PEGBRJE: EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER a̶n̶d̶ ̶A̶i̶r̶s̶h̶i̶p̶s̶
This was almost not an entire blog about just EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER, which will now be referred to as EMF for convenience’s sake. There was so much information to parse, yet so little information that actually felt that I could convey with certainty. Yet when I finished writing all of my thoughts down, there was no way I could make another game come after this and give it a just overview, so it has been postponed to tomorrow. With that, I start this with a fact about EMF: this game is 100% not for me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
EMF is a narrative game with visual novel and beat-em-up tendencies made by Heather Flowers. Set in this bio/cyberpunk dystopian wasteland, you follow the adventures of a bunch of folks who get into 12 foot tall mechs made of meat to fight fascists. I’m not really sure how to follow that up. How do you explain a game that explicitly tells you what to expect for the entire game in the description?
Right away you are introduced to the cast, along with the fighting mechanics for the meat-suit fights, which resembles a ring out wrestling match with different cast members having passives and specials. The main draw of EMF, however, is in the interactions that the cast members have with each other. You can make certain decisions while talking to different people to alter the discussions and change the outcomes slightly. I’d like to take this time to mention that the cast is unanimously ‘a hot mess of gays’, as it were. They are unapologetically gay members of the LGBTQ+ community, dishing out death to ‘fashs’ as they flee from the sheriff. There’s a reason it’s called ‘meatpunk’: EMF is an incredible blend that I’ve seen called ‘biopunk’ which sounds kinda gross out loud. The characters fight the law, break the rules, and generally screw the system any way they can. Nothing is off limits to this game, not even ascii art conversations or 4th wall jokes.
This brings me to dialogue, which solidifies my earlier point of this game not being for me. The dialogue is, for lack of a better term, wack. Conversations can be had in full sentences, internet slang, internet short form (l m a o gets used a lot), jumbled letters resembling sounds and at one point ascii art. It’s almost terrifying how similar it is to my old internet forum typing days, which is a past that will stay there. Yet there are times that it felt so real that it confused me, only to be broken by another verbal ‘lmao’ and some bizarre [slur], as in the brackets and all.
The topics on hand are no slouches either, and ping pong to some serious conversations of personal acceptance, gender roles, and self harm, and the characters don’t shy away from it at all. In fact, the game embraces just how awkward these conversations usually are, having them yelled out in aggressive swearing since they’re all nervous about their new situation as being essentially exiled from town. The cast is all uncomfortable with each other, and that made me uncomfortable, if that makes sense. They’re unwillingness to sudden acceptance to discuss these issues might appear as a sudden twist, but they quickly remind you that they were all existing before this point. Each character had lives before, so to them there is no ‘sudden twist’ besides the whole exile.
There’s a lot to unpack with EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER. The transition scenes into the fights are a whole topic on their own as each cast member has a personalized ‘jacking in’ moment. Each one reflecting on personal issues in dark text flitting across the screen before assuming their new form as a hulking meat monster. And this doesn’t even scratch the possible symbolism of the meat suits themselves being their own idealized bodies, or what they are trying to become. Like I said, a lot to unpack.
I cannot in good faith say I wanted to like EMF. I found myself too frustrated at the numerous dialogue ‘jankiness’ or how the meat mechs didn’t have good indicators for when I was stunned. However as I progressed, it became clearer that my own lenses of understanding and my experiences were not in line with what this game was trying to convey. I was, in fact, not the core audience. I couldn’t relate with any of the main characters, which made it harder for the story to be conveyed(well, besides the whole writing part from above). The themes were outside of my boundaries, so the conflicts felt off putting and awkward.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing — there are thousands of games that many don’t relate to, nor find enjoyable. It’s a fact of life. What I can do is understand what makes them enjoyable, and appreciate them for what they do.
Try out EMF if you are, as they say, ‘hopelessly gay’ and are looking for some character interactions with a more diverse cast. While it may be a little rough around the edges, I’m sure you’ll find it appealing to some degree.
PS: I would like to give a massive shoutout to the audio design and the soundtrack by Josie Brechner. It had a perfect country blues ‘twang’ to it, giving the true feeling of a desert dustbowl in an apocalyptic hell hole. Also, each character had the same fight song, but played with different instruments and it was FANTASTIC. I honestly just wanted to stay in combat as CRASH QUEEN and keep duking it out with fascists just so I could hear that guitar riff, it was so grimey and I love it. I’ve linked her bandcamp below as a reminder to myself to go buy this soundtrack, seriously it’s so good.