Publisher: Ape Ent.
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
If god games have taught us anything, it’s that very few of us are cut out to be gods. I realized this years ago when I bought the original Sims, about six minutes into it, when I walled my first Sim up in a box and watched it starve. It’s a fun genre, but it tells us a lot about ourselves.
If you haven’t checked out some version of the Pocket God game (playable on your phone or on good ol’ Facebook), it might not be such a bad idea to take a half an hour and throw some Pygmies around before getting your feet wet in Ape Entertainment’s accompanying comic series. In the game, the player is God and the Pygmies (little stylized islanders in grass skirts with bones through their hair) are at his or her mercy. Pick them up and toss them around, hit them with bolts of lightning, shoot them with electric arrows, freeze them to death, feed them to monsters, or just flick them away like boogers…oh, and you can also be nice to them. You know, if you want.
The neat thing about the comic adaptation of Pocket God is that it’s a kind of metafictional exploration of religion and philosophy, dropping the player (now the reader) right into the Pygmies’ world, where the little creatures are no longer digital pets but fully fleshed-out characters. I don’t think I’m reading too much into it (I’m not saying it’s a theology book or anything), because I think it work on two levels. Writer Jason M. Burns keeps things light and funny and moving along at a brisk pace, but there’s a subtle, unobtrusive thread in the stories about dealing with life’s big questions. Issue #14, Para-Abnormal Activity, finds two tribes washed up on an unfamiliar island, which turns out to be haunted by the ghosts of permanently-dead Pygmies (usually they can be killed and regenerated indefinitely, as in the game). Issue #15, Gem-Cell Research, sees the tribes co-operating in trying to repair a life-giving gem. From the dim-witted Nooby to the hippie-like Dooby to the surly Booga, the Pygmies each have distinctive personalities and different ways of dealing with the mysteries of “the gods” (such as why they can be benevolent one minute and mercilessly cruel the next). We ask the same questions all the time, but the Pygmies’ answer (that “the gods” are mostly bored air travelers or Facebook junkies who kill time by tormenting little computer people) is kind of depressing. Sort of makes you think.
Both the game and the comics remind me a lot of the classic Lemmings games, and Rolando Mallada’s art has an appropriately South Park-ish quality, with expressive characters that are always distinct despite the fact that most of them look alike. Though described as being for “mature readers” due to the often violent fates of the Pygmies, I didn’t really see anything in issues #14 or #15 that was particularly disturbing, so I wouldn’t say keep it away from the kiddies.
I came into the series a bit late, and I have to say again that I’d recommend playing the game first (everything will make much more sense if you’ve got some grounding in the material) but Pocket God is definitely a fun read.