Archive for August, 2009

GUMO# 118 - Housecat 7 - Big Fat Furry Ginger Alarm Clock

He was fine and continues to wake us all up at stupid o’clock.

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The War Begins

The rowdy wave of deadly Pokémon washes over Eterna City like a blood-fuelled flood.
The flame Pokémon begin the first attack, as arcs of fire spout across the cold tarmac. The Pokémon centre catches fire, the inhabitants screaming and trying to escape as a Rapidash wait at the front door. It gives a mighty kick with its powerful hind legs, a hoof disappearing into an old man’s face.
The fire spreads and Eterna Forest lights up with the burning orange hues of hate.
Everywhere I look there is carnage.
A Buneary brings a fleeing woman to the ground with a kick. It begins stamping on her head. As the poor woman’s face is crushed into the ground, the Buneary becomes so happy it evolves into Lopbunny. It giggles and runs off to murder more people.
A host of screaming people barricade themselves inside a multi-storey building. The Pokémon gather outside, jeering and laughing.
The crowd of hate parts for a Machamp and a Golem. The two carry a Geodude between them. They swing it back and forth a few times, before hurling it with all their combined might.
The Geodude strikes the building in a corner right at the base. It shatters the building with enough force to cripple the entire structure. The Pokémon run back as the building begins to crumble and lean.
I can see the people in the windows, looking out in horror. The building pitches off at an angle, beginning its fall to the ground. It shudders for a second, just long enough to tip a young man out through a window.
The glass explodes around him as he falls through, landing in a crumpled heap amongst sharp debris and rocks.
Before he can move, the rest of the building comes down on top of him.
The Pokémon howl with delight and begin making their way through the wreckage, pulling out survivors and brutally murdering them.
I make my way to edge of the City, trying to slip off unnoticed into the shadows of the night.
A Pikachu, blood all over its face, smiles serenely up at me. It charges up some electrical current and summons a huge bolt of lightening from the sky, before flinging it out to the power grid, cutting off the City completely.
A dog-like Houndoom chases after a woman as she runs, pushing her baby in a pram as fast as she can. It catches her, biting a bloody gash out of her ankle. She falls, screaming. The Houndoom opens its mouth and spits a geyser of fire directly into her face. She writhes and struggles and screams but soon it’s over and she lies still.
The Houndoom moves around to the front of the pram and observes the screaming baby. It pushes its dark head into the pram and begins eating.
In the midst of the chaos, I slip away into the shadows.

GUMO #117 - Professionalism - Another Day at the Office

Luckily, Alex has now escaped the madness of IT work and will be entering his final year soon. Put off leaving as long as possible, mate!

