Sawbuck Gamer

Hug Marine

First Contact

I’m just a Hug Marine, and I won’t work for nobody but you.

By Derrick Sanskrit • June 15, 2012

You’ve trained long and hard for this, cadet. You finally got your first solo mission, exploring the dark caverns of alien planets in search of… whatever it is our thoroughly futuristic Space Marine Corps searches for. Deep in the caves, this is the moment OH SWEET MARZIPAN, WHAT IN THE NAME OF BABY SPACE DEITY IS THAT?! It’s some sort of hideous extraterrestrial lifeform—all right, cadet, don’t panic. Get in close; you know what to do. Oh yeah, that’s a good hug. Nice and cozy.

Hug Marine is a pretty straightforward retro run-and-jump platformer. The hook is that each level ends with a different alien beast in the Giger/Lovecraft mold, and the player, rather than slaying these monstrosities, hugs them. It isn’t really clear what happens after the hug, but it seems as though you then move on to another alien cavern to hunt down and embrace another creature. There are no goals beyond “don’t fall in acid and die” and “don’t fall on spikes and die,” so it seems as though the Marine’s entire mission is to hunt down and hug these aliens.

In that regard, Hug Marine is a refreshing change of pace. Outside of A Boy And His Blob, there isn’t very much active hugging in video games. In the deluge of annual games about marines shooting aliens in their reptilian heads and kneecaps, it’s nice to embrace the unknown in a more literal sense. Hug Marine feels like the sort of game PETA might make if they decided to target Ridley Scott, which would, frankly, benefit everyone.

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914 Responses to “First Contact”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    It’s kind of funny how a small change in animation, a few pixels really, can alter the entire premise and feel of a game so drastically.
    Hugging and driving a rusty garden-implement into someone’s gut are from the standpoint of movement and appearance almost the same, yet the game comes around completely different.

    If the marine were to jump through these levels with the goal of knifing an alien menace, we would think vastly different of him. What made him so violent? Are the aliens responsible for some loss in his life? Is his home-planet in danger? We’d also be pretty sure that the pitfalls in the level are there to protect the alien from our dagger-wielding marine.

    Yet, if the same marine jumps through the exact same level with the goal of hugging it out with said alien, our perception of the situation changes. Are aliens just waiting for us to be nice to them? Is love the mightiest weapon of all? Did the alien put the spikes there to shield himself from our emotional approach or did someone else? Are the spikes and lava perhaps a metaphor for how inherently distant we all are and that overcoming our hangups to just hug someone are just as hard as those we have to overcome to kill someone?

    I just think it’s funny how much influence the shape of a small area of pixels has on our emotional response, from “Awww” to “Ewww” so to speak.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Effigy_Power’s Theory of Hug Relativity

      • Effigy_Power says:

         Soon to be adapted into a major motion picture, then a game.
        The game is just like Modern Warfare, but there are warships hugs in the background.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          Despite the good intentions of hugging, I’m sensing a commercial opportunity here: 

          Battlehug, in which you must find your opponent’s fleet . . . so that you can love it. “You hugged my battleship!”

        • Monkeylint says:

           …then a stage musical, then a film adaptation of the stage musical, then a breakfast cereal.

    • Merve says:

      I’ve always wanted to make a game with the exact same mechanics as a first-person shooter, but instead of firing bullets, your gun fires rainbow lasers that don’t kill your enemies, but instead transform them into flocks of butterflies. I wonder if the shooting would be as satisfying without the death.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I find that a very interesting point. I have no problem with violence in video-games per se, but it’s interesting that the indiscriminate annihilation of all those who stand before us is the only end considered fulfilling for most people.
        Name 3 games in which the hero convinces the main-villain to reconsider in the end instead of brutally eviscerating him with a satisfying splatter of gore.
        Just a curious point.

        • Fixda Fernback says:

          I can name only one, but it’s a damn good one: The Witcher 2. 

          SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (For Iorveth’s path at least, perhaps same for Roche’s)


          The entire game, you’ve been chasing the “Kingslayer,” an assassin and fellow witcher responsible for killing multiple kings, one of them your personal employer (who probably considered you a friend); he also kidnapped and left for dead, your main love interest.

          You have a few close calls, and essentially everything in the game comes down to a final meeting with the man. It’s tense as hell, and incredibly well-written, just like everything else in the game. He offers his vodka to you, and you have the option to either attack and fight him outright, or talk with him and learn more about your history (you’re still regaining lost memories), and history with him; he will also tell you all about what lead him to his decisions and why. 

          And, then, at the end, you can either let him go his own way, or engage him in a brutal battle to the death. It was honestly pretty fucking incredible and mind-blowing, just to have the option presented in a game. I really want more games to take cues from CD Projekt Red and The Witcher.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           I never got very far in the Witcher 2, but that’s an interesting way of dealing with an antagonist and one that is obviously rare, considering the amount of examples for it.
          I probably ought to start that game again some time.

        • Swadian Knight says:

          Alpha Protocol may really be the best example. There is only one cutscene-mandated kill, and while the game does force you into a few fights it is entirely possible to spare the lives of every boss and enemy you meet, and even convince some of them to join your side.

          It’s a curious game in that it actually allows you to dole out more verbal abuse than actual physical violence, as seen on this video: 

          A close second would be the Deus Ex series (well, the original and Human Revolution at least). The Fallout games usually allow you to play them without harming anyone directly, and I think Planescape: Torment only actually requires you to fight four times, and you don’t actually have to kill any of your opponents. 

          It’s funny, but now that I’ve listed them I can see that the pacifist option is a common thread in a lot of my favorite games. Maybe more games should follow that road.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          In Fallout 3, you can convince the main antagonist to commit computer suicide.

      • Girard says:

         There was an evangelical Christian game called Catechumen that used the Quake engine, I think, and worked sort of that way. You had a divine sword that shot some sort of conversion beam that “converted” them, making them fall to their knees and pray amidst shining light and the Hallelujah chorus. I think demons transformed into angels and flew away when “killed”, too.

        • caspiancomic says:

          I would personally consider being forcibly converted to Christianity a fate worse than death.

      • Fixda Fernback says:

        May I present to you: 

        Chex Quest 

        It’s a reskinning of Doom that was packaged with Chex cereals. It’s got a cult following, because, of course it does.

      • caspiancomic says:

        I tried to think of some FPSs in which the goal is something besides “murder non-whites”, but the only thing I could come up with was Portal.

        That said, I think a lot of the “satisfaction” that comes with FPSs comes from visceral things like sound effects, force feedback, the effect the weapon has on the victim visually… basically visual and audio cues that tell you your tool has sufficient power. If you could create a rainbow-butterfly beam that felt and looked and sounded sufficiently “powerful” (although the metrics for measuring power would obviously be different), I think it would be as satisfying to turn an aggressor into butterflies with a rainbow as it is to turn a Russian into a carcass with a Kalashnikov.

        Whether people would buy it, of course, remains to be seen.

        • Merve says:

          You got me thinking of Tron 2.0, a first-person shooter in which your primary weapon is a cross between a discus and a boomerang, and the enemies are digital monsters than turn into bits of data (“de-rez”) when defeated. There’s no death, per se, in the game, but it still feels satisfying to play. I think you’re on to something here: the satisfaction comes not just from seeing enemies turning into bits of data, but also from the sound and feel of firing the weapons. Blood, realistic weaponry, and actual death aren’t required to make the game feel satisfying.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Hmm, but in Tron we still understand that de-rezzing is the ultimate death of the programs we attack. Seeing Peter Jurasik being de-rezzed in the original movie doesn’t convince me that it’s any better than a blow to the head.

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: Yeah, de-rezzing is basically death. I guess my point is that you don’t need a body count for a satisfying experience. Unrealistic or fantasy violence can work just as well as realistic or authentic violence.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Um, I hate to break it to you, but turning someone into a flock of butterflies is pretty much the same as killing them. YOU MONSTER.

