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Surprise Bullfight

April 9, 2012: Surprise Bullfight and Raptus

Two games featuring ugly, terrible, just awful people.

By Anthony John Agnello • April 9, 2012

Surprise Bullfight is what Terry Gilliam would make if he spent an entire Saturday locked up with a Commodore 64 and a ton of Ernest Hemingway books. The latest game from idiosyncratic indie auteur Mark Essen is fantastical, off-putting, unsightly, mesmerizing, and far too romantic about bull fighting. Your goal is to get the highest score possible, but as a gnome of the forest, the only way to rack up points is by collecting woodland critters, scooping bovine scat, and stabbing bulls to death for their hearts. The hearts sustain the last of the forest giants, a writhing obese man hooked up to an always-decreasing meter that measures his life. The first bulls you meet are plodding, so your swift dwarven matador can swing around them easily. But the bulls learn, requiring you to become more dextrous and canny. Bullfight doesn’t have the lithe feel of classic high-score games like Pac-Man that make them so wonderfully addictive. Its weirdness is a merit on its own, though.


Raptus is mean. It is an unpleasant little game that tries to milk revelation out of brutality but doesn’t bother to say anything in the process. Alan Zucconi’s “experimental interactive fiction” places you in the shoes of man who meets a woman and then murders her when she refuses to sleep with him. It’s like an episode of Law & Order: SVU filtered through Pitfall and an abandoned Postal Service demo. There are only three moments where your actions affect the story, although these interactions don’t offer you any choice: You push the male lead forward when he meets the woman and you click repeatedly to simulate her murder; there’s another moment of fatalism at the end. In between these sequences is sparse dialogue with occasionally odd grammar. (“And then he kiss me.”) There’s no character development or deeper insight into guilt, and stripping any vestige of choice from the player elevates the game from a piece of bad art to a malicious one. At least the pixel rain is nice to watch, but that just makes Raptus a pretty face with a black heart.

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449 Responses to “April 9, 2012: Surprise Bullfight and Raptus

  1. Binsbein says:

    Why is there a picture of Jim Sterling in the…Oh. Oh.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      I’d be down with mocking Jim Sterling at every opportunity. Let’s make this a Thing

  2. AuroraBoreanaz says:

    Raptus sounds like a miniature version of Dreamweb.  Old top-down adventure game with a huge amount of violence…either you were chosen by some spiritual entity to save the world by killing a bunch of people, or you were an insane serial killer.


    Either way, you get gunned down at the end by the cops.

  3. KidvanDanzig says:

    Is Sawbuck Gamer no longer covering iOS games? I need new subway distractions! You can’t do this! I have rights!

  4. Girard says:

    I saw Raptus listed on Gamasutra’s weekly indie list, and was kind of surprised that such a crappy, manipulative, nasty little game actually made the list. I scrolled down to the comments on its Newgrounds page to see the folks excoriating it and get some schadenfreude, but amazingly found the comments full of sycophantic adulation…admittedly probably from teenage boys for whom such a game counts as “deep.”

    But, man, what an awful, ugly, stupid little “game.”

  5. LimeadeYouth says:

    Raptus miscellany:

    -“Love is a one way street, just like death.” – This is more Criminal Minds than SVU.

    -The soundtrack is actually pretty decent atmospheric music, but I get the feeling they just couldn’t afford the rights to “Lightning Crashes”.

    -Raptus is interesting, but I’m not so sure viewing it in the context of “games” is appropriate other than giving it an audience. I dunno.