Since the beginning of time, RPGs have taken themselves far too seriously. They’re plagued by recycled stories, stock characters and a clichéd pseudo-medieval fantasy setting.
It’s time for someone to make fun of these games. BIG TIME. That’s where “Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch” comes in: it’s a fully playable parody RPG. Think of it as an RPG gone wrong.
The Uglysoft team has dedicated two and a half years of hard work into producing what they hope is the strangest game ever. Give it a try. It should be a happy mindf*ck.
What We Think
First a little background: Leung, an entirely self-taught game designer and filmmaker, studied business at Babson College in the United States, where he created “College Saga,” a series of satirical videos based on classic RPGs which have garnered over 5.5 million hits to date. Now at 26 years of age, the Hong Kong native has graduated to his own full-length RPG game. RotB is a completely independently-financed game built by a small team of developers; in addition to designing all the monsters in the game, Leung himself also provides voiceovers for most of them.
Though far from perfect, Mark Leung: Return of the Bitch sets a new benchmark for inside-joke RPG parodies, and manages to lampoon just about everything and everyone else under the sun. If the boys at South Park had skipped the paper cutout Christmas videos and instead started with development of wildly inappropriate, equally irreverent fantasy games, it would probably come out a lot like this.
Eat Thine Cabbage, N00b
Years ago, in the world of Untitled, people who refused to eat vegetables suddenly turned into cockroaches. Seemingly overnight, the Church of Vegetology appeared, promising limp cabbage and salvation for all. They quickly upended and replaced the Church of N00bism to become the dominant faith in the world.
From the start, RotB sets itself up as a relentless spoof on the JRPG genre. While we have covered some of those like Breath of Death and Cthulhu Saves the World, Mark Leung is a much larger affair, and employs a 3D interface (with mixed results – more on that later). It then goes the extra mile by including a slew of live-action video clips to break up the game, conjuring up the short-lived and awkward period of Sega CD RPGs. It all comes together in a wild, raucous ride that had me doubled over with laughter more often than not.
Cockroaches, You Say?
Allow me to get this out of the way now: Mark Leung has a ton of bugs and glitches. Though the developers have released two patches since I started playing there are still countless more to address. The most annoying of these involve collision detection, and it makes for some awkward moments.
The game has a clever feature to gain initiative: sneak up behind your enemy, lock on and land an attack without being seen. Success will not only afford you the first strike in the turn-based battle, but your enemies will also be weaker. Get caught in the act, and the first round of attacks will go to your enemy. When it works, it works very well. When it doesn’t, things just get strange.
Mark and enemy alike will often run up walls and across deep chasms to complete the attack. In cases where the chasm was too deep, I would swing my sword anyway and watch the enemy take physical damage from 25 feet away.
The skirts on Ines Kong and Elise Kong flail and clip wildly about (specifically when they are being carried by the pirates), and caution must be employed when walking past certain objects. On one occasion, Mark walked past a piece of playground equipment in Kowloon only to become hopelessly ensnared in the mise en scene. Fortunately, I had saved at the red couch on the edge of town.
Some of the side quests are also broken. I accepted the quest “To Kill a F*ckingbird”, completed the quest parameters, and returned to the NPC only to be told “Go kill the F*ckingbird!”. (*Edit – Mark reports that this bug has been fixed in the latest patch). The game also fully crashed on a few occasions, and in one case, cost me over an hour of play.
While these drawbacks are annoying, I still weathered them and soldiered on. Is the game really worth such agony? Please to be reading on.
The Roast of Jay Arpeegee
Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch commits itself to insanity like few titles I’ve played, and does so admirably. What starts as a commentary on stagnant JRPG formulas quickly latches on to Scientology, Christianity, Kanye West, Alan Greenspan, Jack Thompson and pretty much any god-awful thing that has received more than a million views on various video sites (such as a bubble tea stand called Two Gals: One Cup that sells bubble tea that tastes like…).
At the start of the game, the barbs are less salacious and directed at the tried-and-true (yet never truly evolving) JRPG design cliches. Initially, certain areas aren’t available for exploration. This is indicated by a solitary chair at the head of the forbidden path. Approach it, and a message will appear to tell you that a chair is blocking your way (a nod to the first Mark Leung video). Other paths will be blocked with pianos.
The first turn-based encounters will pit you against adorable forest critters, such as kittens (forest kittens? – Ed.), hamsters and rabbits. They squeak and mew as they take swipes at Mark’s eyes. Strike back with a limited range of attacks, and upon depleting a foe’s hit points, it will fall over and gush blood in an audible fountain before clumsily de-rezzing. The player character that triumphs strikes a standard victory pose, exclaiming one of several chuckle-inducing end-of-battle phrases. These range anywhere from “Thank you for the experience!” to “Strength and honor, motherf*ckers!”. Mark’s cousin Dick will invite slain foes to “Rest in my warm piss! Ha ha!”, and Elise Kong will declare “I’m so fast, I think I have ups syndrome”.
