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Indie Nation: Mr. Mullet

4:40 PM on 07.15.2009 // Anthony Burch

Indie Nation is an irregularly-scheduled series that highlights good independent games.

Mr. Mullet by This Is Pop is probably one of the least funny games on the entire Adult Swim Web site, but it is also undoubtedly one of the best.

The basic premise is simple: your family has been killed and your mullet shaved off. You need to regrow your mullet.

To accomplish this goal, you will need to use a magical electric hair clipper to shave the citizens of the world, adding their excess hair to your ever-growing mane. Using your mouse to roll over a citizen once shaves them. Should you roll Mr. Mullet over them a second time, he'll accidentally decapitate them. Decapitate too many innocents or allow too much hair to go uncut, and Mr. Mullet will die, or give up, or something.

The interesting thing about Mr. Mullet is that it's effectively just a typical shmup, completely inversed: you've got to run into everything, and with some degree of grace and restraint -- if you just whip the mouse around willy-nilly, you'll kill dozens of people and  end your game. The game is really intense, but since it's controlled with mouse movements only (no clicking), it feels oddly graceful and clever once you get the hang of it.

Play it here, or hit the jump as I go on about it some more.

In a weird way, Mr. Mullet feels a lot like Bit.Trip Beat. The game throws a lot of interesting enemy configurations at you, and the method by which you dispatch them is just unusual enough that the whole experience becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Apart from Beat, for instance, I've never before played a game that felt so much like a balls-to-the-walls shooter thanks to sheer enemy density and pace, but required such gracefulness. I love the fact that you cannot touch any enemy twice; it encourages the player to think more carefully about their movements, without mandating perfection (if you miss someone, there's almost always a way to very quickly double back and shave them without hitting someone you've already shaved).

Perhaps it's just me, but I also tend to dig games that explore the tactile feeling of handling a mouse with some degree of dexterity. Noitu Love 2, Rose & Camelia, and Mr. Mullet just plain feel different than games that primarily rely on keyboard input. They require many of the same basic skills of hand-eye coordination, but it's an entirely different experience to cascade your cursor across the screen, careful to touch every single bearded creature to cross your path. It puts more power in the hands of the player: your movement speed is dictated not by some arbitrary parameter defined by the programmer, but by your own, real-life abilities in handling a mouse.

Granted, Mr. Mullet doesn't really have much to offer from a comedic perspective. Beyond the unexpected prologue (though, really, who wouldn't prioritize regrowing a sweet-ass mullet over avenging the death of your loved ones), the game is too intense and asks too much of the player on a moment-to-moment basis to actually be particularly hilarious. It's certainly satisfying in a surreal, "why is my mullet growing longer with every person I shave, and also why do these people all have mustaches" kind of way, but it's no Go Right: Championship Edition.

Still, Mr. Mullet remains my favorite game on the Adult Swim web site, and is definitely worth a look. One word of caution: when you've worked your way through all the enemies once, the game will loop their spawning pattern without telling you. I was kind of bummed to find that the game didn't end in any satisfying way; it's so goddamn hard to shave all the enemies without dying in the first place, it would have been nice to be rewarded after accomplishing such a task. Lord knows I replayed the game about twenty times to get the full five-scissors rating (which, I guess, means you basically completed the game); shame I couldn't have seen an ending screen as equally amusing as the prologue.

Anyway, play it here.

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