Music and video games have enjoyed a relationship since the rhythm-based game PaRappa the Rapper (in which players, who control PaRappa the rapping dog, repeat rhythms that get progressively more difficult as the game goes on) was released in 1996. Over the years, games evolved into more complex incarnations like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
My two favorite things in the entire world are music and games, so you can imagine my disappointment as countless games have failed to meet my musical expectations. The games may be fun, but it is ridiculous that there is a generation of kids growing up that has more interest in getting really good at a fake guitar or drum kit than the real thing. I suppose the best we can hope for is that these games at least spark an interest in actual musicianship, but I fear many players fall prey to the “I couldn’t get good at it right away, so I quit” mentality.
Until now, game developers and publishers simply hadn’t found that perfect mix of music and gaming that I’ve been longing for. But that’s all changed.
Brütal Legend is the newest game from development house Double Fine and the mind of gaming legend (and total weirdo) Tim Schafer. The story follows a character named Eddie Riggs (voiced by and based on Jack Black), an under-appreciated roadie who works for some awful emo-esque rap-metal band. Through a freak accident, Eddie is killed onstage and brought back to life by a metal god in a surreal universe based on the coolest album art from ’70s metal bands such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. Think sci-fi, comic-book and album-cover artist Frank Frazetta’s body of work, and you get the general idea.
Eddie finds himself thrust into the middle of a war between lovers of pure metal and those who would over-commercialize and water it down. As the story progresses, ridiculously funny characters based on metal legends are introduced: a field medic based on (and voiced by) Motörhead’s Lemmy, an evil glam-rock general voiced by Judas Priest’s Rob Halford and a keeper of metal lore voiced by none other than Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne.
Various characters join Eddie’s “band,” which is an army of headbangers, groupies and hooded executioners. Eddie and crew create beauty and destroy their enemies through pure metal. Rounding out the game is a massive metal soundtrack, which chronicles metal as a whole from the early ’70s to the present day. Metal god Manowar appears on the soundtrack several times.
The game describes a problem that I, and so many other before me, have come across: the non-stop attempts by everyone—from “the man” to glam rockers with fancy haircuts, who interject their whiny bullshit into songs that would otherwise have been totally boss and heavy—to ruin metal. I rocked out and laughed my ass off throughout the game. Kids who play the game might gain an interest in real-live musicianship. They might even learn that bands like Atreyu and Senses Fail are so un-metal that it makes real metalheads the world over fall to their knees and weep.