It's sort of unusual that MTV hasn't properly capitalized on the success of Jackass, Viva La Bam, and the Jackass movies. Instead of bringing a full-fledged game complete with proper physics, and ludicrous acts, MTV chose the PSP as the platform to release a Jackass game onto. You probably didn't even know there was a Jackass game for the PSP, and with good reason: because it sucked. Well, if you want something close to Jackass, Sony's downloadable title Pain may actually fulfill that criteria quite well.
Playing Pain is rather simple and straightforward: you load yourself into a human-sized slingshot, strong enough to hurl you as far as the eye can see. Your mission will be to cause as much destruction and to string along as many combos as possible...using your body. So in the process of deforming yourself, you'll also be destroying parts of your locale, and all of that adds up to a score. Think of how Crash mode works in the Burnout series, but take away the car and use a human propelled by a slingshot, instead. Yeah, there's lots of fun to be had here, guys.
First, you'll have to go through the game's training mode called Crash Course. While you may find training modes irritating, this one is fairly important as it'll teach you various tricks and show you your abilities as the player. So with the training out of the way, you'll have the choice of selecting between playing in your sandbox without any limitations, or by choosing one of two mini-games. The PAINdemonium mode is the core mode, and this is where you'll spend most of your time. Meanwhile the other two are Spank the Money and Mime Toss.
Spank the Monkey requires you to catapult yourself to knock out every monkey you see in the area, and Mime Toss requires you to grab onto a floating mime and throw him through 12 glass panes. What's unfortunate is that the city, the locale you see in the screenshots, is the only one available in the game. Still, for a $10 purchase it makes for good fun and the multiplayer mode doesn't hurt, either. There are variations to each game mode, and additional characters to unlock. So, for instance, once you accomplish certain feats in either of the mini-games, you'll unlock a new difficulty to play it in. Or if you score 1.5-million points in PAINdemonium, you'll unlock the Aftermath version of the main city.
It may be a very simple, but strangely enough Pain offers a surprisingly addictive experience that's certainly worth the $10 price of admission. There's a lot of stuff to discover in the stage, which is cool, but most importantly there's a lot of laughs to be had. And the destruction of the city isn't limited, and so nearly everything can be broken down somehow. If you have friends over, I can almost guarantee that for at least 30 minutes to an hour, Pain will be the show piece everybody will be glued to. And that's sort of the game's point, as a quick burst of pick-up-and-play action, Pain is a pretty solid title.
Visually, what you get is an active city with a plethora of destructive interactivity. Hilarious rag-doll physics animate your sling-shot dummy as he hurls his way around the city. Collision detection is pretty solid, and you shouldn't have a hard time judging distance and being able to grab onto objects as you soar in the air. Texture detail is intentionally cartoony, and pretty solid, overall. Buildings and structures all around you don't exhibit any muddy qualities, and that's rather unusual for a downloadable game - so Pain does look pretty next-gen. Best of all, image quality is very sharp, as there are barely any jaggies to be found, with no framerate issues, and no background flickering.
The audio isn't stellar, but it isn't completely empty, either. You're primarily going to hear one of three things: your character's screaming, crash effects, and explosions - and that's about it. You'll hear some banter as you fly by the windows of buildings, in addition to music coming from various places such as a club, jazz lounge, and cafe. I also couldn't help but notice that the theme song sounds awfully similar to that of Marilyn Manson's "mOBSCENE."
For $10, the price seems to be just right for a game like Pain. It may not be chock full of stages to visit, but it's certainly great for a quick diversion, as its pick-up-and-play traits are rather welcoming. So long as you don't expect to be engrossed for hours on-end (well, depends on your mentality) and are looking for something quick and easy to enjoy, Pain is good stuff. It also makes for some great laughs, especially around friends.
12/30/2007 Arnold Katayev