Showtime

The car shudders forward,
The boom box comes out
And their feet stomp twice.
They feel the frowns and phones
And fly right past.
A river above them
And the pressure in the car,
The people who dance underwater
Can't have anything
They don't ask for.

The Hate Zoo of Mario Slapabouts

When I make chit chat I aim to win, and talking at coworkers is no different. Once while enjoying a hot caffeinated bean soup I yelled to my friendworker Hailey, "what's the games you've played?"

Her eyes let out a puff of surprise at my enthusiasm, because she didn't know what a gamesman I was. Then she plucked Mario Slapabouts from a leather bag around her ankle. Behold it:

Mario Slapabouts

Mario Slapabouts

Soon I'd forget to eat because this game made me cry too hard. Hailey and I don't talk any more we just slapabout.

We Put it in the Game Machine And Turned it On, Basically is what happens between these sections

From the first whispers of the game's opening I knew I was in for a whole new kind of jump and run, or puzzle undoing.

The game begins with a far away shot of Mario on a hillside. He surveys what can only be described as a nightmare landscape which stretches before him seemingly forever. Trees battle witch each other to look the gnarliest. The sun has long since hid itself behind a layer of grandma-linen-colored clouds. There is a thick mist covering a large portion of the screen. For a second we see a rabbit, but the very ground around it shifts unnaturally and pins its legs into place. The rabbit's eyes grow wide and it struggles to free itself from nature's grasp. "UNGH!" yells the rabbit, like it is being punched in the gut. It is being pulled deeper and deeper into the earth's embrace. Soon its stomach is hidden from view. The rabbit begins to cry. It stops struggling. Its tears pool where its face is being sucked under, until finally only its ears remain. A black hawk, fearful in its majesty, swoops down and grabs the ears, but it's going too fast and only rips them in half. A muffled scream is heard from the ground that ate the rabbit. As the hawk gains altitude again, an unseen marksman shoots it right in the face, and it plummets into the earth, which gleefully swallows it all, slurping down even the feathers. The ground coughs up a beak.

The shot cuts to a close up of Mario's face.

"Let's make this whole place squares," he says stridently.

Then the game menu pops up, right on the hill. It's jarringly cheery, and prompts you to "Begin Squaresing At Your Own Risk."

At this point Hailey turned her eyes at me by turning her whole head so that her eyes were able to focus on my eyes. I did the same, out of politeness. Our eyes looked at each other to indicate sincerity.

"This game may scare you," she warned me. "I don't want to see you fill your pants with urine or even poops."

"I never poop," I assured her. "Except when I try to."

Hailey shrugged her shoulders BIG to show how little confidence she had in this. I didn't show it, but I began to feel the fears I feel in the grocery store when I can't choose a mac and cheese flavor: has this made someone shit their own poop before? I am terrified.

By the time my terror sweat had finished coming out of my arm sockets, Hailey had chosen all the boring settings that squaresing required and we'd gotten to the point of picking a team

What do we have to do in this game?

We have to make this nightmare world squares.

Hailey explained this to me succinctly, with a minimum of diagrams. "When you think about what land is, it's a blanket. A wrinkly blanket. And when you're not in bed and you see your wrinkly blanket don't you wish it was a flat blanket? That's this game. The nightmares come from all of the wrinkles and the sun can only come out when you're flattening it out into the flattest shape ever: squares."

At this point, Hailey referred me to tattoo on her collar bone, which read: "But squares can't make squares- that's the rule. The only thing that can make squares is the biggest wrinkle of all time: spheres. A perfect wrinkle is a sphere." 

So you spend the whole game making these squares as flat as you can using a sphere. It's math.

Who does this? Tell me their names and faces

You choose a squaresing team of two animals. The animals in the Slapabout family spent so long hiding from their monster world they now only experience fear. This makes even their simple task daunting. You see, the animals don't do the hard work of taming nightmares, they just keep the place square for Mario while he's busy.

