Revolution 60 is an iOS game made by badass women for badass players and it’s got shades of Space Channel 5 (Ulala!)
Holiday, Amelia, Minuete and Valentina are agents of the American special ops team Chessboard led by an AI. An uncontrolled, orbital satellite is causing problems on Earth and if not stopped, it will cause an all-out nuclear war. Chessboard’s mission is to stop it – millions of life depend on it. But something is… suspicious, and all is not as it seems.
You will play as Holiday, occasionally as the others, and fight, explore, make decisions that affect the outcome of the story and enjoy many interesting cutscenes in this touch-based game for iOS, by all-female game developers Giant Spacekat.
Visit the all-female Giant Spacekat developers to say hi and buy the iOS game on iTunes.
The game has unusual but interesting gameplay, very suitable for iOS; most of the game comes in the shape of cutscenes, interrupted by walking scenes with exploration possibilities and very interesting dance-like combat scenes that seem to combine tactics and action in way that works very well for touch-screen devices.
Most of of the actions performed in the game are based on pattern recognition and timing (something GSK claims is because they found it suited the way women play games), which works very well for this format, even though I sometimes wished they could more closely resemble the resulting actions the characters perform on screen.
And well, let’s face it, I’m a sucker for innovative aestethics.
Which this game is full of. Everything has a quirky, colourful charm to it, which the developers say was inspired by Space Channel 5 (Oh Ulala, how we miss you). The visuals really add to the almost kitschy overall feeling of the game, complete with snappy dialogue and a team full of unique, well-made characters.
The game’s main selling point is its story. And it’s an exciting one, dealing with space asassins, AIs, geisha robots, nuclear war and… soybeans. The game has been described as “Heavy Rain meets Mass Effect” and that description isn’t too far off.
I’m a big fan of Bioware’s RPGs, and I saw much of what I liked in those in Revolution 60, too. Naturally, being an indie game for smartphones, it’s far less advanced, but enough resemblance is there that it’s definitely worth a try for Bioware fans.
The narrative is evenly paced and the story unfolds nicely, and despite throwing you into the middle of the fray, the game allows you to catch up quickly. Giant Spacekat also offers a downloadable book called The Chessboard Lethogica, which contains character backgrounds, bonus art, etc. and I think these kinds of extras are always a plus for players wanting to immerse themselves in the game’s world some more. I for one really want to hear more about those soybeans, don’t you?
You know any game with cyberpunk cities like this is worth playing.
And the spacehips! And satellites! Oh my!
The game is not all rainbows, unicorns and arse-kicking. It has its downsides, one of them being the rather disappointing karma system.
For those unused to this term, a karma system is what a game uses to let the player make choices based on morality, and letting those choices affect the game’s outcome.
In Revolution 60, there are never more than 2 choices, and they are usually “Say something in a professional way” and “say it in a rude way”. Many games make the mistake of letting Good and Bad simply mean whether you’re acting like a jerk towards NPCs or not, but here it’s unusually apparent, and the karma system could definitely stand to be fleshed out.
Morality isn’t a clearly defined black-or-white thing in real life. Making it so in a game makes it harder to immerse yourself in it, makes it feel less real. Giant Spacekat aren’t aiming for realism, but in some aspects, they should be. A persistent problem in the portrayal of women in video games, or indeed, popular culture as a whole, is the focus on looks and the way female characters, no matter how strong and independent, rarely fail to conform to societal standards of beauty. Sadly, the women in Revolution 60 don’t really stand out in this respect. The character design shows their indivudual senses of fashion very well: and they all, strangely, seem to prefer clothes that seem just a bit too revealing and tight for professional military operatives (60’s style checker dress? WTF, Minuete?) They also share the same body shape, strangely reminiscent of Bratz dolls.
However, Brianna Wu has stated that one of the changes for the sequel will be a greater diversity of body shapes. For a game created by women which has the partial purpose of female empowerment, it strikes me as odd that the developers failed to think of this until after the game was finished. However, you rarely see this sort of awareness among game developers, and since Brianna has promised the rectification of this issue, I can’t wait to seeing the sequel’s new, diverse characters.
