When Rolling Stone mentioned recently that Adult Swim plans to release a wave of new mobile video games, fans of the channel’s crass cartoons responded with uncertainty. Adult Swim dabbles in the video game industry regularly, and its track record makes it difficult for gamers to determine if these new games will sink or swim.
In 2008, Adult Swim released their self-proclaimed “Worse Games Ever: Go Right.” Designers based this online flash game on the network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a cartoon series with disjointed plots and bizarre visual gags. In the show, absurd monsters and extraterrestrial beings with little power often visit the Aqua Teens, all of whom resemble the contents of a Happy Meal—Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad. While, I can’t tell you what happens in Go Right—like a kid who inhaled a Happy Meal, I nearly fell asleep within seconds of game play—I can tell you that it features a nauseating fuchsia background, Master Shake and Meatwad strolling down a pink road, and some-sort of meatball as a bump in the road. I’ve found more excitement in walks to the mailbox to retrieve my cable bill. Whether Adult Swim intended irony or not, the game disappoints fans of these comical characters. And this isn’t their only game fail; just check out Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am.
Despite those, sometimes gamers find Adult Swim’s quirky games appealing. Their flash game Vending Machine Champ promises, “You’ve been unwittingly training for this your whole life, simply by being who you are: a lover of snacks and an unremitting cheapskate.” It’s true if you have ever kicked the vending machine, got your arm stuck in the door while trying to reach for that salty, cheesy bag of Chester’s Cheetos, or nearly shredded your last dollar bill in an attempt to jam it into the machine. The techniques of Vending Machine Champ mimic real-life—only this time you don’t have to be ashamed of your desperate need for a mid-afternoon snack. What’s at stake in the game? You could lose an arm in your attempts to retrieve the tasty treat. Adult Swim’s Cream Wolf is another web-based game with a foodie twist. The game’s retro 8-bit graphics add to the quirky plot—a werewolf drives around as an undercover ice cream man in the hopes to fatten the kiddos up to the exact plumpness he likes for his own snack. Joystiq Editor Griffin Mcelroy wrote this game might be “the first surprise smash hit of 2010.” I am starting to think that many of Adult Swim’s games fit into this category.
Adult Swim’s new project depends on the success of games like these. The network found inspiration in one such title, Robot Unicorn Attack. The female’s perspective pop-culture publication, Bust Magazine, described the game best, “Make all of your Lisa Frank fantasies come true. . .[Robot Unicorn Attack] combines all your favorite freaky geekdom into one bright and mythical experience filled with rainbows, fairies, fierce galloping iron robot unicorns….” The game’s theme song, “Always” by Erasure, also brings back the warm fuzzies I experienced as a kid while pasting my Lisa Frank stickers around my mirror. The non-Lisa Frank element is quite disturbing. If you crash the robot unicorn into a stage or platform, or if it collides with crystal stars, your pretty pet loses its head. Despite this morbid scene, fans have played the game online or via Facebook more than 150 million times already.
Adult Swim plans to launch its mobile video game wave by making this title accessible via the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. This is sure to make a splash. The network intends to go beyond porting popular Flash game titles. Jeff Olson, VP of Digital and Games at Cartoon Network, told Rolling Stone that “the audience for a casual game based on completely original intellectual property, in my experience, is almost unlimited.” Olson believes the company could release a new mobile game per month. It’s an ambitious goal; hard to say if the network’s fans will help it to stay afloat.