I got a little sidetracked with work and Christmas parties, but it's time to finish off this list. Recall that my #3 janitor game was the text adventure Planetfall, my #2 was the point-and-click adventure Space Quest IV, and so now without further ado - ok perhaps just a bit more ado - my #1 favorite janitor game of all time - MDK.
MDK is a 3rd person shooter that was developed by Shiny Entertainment and released in 1997 for PC, Macintosh, and Playstation. I can't speak for the Mac version, but I've played the PC version and the Playstation version and I prefer the PC version for the superior graphics and controls.
In MDK you play as laboratory janitor Kurt Hectic working for Dr. Fluke Hawkins aboard the Space Station the Jim Dandy. The earth is invaded by alien marauders who are stripping the planet of its mineral resources with gigantic rolling alien cities called "minecrawlers". Dr. Hawkins fits you with his newest invention, the "coil suit", which provides you with armor, a built-in parachute, an arm-mounted chain gun, and a head-mounted sniper rifle and you head planetside to take out the alien trash! Not exactly an original idea for a story, but the oddball characters and details make it seem fresh.
There has been a lot of debate over what MDK stands for and I won't go into it all those details - but after reading an interview and viewing a promotional video for the game it seems clear that most MDK fans at the time were correct - it stood for Murder Death Kill. But Shiny apparently didn't want to scare off any commercial sponsors (apparently they had a toy deal in the works) so they stuck with the abbreviation and then played up the hooplah when everyone kept asking what it really stood for. You can check out the concept proposal video that the developers put together to try and sell the game and Murder Death Kill is clearly shown in it.
This is the first game (I believe) that allowed you use a zoomable sniper rifle - so you could focus in on an enemy far away that had no idea you were looking at him and then pop him right between the eyes. Of course these days pretty much every shooter out there offers that feature, but back in those days it was truly unique and I thought it was really cool at the time.
Most of the game is played in the style of a run-and-gun/platformer, but it incorporates several other gameplay elements as well. At the beginning of each minecrawler level Kurt plummets to earth and must avoid the enemy radar and missiles (think of God of War III when Kratos is plummetting downward by that chain), you sometimes remote-pilot a bomber which gives you a top-down sky-view and lets you bomb your enemies (I've seen this mechanic used in a couple of Modern Warfare games), there is a snowboarding-esque sequence where you shoot you enemies while you sliding, Kurt sometimes does a little luging where he has to grab powerups on the track, and there are the sniper parts I already mentioned, I'm probably forgetting some others but the point is that it has a variety of mini-games in it that breaks up the run-and-gun gameplay to keep things from getting stale.
I actually played a little of MDK before writing this and I still liked it. Today, the graphics are somewhat dated of course and maybe a little more polygonal than I recall, but they still look great. There is a bizzare futuristic look to the graphical style with transparent surfaces and dark areas with glowing neon beam of light - hard to describe really but it has a unique look to it that is instantly recognizeable to anyone that has played the game.
Another thing I remember very fondly is the sound. The gameplay sound effects themselves - the shooting of the chain gun, the jibber jabber of the aliens, etc. were fine but nothing special. Where the game shined was in the mood music. The music was superb and really added to the mood of the game throughout. The game songs were even released as a soundtrack CD.
Overall the game was just kind of bizarre - a bit trippy. And it had an offbeat comedic tone that I quite enjoyed (big Monty Python fan here). That unique flavor is what made it stand out in my mind versus a lot of other run and gun games of the time. When you beat the game a music video plays that stays true to that trippy nature - check it out:
They did make a sequel, which I also own, but like a lot of my games, I have yet to make my way around to playing it. I've read that some people like MDK 2 more than MDK and I've also read that a lot of people like the first one better. One of these days I'll check that one out. But for now, if you haven't played the original MDK then you really should.
You can find the game on Amazon and eBay, you can probably find it on some abandonware sites too, but you are probably best off just downloading it legit from Good Old Games where it is only $5.99 which also includes the manual, wallpaper, and the original soundtrack I mentioned that by itself would cost you $9 on Amazon. So it seems like a great deal. Heck I might even re-buy it myself.
[UPDATED 4/17/2011] - I stumbled across a video of the French song that Ulala chick sang at the end of the game and this one thankfully included English subtitles. So now, a mere 14 years after I first beat the game and saw the video, I finally know what that chick was saying. The song is Non Non Rien N'a Changé (No No Nothing Changed) and is apparently an anti-war statement. This version is by Les Poppys. Enjoy.
Monday, December 13, 2010