The year is 2053. Basketball is dead.
The Chaos Dunk, a basketball move of lethal proportions, has left millions of people dead in Manhattan. In Post Chaos Dunk America, basketball has been outlawed, and most b-ballers are now dead or living in hiding.
The game begins when Balthios, LeBron James’s octoroon great grandson, visits the home of the chaos dunk survivors, Charles Barkley and his son Hoopz.
(‘Octoroon,’: a kind of word that you learn in a Romanticist literature class and try your best to forget about right away)
Barkley’s son Hoopz mutates into a puppet-like animation that looks nothing like the original sprite, then bounces around the room, dribbling. Faced with this derfy-looking misfit of a sprite, I suddenly found myself judging the quality of the game, then I judged myself for judging the quality of a game about Charles Barkley ruining the world with a slam dunk.
Hunched over my macbook, eyes lemur-wide, I leaned in to find out what would happen next to the heroic Charles Barkley and his son, Hoopz.
Suddenly, Michael Jordan, decked out in a yellow outfit that would put April O’Neil to shame, bursts into Charles Barkley's room with a few black-clad men, arriving as part of the B-Ball protection squad. Jordan claims he has grounds to enter the house since he heard ‘dribbling’.
After a short bickering match with Charles Barkley, the terrifying Michael Jordan leaves, and Barkley goes out to get some medicine. The real world-exploring begins here, where Barkley/you can speak with the beaten-down, basketball-fearing denizens of Neo New York.
After each battle, monsters drop neo-shekels, which are represented with pixellated Stars of David in the subscreen. Yes, stars of David. No, I have no words.
In this game, if you meet an enemy that spews poison at you, you don’t go to sleep or become paralyzed, like in a normal RPG. Oh no.
Instead, you are riddled with ‘Diabetes’ or ‘Glaucoma.’ When you watch a purple line of glowing text emerge from Charles Barkley’s head that says GLAUCOMA, your reaction time as a player slows down a bit because you’re too busy laughing. If inflicted with glaucoma, Charles Barkley ends up not being able to hit monsters accurately with his b-ball like he once did. Avoiding glaucoma is the key to doing well at most battles. I can't believe I just typed that sentence.
The true challenge of the game? Stifling your laughter before a spider made of basketballs casts diabetes on you and you die.
Luckily enough, a slew of 90′s-tastic items can keep the team healthy in battle, such as steroids and ecto coolers. Holy cow, does anyone remember ecto coolers? You can also wear jerseys and bapes to improve your battle stats.
The small details really make the world come alive. At the beginning of the game, Charles Barkley is banned from B-Ball, and therefore must use a soccer ball to throw at enemies and defeat them in battle. At first I thought that the soccer ball was an animation oversight, but it worked into the story: Basketball being banned from post-chaos-dunk Neo New York, Barkley can only wield a soccer ball.
The save points, or ‘Pumps’ spout pretentious, nerdish drivel that’s been either copy-pasted from an RPG forum, or expressly written to taunt RPG forum-goers. They sure sound like forum posts, or even like the people you’ve met at cons who wear animal suits. Why do these save-point pumps talk? No reason. They just kind of do.
There’s a moment in a Pynchon book where a character flips another character off, but at the end of the sentence, you learn that nobody knows this but you, the reader, because a large bedsheet shrouds the man’s entire body.
That’s how playing Charles Barkley: SUAJG feels. A joke is made, then the joke is taken away in a moment of confusion, then the joke returns with double the absurdist, hopeless force.
You should go play it.