And on the subject of diversity, a non-white character would surely make a nice addition to the team. Modern video games have so many possibilities and it’s refreshing to see a game that actually does something with them.
We seem to have a blue-haired robot geisha problem…
The Feminist Awesomeness
Girl gamers, you’ve all been there; that awesome lady hero or badass lady villain you adore in a great game is doing her thang, being cool, kicking bums, then for no real reason there’s a closeup of her strangely bouncy tits. Or in third-person perspective, she has this way of walking reeeal sassy-like, in a way that looks a little too much Supermodel and not enough rugged Elven mage with 6 item slots worth of +14 Defence heavy iron armour (okay, a mage probably wouldn’t wear that, but you get my drift).
That’s part of something called the male gaze. That means Miss Cool Female Character is portrayed the way she is so that (usually white and cisgender) heterosexual men will have “something pretty” to look at, while they play. Because they are the ones who play, it is assumed.
In Revolution 60, that male gaze is unusually absent. The game doesn’t intend to flaunt the characters’ bodies (other than the aforementioned skimpy outfits), there’s no “lesbian suggestiveness” despite the all-girl cast, and Holiday walks like she’s out to get somewhere, not to wiggle her bum. Well done, GSK, we applaud you.
The developers also did something as unusual as practicing positive action during the playtesting process. As Wu has stated, “When you put out a call for playtesters, the vast majority of people who write you back are 20-year-old hardcore gamers. And without work, that’s who ends up in your testing pool. This means videogames are frequently developed for 20-something male gamers! We made sure that 50 percent of our playtesters were women, since almost 50 percent of gamers are women these days. As a result, Revolution 60 appeals to women in very specific ways.”
The game industry has been trying hard to get more women to buy their products, but as it usually goes when you try to get equality for the sake of profit rather than for the sake of equality itself, the results are a little so-so.
Of course, the game industry has been actively excluding women in its design and marketing for the past 30 years or so, so it’s going to take some time and work to turn all that around. But what GSK are doing is taking a step towards changing that. Of course, much needs to be done in this area, and far from everyone believes in positive action (y’all should, though!), but if one brave game studio dares to do something like this in order to better reach female gamers, why can’t others? I think GSK are on to something big.
And last but not least; the hardest difficulty level is called Girlfriend Mode, a nod to the 2012 Borderlands 2 controversy where a developer casually used the term “Girlfriend” to mean “someone who is bad at FPS games”. While Girlfriend Mode was not an official term in use at Gearbox, events like this reveal that there is more misogyny in the game industry than it would like to believe.
But change starts with the little things, as Revolution 60 shows us.
Perform the action or the semi-insectoid, retrofuturistic commander gets it!
And what will it mean for the world at large?
Technology is always progressing. A few years ago, mobile phone games meant a pixel-y version of Snake or Tetris, but today’s smartphones and tablets can handle games that are way more advanced. Many people who said they’d never entertain the thought of playing videogames are now happily crushing sweets, word-battling their friends and raising their level 13 Pork Knights to level 83 Pig Warlocks on the phones they’d carry with them anyway.
Apps are cheap, consoles aren’t, and one of today’s biggest questions for the game industry is how to get people who play games on their smartphones and tablets to go out and buy a big ol’ console and some expensive games and devote as many hours as possible to them.
There is a need for games that bridge that gap. Games that are accessible both to lovers of Flappy Bird and The Legend of Zelda.
Revolution 60 is a pretty good contestant for the bridging-that-gap contest. Smartphone app games are often seen as very casual, just something to entertain the player a little while on the bus or in line at the grocery store. Revolution 60 shows us that smartphone games can be so much more, that they can be something we can get truly immersed in, with characters we can identify with and a story where we really, really want to see where it’s going.
Will it bridge the gap? Maybe. Will it inspire other developers to try? Hopefully.
Will it aid in making women find gaming to be a more acceptable hobby and game developement a more acceptable job? I think it already has.