27
Nov 09

The Most Important Game Ever Made #21: The Sea Of Green

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Whatever happened to this series? Work happened, and continues to happen. This is the crunch time for about three seperate projects, with a fourth waiting in the wings. Expect forward progress on TMIGEM to be glacial, two a week or less – but it WILL get finished. At some point.

In the meantime, goodbye touring, hello great whacking doses of LSD!

That’s not the Beatles, but Beyond, a chirpy Japanese pop combo with some kind of fun fetish. But even they can’t get away from the song’s central brand – the image of that big yellow sub, made famous by the cartoon – and neither can the Beatlebots, as we’ll see in this special warming-up-to-it-again edition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_re3rEFKaw

The game has somewhat drastically moved on – we’re into the ‘dreamscape’ stage, where the Beatlebots sit in a cramped-looking studio for the first few bars of the song before coming up on the windowpane and entering a world of pure music, which seems suspiciously like a low-budget live-action version of… Yellow Submarine. You shock me chiz chiz chiz.

Actually, this is a good introduction to the concept – the air in the studio becomes waterlike, bubbles float up and Ringobot stares into the distance looking like he’s having a massive freakout before everything flashes white and we find ourselves under the waves in Sergeant Pepper outfits. This is the first time in the game we’ve seen these – the Beatlebots no longer versions of real people, but now the versions of their cartoon avatars. Ever since the Beatles took a look at Yellow Submarine The Movie and realised that it was good enough to give their personal thumbs-up to, the look and feel of it has been absorbed into What The Beatles Represent (TM) – a cartoon happyworld that’s less sex-n’-drugs than Robert Crumb, more rock-and-roll than Disney. Innocent enough for the Night Garden generation, yet screamingly authentic enough for the most ardent rockist. Non-conformist but deliciously commercial, a happy accident of branding that’s decreed the ‘look’ of all Beatles-related creations from now to the end of time. Boot up Beatles Rock Band and the dominant flavour isn’t the scratchy black-and-white art of Klaus Voorman, or the band tossing dismembered babies around.

Everything – even the concept of the ‘dreamscapes’ themselves – is from Yellow Submarine. This is the moment where the Beatles find their perfect visual shorthand, and they’re not afraid to base their whole game on it. And why not? These levels in particular are based on Sergeant Pepper, which is where the primary-coloured marching-band jackets come from, and the moustaches, and a lot of the groundwork for the film. As we continue on through the remains of the back catalogue, we’ll start to see that Pepperland visual mutating into something else – but it’s good enough for the menu screens, and it’s good enough for right now.

As for the song… well, it’s pretty basic stuff in comparison – a nice little campfire tune in which Ringo details a tall story about a magic submarine, or possibly an allegorical history of the band so far. All that stuff about finding a sea of green – folding green, surely? Maybe the man who sailed the sea was Brian Epstein. Maybe not – I’ve done an awful lot of this kind of noodling during the first half of this series, and now that I’m coming back to it after a long absence, I find I haven’t the strength. I’m more interested in Ringo’s fantasies of an eternal cameraderie, an endless space of friends and music and good fellowship, locked off under the sea. By this time, strains had set into the fabric of the band, and Ringo was the one who resented them enough to eventually quit – albeit in the manner of Hawkeye quitting the Avengers, only to have a brief solo adventure and come back to the group by the end of the issue. So there’s something quite affecting about him being the mouthpiece for this paean to getting along.

Of course, McCartney wrote it for Ringo to sing, which just makes it seem weird. Oh well, that’s life in a cramped metal can under endless crushing fathoms for you. Even a bright yellow one.

NEXT: I honestly can’t remember, it’s been that long. But I suspect we’re in for double damage with Pepperland brand saga ‘Sergeant Pepper’s LHCB’ followed by another ode to buddyhood from Ringo, so it’ll probably take me another month to write.

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