        • Merve says:

          Obviously, they’re sentient butterflies, each one of them containing the personality and memories of the rainbow laser’s target. Try to keep up with the program, pal. ;)

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          That somehow how sounds far more terrifying that flat out killing someone. Would it split them into all that different butterflies, or would each butterfly have the whole personality of the victim? Having your soul split into a bunch of tiny butterfly prisons is probably the worst thing I could ever imagine. 

        • Merve says:

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus: The butterfly swarm would operate as a sort of hivemind that collectively contains the entire personality of the victim. Think of them as the Geth from the Mass Effect series, only prettier.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Hey! I just remembered my favourite in-game friendliness mechanic – in Okami (the best game evererver sothere) you can buy/find food to give to the tiny creatures in the world, and in return they give you love. Which you then spend to increase your demon-stabbing skills and um…

  2. George_Liquor says:

    This is a hug hunt, man!

    • stakkalee says:

      I’ve been wracking my brain since I saw this but I just can’t come up with the hug-equivalent of nuking the site from orbit.  Damn my feeble vocabulary!

      • Girard says:

        Something like this?

        • stakkalee says:

          I love Perry Bible Fellowship; too bad the site’s down. It seems there’s a book – time to visit Amazon.

  3. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    More game with hugs: Portal 2 and That Rambo flash game that was making the rounds recently.

    • I don’t remember Portal 2 hugs, outside of Atlas and P-Body in the promotional trailers. Tell me more.

      Also, I’m totally going home tonight to play more “A Boy And His Blob” and just tap the hug button repeatedly. More games need dedicated hug buttons.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        It’s one of the coop uhh emotes? They also have rock paper scissors and high fives and stuff like that. A Boy and his Blob definitely has the cutest hug though. awwwww

        • Ah, that makes sense. My co-op partners were always too busy running into lasers to stop and emote with me. Emotionless robots…

        • Merve says:

          The person I played co-op with and I specifically played dozens of rounds of Rock Paper Scissors just so that we could get the “win 3 games in a row” Steam achievement.

    • caspiancomic says:

       When I found out that Fumito Ueda was able to develop Ico because he had a vision in his mind of a short boy and a tall girl holding hands, I nearly fell out of my chair. I’m always really envious of people who are able to create something magnificent out of something that simple.

  4. JudgeReinhold says:


  5. Kevbo says:

    As neat as the concept is, I think the execution is pretty lousy. Controls are clunky, the levels move slowly, and it’s easy to die just because the field of vision is too small. You make one little slipup and then you have to retrace your path through the same boring terrain. It’s just not fun to play. At the very least, they could’ve done more to make the levels quick and painless to go through.

    • ImANarc says:

      I think somebody needs a hug!

      • Maudib says:

        A big problem was the hugs were automatic.  I did not get to chase around the boss until I corner them.  They did not dodge my grasp by squirming until I bear hugged them, nor did their resistance melts into acceptance, until they reciprocate your hug.

        But then, this would only work if they weren’t cutesy cthulhu knockoffs.  A hug marine takes on the most hideous and warped of nature’s abominations and gets them addicted to snuggling.

    • Girard says:

      Apparently this is the guy’s very first ever game. And it definitely looks and feels like it. It’s kind of a cute concept, though.

  6. I’m glad you mentioned A Boy and His Blob, because hugging that little blob is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen in a video game. I’ll have to give this a shot, then.

    • WL14 says:

       A Boy and His Blob was the first game I ever played without playing it. For some reason I had the walkthrough book, and I read that damn thing religiously. I guess it never occurred to me that “I” could be the one feeding jelly beans to my companion… I’m a little worried that I could play the game flawlessly now. A pretty strange game experience, all told.

  7. Aaron Riccio says:

    Great music in this one! And the platforming controls actually work! But here’s the thing I’m still wondering about: When you fall into the lava, is it just giving you a really warm hug?

    • Effigy_Power says:

       I didn’t care much for the game as such, but I also thought that the music was pretty nicely done.