One of the first things people talk about after playing Slam Bolt Scrappers is that, above all else, it’s a mash-up of building and brawling. Players have to fight their opponents while building magnificently destructive towers – the best players I’ve seen make sure to balance their play style among both mechanics, not spending too much time on either single element, but managing to do both at once. Mash-ups aren’t a new thing, though, and while the game is unique because of the genres it combines, people have been doing mash-ups SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME.
Here are some of my favorite mash-ups:
Transmetropolitan – Gonzo Journalism x Sci-Fi
Transmetropolitan, possibly Warren Ellis’s best known comic, is a crazy mash-up of genres, and to a lesser extent, mediums. The plot revolves around the Hunter S Thompson clone, Spider Jerusalem, committing wild acts of gonzo journalism in a dystopian megacity sometime in the far future. Think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but dirtier, and in the future. Seeing Ellis’s take on gonzo journalism in a technophilic setting is awesome enough, but the mere fact that he’s invoked Hunter S Thompson’s narrative ramblings so precisely through images and speech bubbles is really impressive. And Spider’s obsessive muckraking that repeatedly levels the corrupt politicians he covers is just icing on the cake.
The Grey Album – The Beatles x Jay-Z
Listening to the Grey Album when it first came out was like a time warp to the past that repaved the road to the future. Danger Mouse mixed up the Beatles’ White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album in a way that no one had imagined, revamping music lovers’ expectations of what DJs and producers could do. This album opened the door to wild mash-up focused DJs like Girl Talk, while pushing Danger Mouse into old school hip-hop, with DangerDoom, chart topping pop/R&B with Gnarls Barkley, and modern bluesy rock with the Black Keys. Yeah, he’s a pretty prolific producer. Now that Girl Talk has a strangle hold on eclectic music combinations, you don’t hear much about the Gray Album, so I’m here to remind you where it all began. Maybe if he chose Reasonable Doubt instead of the Black Album, people would still be talking about it… nah. Nice work, Danger Mouse.
Mass Effect 2 – Shooter x RPG
Mass Effect 2, by BioWare, was the realization of my Shooter/RPG mash-up fantasies. Other games have come close, but that visceral feel of riddling your opponents with bullets frequently gets lost in translation – I’m looking at you, V.A.T.S.! In fact, the Mass Effect team arguably topped traditional shooter firefights by… giving players bullets that LIGHT THEIR ENEMIES ON FIRE. Yes, it was awesome. All standard modern shooter mechanics were present (cover system, squad commands, etc.), AND BioWare still had time to craft a storyline of biblical proportions, including tons of side quests and character development. Now, you might say, “But Alec, Mass Effect 1 did all those things, too!” My response is simple: ME2 greatly refined all the cool elements of ME1, and is the pinnacle of what BioWare originally set out to do. All of this wraps up into a wildly epic romp throughout the solar system. So epic, in fact, that people have claimed that this is the Star Wars of a new generation. I can’t say I entirely agree, but it certainly does satiate my space opera needs, while exceeding my shooter and RPG expectations.
Firefly – Sci-Fi x The Wild West
Firefly is a truly awesome mash-up of smugglers acting like cowboys while cruising through space and visiting locales that feel ripped straight out of Unforgiven. In fact, Joss Whedon so thoroughly ingrained the cowboy mentality in the TV show that it could easily stand on its own as a modern western tale. Adding in gritty space travel, futuristic weaponry with an old school feel, and an American-Chinese alliance that results in characters frequently cursing in Mandarin, is all just icing on the cake. At only a dozen some odd episodes, the world of Firefly was barely explored, but it still stirred up enough interest to become a cult classic and make my list of favorite mash-ups.
And now, allow me to present my least favorite mash-up:
Twitter – Blogging x IM’ing = FML