My friend busted out Mortal Kombat XL at a recent party and I had forgotten how much fun those games are. So when the next party happened to be at my place, I wanted to reciprocate as a good host. I found a little indie game called Normal Human Face Simulator and challenged him to combat.
“Jay,” I shouted, probably somewhat inappropriately for the size of the room we were in. “I will eat your face meat!”
And thus the gauntlet was thrown, and he was challenged to a face off.
Normal Human Face Simulator, despite the name, does not simulate a normal human face. It is a PvP face-off (I am so sorry for that) and your weapon are your teeth. There are two buttons to control each face; one button leans you back while pressed and launches your forward when released, and the second button clamps down your jaws. Your goal is to bit down when overlapping your opponent’s head and bit down on a part of their face. You can rip off skin to expose flesh, and subsequently rip off flesh to expose bone. Sound horrific? It is.
And yet it’s also surprisingly fun for such a simple game. The fight and bite mechanics are so simplistic that it’s easy to sit down and be able to play against someone who’s already won a few rounds. The lunging and biting mechanics are technical enough that there’s actually something to polish in order to improve. I’m not saying that this is an amazing fighting game, but it’s pay-what-you-want (starting price of free) kind of hilarious.
What’s bizarre about the game is that, coming off of the most recent Mortal Kombat game, the graphics are highly stylized and unrealistic.Yet playing this game, it was fascinating how utterly disgusted everyone watching became. There are these little touches that make the game disconcerting. The vector graphics make the skin flaps swing just a little too smoothly. And there’s a subtle gasp that each head sucks in when leaning back before a lunge. It’s enough to make the tone lean slightly away from cartoonish and into absurdist.
Seriously, almost more entertaining than the game itself was the group’s reaction. With Mortal Kombat, there’s an x-ray combo attack that shows you the damage you inflict to your opponent’s skeleton. It’s not realistic in terms of what you do (skulls and spine’s are broken and the players get right back up to fight), but they’re pretty well rendered. Those elicited the same ratio of groans and cheers one would hear at a vicious wrestling match. But when things got further along in NHFS the reactions were different. Things were generally quieter, with the sounds of disgust a bit more sincere. There was also less cheering and more waiting to see just how bad the facial damage would be. In fact, most people in the room reacted more akin to watching a gory scene in a horror movie.
It’s moments like these when I think about the things that low budget and independent media can do, and that big budget projects can’t. Or maybe they can but they often don’t. Small projects often make the most of a little bit. They take a gimmick, aspect, audio trick, or any of a hundred small things, and hone it into an experience. And for such a toss-off of a simple game, NHFS apparently does a great job of this.
Weird, but absolutely worth a go.