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Column: Jump Button

COLUMN: 'Jump Button': Handheld Gallery — Patapon Artist Rolito

February 29, 2008 4:00 PM |

-[Jump Button is a new weekly column by Drew Taylor, written specially for GameSetWatch, that focuses on the art and substance of video game culture.]

It's almost two in the morning, I'm dosed up on pain killers and my right wrist is sprained—possibly fractured—from a relatively nasty motorcycle accident I had earlier in the day. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to play 'just one more mission' of the addictive PSP rhythm/attack game, Patapon.

The narcotic effect is partly attributable to the simple (yet strategic) gameplay, insanely catchy rhythms and clever fusion of RPG-lite and rhythm/action genres. But it's the crazy-cool graphic style of French artist Rolito (real name Sebastien Giuli) that has me gripped in a 'fever'.

I want to see more.

Visually, the 35-year-old artist's work on Patapon is like Willy Wonka meets Frank Miller's 300. A candy-shaped universe full of strong geometry and complementary color palettes. Cave paintings for a Disney-Pixar audience.

Cute, cyclopsian eyeballs on legs—armed with bows, halberds and axes—march to the beat of drums, battling giant fire-breathing dragons. Brave armies endure scorching desert sands, fight beasts of gargantuan proportions, and sail across vast oceans in Viking boats. Trees with scratchy heads dance to the sound of trumpets. Bird-riding warriors rain spears down on their two-dimensional enemies, while catapults lay siege to cowboy forts and medieval castles.

'Some of my inspiration comes from Pre-Colombian and primitive arts, but not only,' explains Rolito, in sentences of broken English. 'This spiritual/mystic aspect is rooted in my passion for mythology, antique civilizations, the unexplained and impalpable. The part of mystery is really important to me, and my work; this is—for sure—what gives [my art] that bizarre and poetic side.

'I think my characters have their own evocative power. There's no need to read any story about them; if you see them you can feel the innocence and poetry. It's a world between the kid world and the adult world, a place where everything is possible.'

COLUMN: 'Jump Button': The Toys Had It Coming — Musical Outfit Toydeath

February 25, 2008 8:00 AM |

-[Jump Button is a new weekly column by Drew Taylor, written specially for GameSetWatch, that focuses on the art and substance of video game culture.]

If Stephen King, a carton load of Barbie dolls, three glam rockers and a coin-op version of Berzerk were lashed together, set on fire and subsequently fried with one kajillion volts of electricity, then Australian musical outfit Toydeath would be the mutant offspring of the smoldering, glitching, molten plastic remains.

The band's appearance is the first indication of a lo-tech experiment gone wonderfully wrong; the Sydney-based trio taking on the disturbed, future sex-doll party visages of 'Big Judy' (Melissa Hunt), 'Disco Barbie' (Chris Murphy) and 'GiJoe' (founder Nick Wishart). But it's only when the band busts out a bunch of electronic toys and sends them into a crazy, wailing, spluttering frenzy of hyperactive melody that the true extent of the band's demented genius and ridiculously brilliant choreography manifests.

'All of our music is made from children's electronic toys,' explains Nick. 'We take the toys and modify them using electronics. ”Hardware hacking” or “circuit bending”, as it's called, is a technique where you change an existing circuit so that it behaves in a different way; you're effectively making a new instrument, or “bentstrument”. '

The critically hit-and-miss result is anything but conventional. High pitched bursts of feedback blends rhythmically with the broken neighs of a horse, while Jesus stutters out passages of Scripture to the bleeping, screeching crescendos of white noise, cheap sax guitars. fairy wands and a naked George Bush doll that says, 'I come from Texas'.