Okay so, Volcano are Fun! is flatly the worst game that’s been curated on here. I won’t be saying any cute subversions. It’s a confused, frustrating prototype, made by beginner devs, further hamstrung by being made for a timed game jam. Like, even the grammar in the title is off, and no way on purpose. I’m just getting my honest reactions out of the way, because these reactions aren’t really constructive or interesting for something clearly rough and meant to be rough. I’ve seen, you’ve seen it too, writing that’s just absolute egowank getting passed as a service for the gaming public. People quickly vet bad games on their own. Going on and on about obviously unpopular games, claiming they lack integrity or are somehow exploitative serves to stroke hostility toward people entering game development, puts unreasonable expectations on people who are still learning or finding themselves. It’s obvious right? Not every game should be held to the same standard, but that’s most often what critics and consumers do.
Anyway, in Volcano are Fun!, the player is a goddamn volcano. Literally a huge, slowly lurching volcano, that slides through some city, on the way to their girl… volcano. I’m undecided if needing to “rescue” a volcano with a giant ribbon is funny or extremely tacky- well, it’s probably both. Right click launches a fireball, left click dribbles a stream of lava once that ability is prepped, and you can, uh, press E to erupt after charging the “eruption meter.” Eruption doesn’t do anything. Movement happens automatically down a straight shot, all the while destroying various brown buildings that get caught in the wake. Water trucks and h2o bomber planes fight back against the volcano assault. It’s game over if the volcano gets extinguished. I guess volcanoes can get extinguished.
There are two styles of rail shooters: free roaming kinds like Space Harrier and move ‘n shoots like House of the Dead. Volcano are Fun! feels weird because it’s situated between those two. And okay, it’s actually pretty similar to a helicopter-turret-gunner setpiece in whatever triple eh shooter that comes to mind, so it’s not like there’s no precedent. Those games, and well, also, the majority of action games, function with a strong representative melding. That is, you controla ship or a gun, and shoot stuff with ‘em. It’s an obvious 1:1 that passes as being invisible. What’s there to think about? A gun shoots, and so on.
In Volcano are Fun!, the player is the disembodied will of a shambling landscape. Fireballs need to be shot with primed accuracy or the game will quickly end. I don’t control the volcano’s movement and that’s a huge disconnect. Really, I have no idea what I’m supposed to be controlling. The camera moves like a first person turret setpiece, but unlike mentioned rail shooters, there’s no connection between the view given and the role I’m playing. I am the volcano and I am not the volcano. Around me will be senseless destruction. Caused by me; not authorized by me, not meant by me, and the only autonomy I have is to defend this death march.
Another similarity with the House of the Dead school of rail shooters is how punishing the game is. Maybe because of how short it is a high difficulty felt necessary, I dunno. Winning is memorization, there’s really no effective way to wing it. Water trucks start their assault from a very far range, but the volcano’s fireball goes even farther. It’s hard to tell where those trucks are since every model is covered in the same brown texture. Buildings get in the way as the volcano moves, so really, I had to already know where the trucks were to volley them from afar, which took a couple of draining and monotonous playthroughs. My tunnel vision to finish the game killed the inherent surrealism by a bit.
I think the strictness provides vulnerability though. A weakness of mass destruction games (Postal 2, Destroy All Humans, Rampage, etc), which Volcano are Fun! also overlaps with, is the lack of distance from murder sprees. Though usually deflected with humor, a player still acts out spree killing. It’s unbreachable. This is as mildly problematic as any open world game that lets a player act out murderous whims unto the simulation: if it’s there, it’s going to happen. Empty destruction remains empty. Maybe it’s a good stress reliever. I don’t really like destruction on that level being unremorseful.
Weirdly, fighting desperately makes Volcano are Fun! more palatable, less brutish. A circumstance, not a preemptive doomsday. It’s not a casual whim but a matter of survival. Just, the existence of a volcano is massive destruction. Inhabiting something inanimate, floating, detached, causes cold cognitive dissonance. Roaded on the path of a rail shooter, the city’s destruction is not a conscious choice, unlike a typical approach of shameful agency. A feeling of suppression permeates, a confused malaise, barely staying afloat as the incomprehensible occurs around me.
An uninspiring arrangement of brown models in a brown void assist a resulting expression of terrified destruction. Playing as a natural disaster with a detached camera secures needed separation. I think the game was just trying to be an arcade experience, so there’s a good case for calling this game art brut, that which is unintentionally experimental and evocative. Have you ever badly needed to do something? Have you ever felt compelled to do such a thing that would upend and cause harm to many if not all those around you? I think that’s a very relatable feeling or circumstance. I never would’ve expected playing as a volcano to evoke that so effectively. To simply couch that this is a bad videogame would be a disservice: there’s nothing like it. I think games that are roughly made, that don’t have a practical, popular aesthetic, should be considered on what they express in spite of that, instead of what they obviously didn’t match up to.
also, playing the game in noclip is a really weird out of body experience…