out anywhere. There are multiple wrong
rooms that can be chosen that will lead to a game over "death"
screen. These are enigmatic and inexplicable, although I'm sure
the guy that thought them up was having some sort of idea about
them; however, the player just can't decipher it.
One of the great things about this package is that it comes with
a separate CD entitled "The Magic of Mirage: The Behind the
Scenes Look at the Critically Acclaimed Game." The guy in
charge of the music, cryptically named "Saint," looks
suspiciously like an escapee from a Thompson Twins video. The
entire package is pure high camp, all the much better because
it has no idea it is at all. A truly Ed Wood kinda gaming experience.
You and I both know this isn't going to qualify for a good verdict.
But one has to ask by what standard should it be judged? Are we
going to apply a John Waters criterion to it and give it a star?
Or with a straight face call a spade a spade and give it the cornpoop
it deserves? I can't decide. I think the player will have to figure
that out for him or herself.