Appreciating whimsy

Playing some more Skylanders, specifically the Sheep Wreck Island adventure pack, I was struck by how much I appreciate some playful humour. Sheep are a constant source of humour in the Skylanders series – they are portrayed both as sinister and the butt of many a joke. This adventure pack takes this to the max since sheep are the theme of this long but entertaining level. Mild spoilers follow this line.

These games do not take themselves too seriously…

The Skylanders games have some great gameplay, but they also have bucket loads of humour and really nice level design. Backgrounds are impressive, set piece areas that you travel through have some great features that I as a MMORPG player appreciate. Use of movement is often a big feature, on a recent Imaginators level there was a jumping puzzle across giant rotating sections of floating tower.

Even while playing that jumping puzzle the added threat that you face is also rather whimsical – floating puffer-fish like sea creatures that will knock your character back and damage them if you get too close.

The Ship Wreck Island adventure has some great background features, not things you actually interact with but that I appreciate none-the-less. Whirlwinds are a feature of this level, and there are sheep randomly dotted around gripping onto rocks or trees as they try to avoid being sucked into a nearby zephyr. Pictured above is another hapless sheep that sits atop an ever-spouting whale. These are just silly little details that liven up the sub-zones of the level no end.

There are some larger and more plot relevant details that also up the whimsy-ante. The main villain is the Sheep Mage, and even his abilities fit the comical nature of the level, his giant sheep form provides some environmental hazard challenges in the level.

Not all the games I play incorporate whimsy, successfully at least, into their content. I find World of Warcraft’s attempts at humour often miss the mark for me (the obligatory poop jokes are so tired eight expansion). Wildstar did a pretty good job of including some whimsical humour, though I guess this is very much a matter of personal tastes.

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