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Thickening

I am tired beyond sleep. Exhausted beyond repair. Broken beyond mending.
I am marching in line behind a Bonsly, a heavily-muscled Machoke at my back.
I am wearing a Mr Mime costume and wearing the face of a dead Mr Mime over my own face.
It is the dead of night and we are marching into Mount Coronet.
I am so scared I want to piss myself, but it I do they will know and they will kill me.
Perhaps one of them will wear my face when I am dead.
Inside Mount Coronet, the mountain is claustrophobic and the passages cramped.
We are heading down. I have no idea if this section is even marked on our maps.
We pass several huge boulders, the size of which only a Pokémon could move. They must have opened up some hidden tunnels.
We keep walking down, getting deeper and deeper by the second.
Eventually the path levels out. I wonder how far down we are.
We keep walking until the tiny tunnel ends and we are–
Inside a massive cavern, hollowed out the in the centre of the mountain. Waterfalls trickle and cleverly placed fire Pokémon – Infernapes, Flareons, Ponytas, Rapidashes, etc – keep the place illuminated for the sight before me:
Thousands – tens of thousands – of Pokémon fill the chamber floor, gathering before a ledge built into the rock about ten feet up on the very far side of the cavern. Overhead flap the multitude of wings of the flying creatures, Wingulls, Pelippers, Starlys, Staravias, Swablus, Altarias, Togetics, Togekisses, even the bobbing balloons of Drifloons and Drifblims as they all circle the cave. Massive monstrous heads of Onixes and Steelixes emerge from holes carved into the rock cavern. Zubats, Golbats, Crobats, Gligars and Gliscors hang from the ceiling.
The noise is thunderous. The squabbling sounds of Pokémon grunts, murmurs and the sounds of the own languages echo around the cavern.
I keep following the Bonsly in front of me. It seems to know where it’s going as our line marches into the enormous gathering of Pokémon stretched out before us.
We keep walking deep inside the crush. We finally stop in near the middle.
The Bonsly turns and looks at me excitedly, jabbering away in some strange language. All I can hear is it saying its own name repeatedly. I nod and grunt. It turns back to face the ledge with the rest of the Pokémon.
I turn back. The trickle of Pokémon entering the cavern is dying. We seem to be all here.
The sound of the huge boulders, miles above and away, reverberate around the cavern as they are pushed back into place.
We’re all shut in.
The noises die away, silence consuming their places.
The only sound I can hear is my breath rasping through the hole where Mr Mime’s mouth once was.
The glow of the lights seems to fade slightly.
A Monferno climbs the ledge and illuminates it with the flame on its tail. A cave entrance is barely visible in the rock behind the ledge.
The collective breaths of thousands of Pokémon are held.
They walk out of the cave, onto the ‘stage’; fifteen humans, hands bound behind them, bags on their heads, adults and children, lead and followed closely by Scythers and Scizors.
The humans are forced to their knees, facing out over the vastness of the crowd. Even at my great distance, I can see they are all shaking with fear and that most of them have pissed themselves.
One more creature emerges from the black tunnel:
A Psyduck.
As it walks on stage, a ripple surges through the crowd.
The Pokémon bow down on one knee before the Psyduck.
I join them, hoping I don’t go too fast or too slow.
The Psyduck points at one of the humans.
The Scizor standing behind it rips the bag off its head.
I recognise him! Professor Rowan! The man who gave me the Pokédex at the start of this whole affair!
My gasp is drowned out among the collective growling that begins to echo around the chamber as the Pokémon get a look at the man.
He blinks in the light, his face bruised, a bloody wound to his temple.
‘What the hell is going on?’ His voice echoes around the cave, the projection perfectly clear across the whole ensemble.
The Psyduck points to another human in the row. The Scyther whips the bag off and her black hair falls down past her terrifyingly pale cheeks. I recognise her as well – Sandy. She worked with Rowan in the lab, developing new ways to catalogue the Pokémon.
The Psyduck’s eyes glow bright blue, the same colour that illuminates from the assistant’s eyes.
Sandy’s mouth opens and a deep, slow-speaking, unnatural voice comes out of it.
‘Speak when you are spoken to, Professor. We have all night to answer each other’s questions.’
Rowan shoots horrified glances between Sandy and the Psyduck. ‘What is she saying? Are you making her say that?’
The Psyduck nods.
The Scyther steps in behind one of the other people in the row. It extends a single bladed arm across the front of him. It slashes sharply across his throat. The man collapses, thrashing, his hands bound behind him, his blood spilling across the ledge, spilling down into the Pokémon at the front, sending them into a frenzy. The crowd roars with delight and Rowan tries to move towards the man. The Scizor behind Rowan cracks him over the head with a pincer, stopping his struggle.
The man kicks weakly, his death inevitable. The Scyther picks him up and hurls his dying body out into the crowd. The Pokémon that grab him rip him to shreds, pulling every piece of flesh they can grab in all directions at once. I swallow back some bile.
As the man’s pieces vanish into the crowd, the noise dies down. Sandy begins speaking again.
‘I take it that you understand now the seriousness of this congregation, Professor?’
Rowan shakes with fear.
‘You can answer me now, Professor.’
‘I… I understand.’
‘Excellent. We have brought you and everyone else from Sandgem Town here because we have some rather pressing questions that I’m afraid only you can answer. Our questions concern the Pokédex, the device by which you humans attempt to corral and catalogue our kind. Are you paying attention?’
Rowan nods slowly.
A bead of sweat makes its way down the back of my neck. I pray the Machoke behind is too busy watching the stage to notice my terror. Sandy’s booming voice echoes around the chamber again.
‘We want to know how it works, Professor, and how we can acquire one of our own.’
There is a pause. It feels longer than eternity. I can almost hear Rowan trying to think his way out of the problem. Finally he finds his voice. ‘It works by cataloguing the individual Pokémon’s DNA and analysing specific wavelengths within it. That’s how it can create a complex list of all types of… of… you.’
‘And how do we get one of our own?’
Rowan shakes his head. The Scyther steps in behind another bagged human.
‘No, no! What I mean is, there are only three in the whole of Sinnoh. I developed them all myself and gave them to three young explorers. They have the only ones in the region.’
The Scyther steps back. The Psyduck seems to be deep in thought.
‘Is it possible for you to recalibrate the Pokédex?’
Rowan sounds unsteady. ‘How do you mean?’
‘Say you want to catalogue something other than Pokémon. Can you change it?’
Rowan bows his head. He seems to already know the answer. ‘What are you thinking of cataloguing?’
A harsh, braying laugh comes out of Sandy’s throat. ‘Surely you already know the answer to that, Professor! There are four hundred and sixty two Pokémon in the world and over six billion people! You tell me which is the species that requires cataloguing!’
The jeers and laughter of the Pokémon in the chamber echo like thunder.
The Psyduck motions for quiet before continuing. ‘If we bring you the Pokédexes, can you change them?’
Rowan nods, painfully slowly.
The Scizor steps forward, clutching sheets of paper carefully in its pincer. It brings them close to the flaming tail of the Monferno.
‘Study these faces and learn them!’ bellows the evil voice from within little Sandy. ‘These three hold the key to our salvation!’
Scizor holds up the paper and the burning flame shines through them, projecting the images onto the walls of the cavern. There, at least twenty feet high, is my face, staring back down at me. My breath catches in my throat as the growling and hissing of angry Pokémon fills the air.
‘This one is particularly difficult,’ intoned the voice. ‘We’ve been after him for some time. He’s sent many of your brothers and sisters to early graves.’ A nearby Piloswine bellows in rage.
The sheet changes to the next face. Grinning moronically back at the collective is the young face of my Rival. The Machoke behind me beats its chest and roars.
The final sheet is raised up to the light. The sweet smile of Dawn, my love interest, shines down from above. Bonsly thumps its feet against the floor.
‘My friends!’ The Psyduck roars above the din of the bellowing, braying, roaring beasts. ‘Tonight our long-awaited plan shall begin! Any humans that resist may be slain according to your own desires, but we must have the three Pokédexes and their owners brought here immediately!’
The roaring of the Pokémon becomes a slow, steady chant. A wave of aggression passes through the crowd. They are all insane with bloodlust.
‘BRING ME THE POKÉDEXES! SLAY ALL WHO STAND IN OUR WAY!’
The chant becomes a scream, a tribal war cry. I join in stamping my feet on the ground, yelling out against the din.
‘NOW GO, COMPLETE THIS GLORIOUS MISSION!’
With one final bellow, the Pokémon begin charging for the exit. I run with them. The only words in my head are, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

