Thursday, February 18, 2010

Retro Flashback: EmoGame

Back in the heady days of yesteryear, yesteryear here referring specifically to that wanton, innocent time spanning from 2002 to 2004, I recall discovering and taking perhaps an inordinate amount of glee in the free-to-play EmoGame series by developer StarvingEyes.

Essentially fan-service sidescrolling platformers with deliberately retro pixellated design, reminiscent of everything from Pitfall to Sonic the Hedgehog to cult PC classic Commander Keen, EmoGame and its sequels were particularly enjoyable and novel because not only were they clever and well-designed from a gaming perspective, but they were also predicated on a staunchly devoted and surprisingly well-informed knowledge of pop culture.

Although the final installment in the series was released in 2004, the EmoGame website is still up and all of the games still available, either as a download or for browser-based play.

NOTE: Every single one of the EmoGame games are NSFW and are highly offensive to pretty much anyone, ever. You have been warned.


The debut features the likes of Chris Carabba of Dashboard Confessional, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, At The Drive-In's Cedric Bixler, and Tim Kasher of Cursive as playable characters, with guest appearances by (amongst others) Jimmy Eat World and A New Found Glory (not to mention less-than-glowing cameos by Creed, Courtney Love and Fred Durst.) While the humour, both here and in the sequels, leans at times towards the puerile, the game is packed with references, subtle in-jokes, and some pretty phenomenal level and puzzle design.

That, ultimately, is the point I want to get across here: given that EmoGame is a less-than-serious undertaking and takes regular pointed jabs at everything from Hot Topic to major-label commercial rock, it's impressive just how much talent went into making it.

EMOGAME 1.5: Alkaline Trio vs. Hell

Following on the original, EmoGame 1.5 is considerably shorter in length and focuses on Alkaline Trio rather than a revolving cast of playable characters. The story has something to do with the band dying, cutting a deal with God (who apparently is Bob Sagat) to get a second chance by killing the devil (who apparently is Skeletor,) and embarking on a journey through Hell to accomplish said goal. It makes about as much sense as any of the EmoGame plotlines, and is mainly just an excuse to toss in as many cute pixelly renderings of recognisable cultural icons as possible... In other words, if you haven't been sold on this yet, EmoGame 1.5 won't sway you, but if you played the first one and are totally stoked on the notion, it's as entertaining as the first.

EMOGAME 2: The Epic Quest Continues

A proper sequel to the original, with more than twice the number of playable characters, improved design both graphically and structurally, and more obscure shout-outs than you can shake a stick at. Conor Oberst and Matt Skiba return from EG1 and 1.5, respectively, along with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and "The Wizard", Blake Schwartzenbach of Jawbreaker\Jets To Brazil, and tons more. It has something to do with Enrique Iglesias kidnapping a bunch of people in order to have sex with them, and the cast of Friends starting a band in order to brainwash the masses into a cult, and... You know what, fuck it, I don't even know.

EMOGAME 2.5: The Anti-Bush Game

Let's be honest, games are not a medium well-known for tackling political issues - and when they do, they tend to be as neutral and message-free as possible to avoid alienating anyone. Foregoing the musical premise of the previous games, EmoGame 2.5 allows you to play, for some reason, as Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and a fat-ass He-Man as they battle the evil villainy of the Bush Administration. While it's certainly no less offensive (and is unabashedly polarised in its stance,) the in-game political critique is nevertheless reasonably well-informed and sincere. It's not likely to convince anyone who might hold a differing opinion, but it remains an interesting and mostly-successful experiment in combining the disparate world of politics and videogames.


Sadly unlikely to ever be completed, Super EmoGame III never got past the demo stage (the demo, Purvolume vs. The Podicons, was available from the website for a while but looks to have gone the way of Internet purgatory.) There isn't a whole lot of information available on it, but from what I've been able to glean, it would have implemented some sort of fighting-game mechanic alongside the classic platformer engine. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll never know for sure.

StarvingEyes has now moved on to website and album design, and something they're calling "advergaming" - essentially, promotional minigames for bands, albums and media sites like Atom Films. It's a natural move for them - given their overtly fannish love of certain bands in the EmoGame series - and brings up a number of compelling questions on the nature of a medium which, while it likes to cultivate the impression that games stand on their own as consistently artistic ventures, has been commercial right from the start. I mean, with the emergence of product placement in the likes of Test Drive Unlimited and Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, why not just openly craft games that are intended to market something right from the get-go?

EDIT: My mistake, I was under the impression that all of these were available to download for offline play when, in fact, at least the first (and possibly some of the others) are entirely Flash-based.

I don't want to irritate starvingeyes by offering up the following sneaky, ninja-like method for obtaining his Emogame series for offline play - so if this is completely uncool, starvingeyes, and there's an alternative in place, let me know and I'll announce it here.

Having said that, the Emogame site hasn't been updated in a couple of years and so I think this is probably justifiable.

1. Download emogame1.swf.
2. Download the free Swiff Player 1.5.
3. Install Swiff Player.
4. Rock out.

Alternately, you can head on over to, plunk in the URL of whatever Flash-based game you want to download, click on the "Objects" tickbox, and right-click and save the appropriate .SWF file that comes up. Again, you'll want to grab Swiff Player as well.


  1. You mention "either as a download or for browser-based play.", but I can't seem to find the download option for EG1.. any help? Thanks :)

  2. Oh! You're absolutely right, Raigan. Sorry, my mistake... It doesn't look like Emogame 1 is currently available in downloadable executable form.

    But! Where there's a will, there's a way. Check the post again - I'm adding instructions on how to nab the flash-based version for offline play.

  3. I actually have the .swf file of SEGIII if you'd like it. I found it on my computer and found this blog when searching for info on possible completion...sadly to no avail. Let me know if you'd like a copy, and starvingeyes if you see this and don't want me giving it out feel free to do the same.

    1. I'd love a copy of this. Can you post a link?

    2. For my part, I have:
      -The SUPER EMOGAME 3 - Teaser Game (Offline version for PC)
      -The SUPER EMOGAME 3 - Teaser Game (Offline version for Mac)
      -Screenshots and SWF files from the dead website
      -Emo Game 2.5 - The Anti-Bush Game (Offline version for PC - Never downloaded the MAC version): This is the uncensored, non-edited version.

      From TV Tropes: "After the anti-Bush game got media attention, a scene with Voltron having sex with the Statue of Liberty was changed to Voltron knocking the statue off its pedestal and taking its place, a scene with Ronald Reagan mocking his Alzheimers was altered to remove Reagan, and the Mandy Moore fingerbang minigame was removed."

      -A whole of slew of MP3s of EmoGame 2 and 2.5 background music. These are not ripped from the SWF files. In my crazed fandom, I actually downloaded the original artist tracks and painstakingly edited and looped them for my still kicking iPod Touch.

      Not sure if Jason Oda would like any of this (I'm sure he's moved way on from EmoGame) but I'd be more than willing to post most, if not all, of this content up since the majority of it has long since disappeared from the internet.

      Just need to find a decent file host.


    Thanks to the Internet Archive. They all work, plus using the method described above you can download them from here as well.