Game baffles, in a good way

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I've heard arguments about whether games can be art. I've heard arguments about whether people should make intentionally "art house" style games.

"Deepak Fights Robots" is, intriguingly, the first computer game I've ever played where I was debating whether it was an "art game" or something else.

You see, this is a game that is sort of a platformer. You can only run and jump most of the time. But it's hard to call it that, since precision jumping doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Calling it an arena shooter seems almost as good, except there's no shooting.

Basically, it's the kind of game you'd see in arcades back in the '80s, like the original "Mario Bros." (Yes, before "Super Mario," there was a normal Mario), "Bubble Bobble" and "Joust."

On most levels, the goal in "Deepak" is to destroy all of the robots. There are a few different types, each with their own way of moving. Touch them, you die.

There are three weird atom-like objects on the screen. Collect them all and Deepak (I assume that's the character's name, anyway) turns into a super hero, capable of flight and destroying robots on contact. The more robots you smash in quick succession, the more points.

And all in all, it's fun. It was sort of clever but nothing I'd normally rave about. But the thing is, the game is just too fascinatingly weird to ignore.

For instance, there's a counter that indicates how many lives you have left. Hundreds, if not thousands, of games have counters that look like this. But since you can't run out of lives, the number is the symbol for infinity.

Or, in another case, some levels have cows. If a robot touches the cow, the cow dies. If you keep the cow alive until the end of the level, it gives you bonus points. There was only one level in the whole game this was actually difficult to pull off, however.

There are a whole lot of collectables in the form of fruits, vegetables, and animals. The food gives you extra points, and the animals protect you from one robot hit. There are also bubbles with letters and keys; I just never came close to figuring out what they did.

And this isn't even mentioning the game's primarily sitar-based soundtrack, a rhyming robot with a feathered cap and a cane, and the game's super-surreal ending levels that managed to come out of left field and surprise me.

"Deepak Fights Robots" overall left me feeling confused, if perhaps a good kind of confused. The game actually has an online high-score table, so your points are measured against the performances of others.

And yet, I can't help but feel like the game has points because the sort of games it's trying to evoke memories of also had points and high-score tables.

Is it making a statement? Is it just an especially odd arcade game?

I really don't know. It was worth the five bucks I paid for it, though.

"Deepak Fights Robots," made by Tom Sennett, can be bought as a download at www.deepaksave.us.

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a graphic arts student at the Evergreen State College, where he's working on game designs. Send your questions and comments at noahhinz@gmail.com.

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