GUMO #116 - My Job - Test Monkey

Thanks to Alex for this week’s comic, cheers mate! He’ll be writing next week’s one as well, provided a small snipping of the dialogue takes place.

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Enemies

The knife swings just past my face, clanging loudly against the wall. Mr Mime slashes for me again, this time missing wilder as I fall back further into my prison.
He’s pushing me back. He’s got the advantage on me. He knows it. I know it.
He lunges for me again and I manage to duck aside.
We’re both in the cell now. I’m being slowly backed into a corner.
The look of furious victory on his face tells the story – he knows he’s won.
He keeps pushing me back until I’m in the corner.
He twirls the knife around and smiles.
‘Why?’ I shout.
He stops, tilts his head at me quizzically.
‘Why are you all doing this? Why me?’
He points the knife at my chest.
He shifts the weight on his feet.
Darts forward.
I step to one side and try to dodge.
The corner has me pinned.
I spin around and try and crash into him.
The knife catches me in the shoulder.
Glances off, tearing skin.
I scream.
He laughs.
But I’m in close and he can’t get me again.
I punch him in the face and claw at his eyes.
He staggers, tries to push back away from me
I dig my thumb in his eye socket.
He trips over and we fall down. The rattle of his knife echoes as falls to the floor and bounces away. His head cracks onto the solid stone floor and the momentum pushes my thumb deep into his eye.
I twist my thumb and pop his eye out. It hangs down his cheek loosely.
Black gunk washes over my hand as he screams. He thrashes wildly with his arms and tries to get at my face.
I club him with both of my hands.
In the chest.
Club. Club. Club.
Something cracks inside him.
He gurgles and spits black gunk at my face.
It hits my cheek.
It burns.
He writhes in agony on the floor.
I go for the knife.
As I take my weight off him, he pounces back onto his feet and rushes for me.
He tackles me down to the floor, hard. Tries to club me back.
I have my arms ready and block his attacks. I reach out to something and grab hold of the door frame.
He brings his hands up again for another blow. I punch him in the chin. He unbalances.
I pull myself towards the door. He grabs my foot, the two of us crawling pathetically around after each other. Him with his eye still drooling goo.
I get to the door and try and use it to stand. If I can lock him in..!
He knows what I’m going to do and grabs the knife, trying to stand.
He gets to his feet first and rushes towards me.
I manage to stand up and swing the door shut as hard as I can.
His hand gets in the way.
A sickening snap and his wrist is bent the wrong way.
The knife falls to the floor.
I open the door a little wider.
He tries to follow his arm through.
I shut it on him again, crushing him against the door frame.
He falls to the ground, half in and half out.
I slam the door.
Again.
And again.
And again and again.
He screams and screams and I hear things cracking and snapping inside him as he thrashes around and claws at the floor as the black mess flows freely from his body.
Eventually he stops moving, stops screaming, stops gushing that black gunk.
I slide down the wall.
Sweet darkness.