Side quests generally fall into the realm of “get me this”, “kill 20 of those”, or “deliver these”. The setups are often amusing, but completing them will mean mindless grinding more often than not. Completing a quest can result in Journey Points, which are required for purchasing upper-tiered items and gear.
Characters earn new abilities by gaining experience points. Select various combinations of Passive and Active abilities to accommodate personal play styles, or to better balance the combined skills of the team. Some skills carry over into the overworld map and can be used to weaken or escape roaming foes that might otherwise prove too challenging to confront.
Meet The Bitch
The first video clip cut-scene plays not long after your journey begins, bringing with it a whole new level of clever lunacy. There are live actors playing the roles of all human characters in game, each dressed as outlandishly as their in-game counterparts. The video quality may be low res, but the acting is deliciously over-the-top. It instantly conjures the terrible videos that accompanied so many Sega CD games, only the videos in Mark Leung are deliberately staged to be so ludicrous.
Mark Leung is a communist ginseng farmer who secretly dreams of wealth. He scours the vibrantly-hued countryside of Hong Kong looking for the semi-valuable root, all the while trying to avoid the explosive bi-polar advances of his girlfriend, Frida.
Frida is frustrated with Mark’s incessant ginseng picking, as it takes away from her adult time with him. She has a mustache AND a monobrow, and turns into a savage bulldog when she gets angry. After a confrontation with a giant bear (all the “giant” animals have human faces, likely those of the developers), Frida turns on Mark, giving him a “love bite”. Mark (being the no-nonsense guy that he is) finally gives her a piece of his mind. She dog-morphs, knocks Mark off a cliff and into the stream below.
It is the same giant bear that soon steals Mark’s ginseng from his home. Mark teams up with his cousin, Dick Kwok (the standard whiny, overweight healer/dork), to catch up to the bear and “castrate his ass”. After chasing the bear into a cave in the town of Kowloon, the real nasty business begins.
Now, Mark and Dick find themselves in the middle of the struggle between Vegetology and N00bism. It’s hinted that the founder of Vegetology, L Ron Dickulous could actually be using the power of negative Feng Shui arrangements to facilitate a nefarious plot. King Kong, the king of Hong Kong, determines that Canada is somehow involved (Canada is the only country in the world of Untitled that exports vegetables), and plans an all-out assault. Other players emerge to thwart the plan, convinced that a plea to United Nation will set things right. To get to United Nation, you must cross Ireland into Australia. United Nation is just next door.
They SO Go There
As logic takes a dump, the humor gets sharper, and the topics more controversial. Religion, world politics and even racial stereotypes all get tossed into the mix. By walking around and talking to villagers, there are conversations and side quests that take shots at several hot-button topics. A farmer, frustrated with his trampled vegetable stand enlists the player to deliver them to the city as “organic produce” and charge triple the price. A trip to Ireland reveals that every citizen is a drunk leprechaun named Patrick. Two characters indirectly representing Israel and Palestine argue over who has the legal right to live in a house. Black Mages are black men in mage outfits. It sounds inflammatory and it certainly has the potential to rub folks the wrong way.
I found myself wincing at a few of the sight gags presented. The developers pull no punches, and no one is spared. Like the humour in South Park, the extremes on either side of any topic are slapped around evenly. It may come across as highly politically incorrect (and it is), but I felt the game made up for it by not siding with anyone and keeping all commentary within the realm of the deliberately ridiculous. In this light, the numerous grainy video clips that pepper the game serve a dual function. While they add to the originality of the game’s presentation, they also help to detract from the severity of the often-inflammatory subject matter.
The dialogue is well-written, well-delivered, and campy as hell. The game also takes the time to make sure it never stops making fun of itself. Obligatory sea monster battle? Check. Some reference to it being named “Kraken”? Check. Now toss is some hentai tentacle rape attacks (heavily edited, thankfully). Oh, and as a few tentacles get knocked away, it is revealed that you are really fighting some bizarre giant dog/octopus hybrid’s flared arsehole. The way it all gets woven together makes it difficult to stay angry, and tougher still to fight off fits of laughter.
According to Mark Leung himself, the story is only beginning. Production is set to begin on The Communist Manifesto this year, so the adventures of Mark and his team will continue. This first adventure is already packed to the gills with insane humor, so a second installment is warranted. It might also provide the team some time to iron out the freshman glitches.
Hiccups aside, JRPG fans who feel the genre has grown stale and predictable, or those needing to put their World of Warcraft raids in perspective, should shake themselves up with this title. Mark Leung is not for the faint of heart, those of fragile temperament or the delicate of stomach. Jewel fans need not apply. For those who feel they can hack it, go to Mark Leung’s site. For a scant USD $12.99, something so wrong never felt so right.