You can play as Mario, but this is a mistake. When the game was being developed most of it was about Mario, and his quest to get rid of all nightmares. Back then the game was called "Mario: There is Nothing He Cannot Destroy" and used every button on the N64 controller. Mario could eat the flesh of his nightmare foes to gain unheard of powers: control over grass, filling his enemies with glee, or turning their insides to chalk. The game was a masterwork. In the final levels you would fight yourself, which was represented by a glowing green orb labelled "Pile of Unforgettable Regrets." You couldn't win.

But then they didn't remember to include it in the full release and accidentally created Mario Slapabouts, which was an office joke. When the development team realized the error they made, they immediately said "We did this bad thing by a joke, we must make the world right again." They joined their forces, went into hiding, and became Bankse.

But you still haven't even met the animals.

Many of the small junkyard animals in the Slapabouts family screech and warble as they run around their squares. By far the wailiest trash animal is the Chubs Diaper:

Chubs Diaper

Chubs Diaper

The Chubs Diaper, shown here trying to remember his parents' faces, creates from its mouth the unholiest of shrieks. When you wake up at night and hear the creaking of a door somewhere in the belly of your house, pray that it is just a burglar or kill-man and not the Chubs Diaper come to tell you all about its squares. When the Chubs Diaper fails to flatten its squares correctly it gnashes its teeth and wails. Often the other animals will hit it, chanting "You are the worst of us." They are correct.

Another fun animal to dislike is Uncle Bart.

Uncle Bart

Uncle Bart

Uncle Bart was a dog at one point, but the world is unkind and turned his face into a triangle graveyard with a big peach in the middle. At one point Uncle Bart played happily among the lawns of Southern Providence, but due to an errant dogwalker he ended up in the nightmare lands. He eats anything, even McDonald's. Uncle Bart scares the Chubs Diaper for fun but the weeping and wailing bring him no joy.

There are other animals but I'm crying too hard just looking at them to describe them. Here are their faces in case you ever need to look at something you hate:

Gramblefrange

Gramblefrange

Hintsly the Wisp

Hintsly the Wisp

Craig the Sad Clown

Craig the Sad Clown

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer

Humblebuttons and Hoover

Humblebuttons and Hoover

Mario

Mario

Whoops, I guess Another Mario

Whoops, I guess Another Mario

Tall Dog

Tall Dog

Frodo

Frodo

 

The End?

After days and days of playing, I am drunk. My tears come out without sound because they are so frequent. Hailey also drinks heavily, and a malaise creeps over our lives and the whole workplace. Slapabouts has broken us.

Can I in good faith say the squares are worth it? Yes, absolutely. They are order being brought to chaos, and I enjoy seeing the animals hit the Chubs Diaper. There is justice, certainly. But I cannot handle it.

The gameplay flows wonderfully and it's easy to lose hours to it. Some characters are poorly balanced (Chubs Diaper, Hintsly the Wisp). Depth perception is really hard when you're playing on the court away from the camera.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Good luck squaresers

UCB 401 Class Notes We Got

Here are the real notes our teacher gave my 401 class

Alan's Note:  "Alan seems nice."

Zubi's Note: [YouTube video of that scene in stepbrothers where Rob Riggle tells Dale he just wants to punch him in the face]

Stephen I's Note: "Stephen, you're a talented improviser with strong character work. Focus on setting a base reality early and you'll find your scene work expand even further. it was a pleasure having you in class as an example of bold choices and con--- oh, crap. There's two Stephens. Ah, okay! Um... good job I guess. Really play those second and third moves or whatever."

Drew's Note: "Drew- you are tight as hell, man. Love that galaxy sweatshirt you wore to the last show, where can I cop that, bro? Anyways, keep ur shit legit! Sidebar- u should be meaner to Derek. Can't stand that guy"

Morgan's Note: "Alan seems nice."