I wake.
It is dark again.
The body is long since cold on the floor.
Nurse Joy still lies upon the floor, frozen in beautiful desperation.
My head is thumping.
Footsteps outside.
I climb gently to my feet and look out the window.
There they are.
Pokémon.
A small army, walking quietly, orderly, in a row, heading away from the houses, out into the night.
I need to follow them… but how?
I won’t get close enough as I am, they’ll find me and kill me.
If only I was a Pokémon…
I look at Mr Mime’s broken body.
White gloves, pink foamy-looking body, big shoes. They sell those as costumes.
But the face? Where can I get one of those?
The knife on the floor glints in the moonlight, the tip pointing at my fallen enemy.
I pick it up, bend over the clown’s dead face, and begin cutting.

Fifteen later, and I’m pulling the skin away from the corpse’s face.
I hold it up and look at it in the moonlight.
It’s perfect. The light shines through the thin flesh, but it will fit me just fine.
Mr Mime’s skinned face is a mess of rotting muscles and broken tissue. The black gunk oozes through every available pore. He doesn’t have a skull; it seems to be more of a hardened shell.
A quick glance out the window–
The trail of Pokémon has slowed down, but they are still walking in a line into the night.
I step over the fallen Nurse Joy and root around in the boxes and boxes of various supplies.
I find my name written on one box. I open it up to find all my world possessions: the Pokédex and my lighter. I pocket them both and keep rooting.
I find one box labelled, ‘costumes’. Sure enough, it contains various Pokémon outfits, Happiny, Chansey, Pikachu and Mr Mime. I pull on the Mr Mime suit.
I stand by the door, looking like a ridiculous fucking clown with a broken hand hidden by a white glove with black, bloodshot eyes and bruises over most of my skin.
Luckily, my new face will hide all that away.
I stretch Mr Mime’s face over my own.
It fits.
The black gunk still inside the skin burns like hell but it seems to fix the dead face over my own just right. I check the mirror, wipe away the visible ooze and step outside.
The air is warm, the night deadly quiet.
The only sound is the Pokémon’s footsteps as they leave the village.
I don’t even know where we are.
In the distance, the silhouette of Mount Coronet fills the sky, blotting out stars and a chunk of the moon with its vastness.
I walk towards the Pokémon.
A Machoke sees me.
It stops.
Grunts.
Smells the air.
The other Pokémon behind it look curiously at me.
It grunts at me again.
It seems to be asking me something.
I nod and grunt.
It seems satisfied. It motions for me to get in front of it.
I hurry into the line and start walking after the others.
We march onwards.

GTA: Chinatown Wars Review

Rockstar’s last attempt at the world of handheld car stealin’, drug dealin’, civilian killin’ fun was the technically-brilliant-if-far-too-short PSP (and later PS2) Vice City Stories. Continuing the theme of big console releases making playtime for their smaller counterparts comes GTA: Chinatown Wars.

While not initially as impressive as the PSP releases, it is definitely in a league all on its own in terms of Rockstar’s mastery of the DS hardware. The Liberty City familiar from the massively overhyped GTA IV serves as the main hub for all your criminal doings, while the perspective has changed the classic bird’s-eye-view as seen in the early GTA games. The scope of the city is incredible – individual locations memorable from the last tour are all present and correct (save for the ‘haunted swingset’) and the entire premise has been completely redesigned around the DS’ touchscreen capabilities.

Cars can be hotwired in any of three different ways – unscrew the dashboard and connect the wires, stick a screwdriver in the keyhole and turn it on or even by connecting a computer to the security system and stopping the numbers as they flash by to hack the alarms. Explosive weapons can be thrown by tapping the icon and flinging it away with the stylus. Tattoos can be drawn on, cards can be scratched, Molotovs filled at gas stations, the list goes on. Just about the only thing you can’t do is chop up crack with a credit card and inject it directly into your character’s eyeball.

You play as Huang, a Chinese immigrant on the way to deliver a sacred family heirloom (a sword won in a card game) to Uncle Lee, who has taken over the Triad family in the wake of Huang’s father’s recent assassination. Unfortunately for Huang, he is robbed, shot and left for dead in the worst place in America… Liberty City.

From there the game delights in giving you an outlandish number of absurd missions and, while most of them involve driving, none of them are ever dull or repetitive. This is a massive contrast to IV, where seemingly every mission required ten minutes of driving to the opposite end of the map for one gunfight, followed by another lengthy drive home. This time, it’s all about the game and the fun. One moment you’re gunning down a drug lord on his boat, the next you’re dropping bombs on groups of suspected informers from a helicopter. The only real flaw to the game is that the gun’s aiming scheme chooses to aim at the closest person to you, even if that means you’re firing into a wall while a goon blows off the back of your head from a few feet away.

The world is so vast and stuffed with so many things to do that you’ll be playing long after the credits roll. In fact, the moment the game does come to its close is a real downer – the story is so good and the characters so brilliantly scripted it feels a massive shame to let it end. But end it must, and if there’s any justice in the real world, the DS will get many more truly excellent GTA games.

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