Derek's Note: "Good work, Derek. You have such a big energy and commitment to your scenes. But because you spilled a slurpie in class one time I'm gunna hafta ban you from the school and theater for life, try your luck elsewhere because you're not welcome back, ps. everyone who was mean to you in class got an A so that means everyone got an A even you"

Will's Note: "You do you, Big Mac"

Stephen B's Note: "Stephen: You little shit. You know what you did, you cat humping whale killer, I hope you're happy. See you in hell, you ratfaced little turd gobbler. Ground your characters in a point of view and eat a bag of dog testes, fart lord."

Ty's Note: "Couldn't hear ya"

Emily's Note: "Girl, you saw too many shows. Go home! Also, great job being mean to Derek."

Rachel declined to share her notes, but did have questions about them.

No One at this Shitty Rally Appreciates John Kasich Like I Could

Even though I'm 300 feet from the stage at this godawful rally, I can see clearly that John Kasich is very tired. As he sits around, waiting to receive a pittance of delegates, he runs his hand through his hair as if to say, “Is there nothing for me in this wasteland I call a life?” I want only to reach out to him, reassure him that his presence here means everything to me, and tell him the guy doing coat check reeks of weed.

I’m not John Kasich, and I won’t try to speak for him, but if I did try to speak for him, I’d say “Enough is enough, John, who is me.” I’d keep telling myself: “It’s time to get out of this pit, go home, pour myself a glass of milk, and let my eyes slowly glaze over until sleep takes me.” I’d listen to me if I were John Kasich, because John Kasich is a pretty smart guy, and someone I admire. I'd admire him even better if I weren’t standing behind drunk basketball players wearing cowboy hats.

On stage, John rises from his seat hesitantly. He reminds me of a bear coming out of hibernation after a long, harsh winter. The bear is exhausted from the effort of surviving. “Maybe it’s time I gave up,” thinks the bear. “Maybe I’ll never become the Republican presidential candidate,” which is a metaphor for catching salmon. The bear looks so sad, and stands at the opening of his cave, just taking in the gorgeous forest vista. But the bear’s eyes are unfocused- he cannot see the incredible dips of the wooded valleys, or how the sunlight pours onto them. He is remembering another forest, maybe. The bear sighs deeply and runs a paw through his head fur. I bet the bear’s feet aren’t stuck to the floor of his cave by a thick veneer of spilled beer and piss.

God, if you could see John Kasich drive. He does it rarely, since he has a driver probably. I’ve never seen John’s driving, and it is majestic. The slow unfolding of his elbows, wrinkles flattening out as he shifts into fifth gear. The bumps in the road jostle his Volvo, and he lets the asphalt guide his hands. Will he ever become something greater than Ohio’s youngest state senator? Maybe. If I were in the car, I’d put my hand on his shoulder, startling him out of his highway reverie. My concern written on my knitted brow, I'd ask, “Wanna grab a shake?” pointing at the McDonald’s sign going past. John would smile at me, and shake his head. He is clearly touched that I noticed he’s having a sad, pensive day hypothetically. He doesn’t point out that they call their shakes McFlurry’s. We’ve travelled together a long time, and the silence grows around us. When I think he’s not looking, I glance over at John, worried. I sympathize wordlessly with a man I look up to, but have never spoken with directly or indirectly. Only a few more hours and we’ll each be home. There has to be something I can say, but I can’t think of it, and I wouldn’t think of it in time if this had really happened. Definitely can't think of what to say with this baby screaming behind me. Who brings a baby to a rally?!

John looks across the crowd, not at me, but near me- kinda in my direction. On stage, he nods and smiles, then laughs at something an aide says. His eyes stay troubled. He wants to scream. In my heart of hearts I hear his scream and I scream back, “You’re just a man, John! You’re just a man with conservative politics and maybe twenty good years left! Don’t waste them trying to impress the bigots and bigwigs who run this shithole. Create a legacy you’re proud of and to hell with the history books.” With my heart I scream so loud, but with my mouth I’m eating this enormous hot dog. My hand is covered in melted cheese. It cost eight bucks.

Soon the nutrients of this cheese dog will become a small part of my respect for John Kasich. The other hot dog parts will become shit, like the people I’m surrounded by at this godforsaken rally.