Review: Restraining Order

Restraining Order

Restraining Order

Here’s a game I’ve been meaning to write about for a while:
Restraining Order by Bigpants Games

Restraining Order has been out for a while now, though I was lucky enough to get to see it mid-production thanks to the perennially awesome Jim McGinley. It didn’t change a lot from when I saw it first to when I thoroughly replayed it again recently, but that seems to be mostly due to the accuracy of it’s vision.

Restraining Order is a baleful tale of love and longing. It puts you in the shoes of a hopeless romantic seeking your perfect love. The premise is… twisted, and the play is simple. You can do left and right, jump (and make a little double jump), and attack. You can’t really lose, as far as I could see,  though you may be tempted to give up at some point, as it does get increasingly frustrating (and silly).

Essentially, you chase a fleeing woman (usually) by running right across the screen. Police officers try to stop your pursuit, and you need to either avoid them or take them out — both of which are fairly easy to do. Run right long enough and eventually, you’ll make it closer to your muse and begin to croon some incredibly creepy love songs to your beloved. And then you go to prison.

The game has a selection of oddities added each level to keep things a fresh. You meet four kinds of police, eventually — the usual blue, electrified yellow, jumping red, and then eventually you’ll find giants. each one is likely to trip you up the first time you encounter them, but the only consequence of getting caught is being ‘Restrained for 1 Year — then released!’ (I may be paraphrasing), which doesn’t detract from your progress, it merely slows things for a second. (In fact, the ‘caught’ sequence can be skipped entirely.)

Restraining Order has an old school arcade vibe to it (unrelenting difficulty, narrow player options and abilities, and a single minded goal) combined with more modern sensibilities (infinite retries, forgiving controls). So as the play goes, it’s nothing really new. What makes Restraining Order worth the 2o-odd-minutes you’ll need to complete it’s 5 or so stages is the really effective, creepy story that surrounds its concept.

The player is doing something ‘wrong’, and is repeated ‘punished’ for it. The flavor of the game does a great job contrasting our goals as a player (reach the end) with our understanding of morality (stalking is bad) by overlapping them and does so with a signature Bigpants silliness.

I don’t know if it was the intent, but I couldn’t help but feel that Restraining Order is making commentary on a number of gaming tropes — like the contrived ‘save the princess’ mentality present in many games, or how games will often ask you to do something violent and terrible and reward you for them (ala GTA). It’s probes the idea of portraying the player as a hero, by letting you play a weird, drooling, singing, flailing, creep.

The game is accessible, hilarious, and features some very nice music and sound. While it can drag on a bit at times, or get a little frustrating, it’s well worth the effort to get your ‘happy ending’.

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3 Responses to “Review: Restraining Order”

  1. Jimbo Slice Says:

    What a pleasant surprise! Not only do renew posting duties, but you review my game. Double Happiness!

    I wish I was making a commentary on a number of gaming tropes! That’s a genius insight that I never noticed. There was no question the green maniac needed to be locked up for his actions, but I never noticed the contrast with ingrained themes.

    My goal was really gameplay. By removing ladders and platforms (C64 Green Beret), enemies that forced you to slow down (Arcade Kung Fu), and long range attacks the player is forced into a flowing river of close range action. This “zone” is my favourite part of arcade games, now it’s the entire game.

    The player never needs to stop running forward. The game is actually easier (and more fun) if you keep running.

    • Greg Says:

      I’d say you achieved your goal — RO is a good example of very refined arcade play. The limitation of player options is used quite effectively, though it does make you pretty twitchy after a while. (I know that in one of the later stages, in the last section where red police stream in from both sides and cancel each other out, I found myself tweaking out several times and jumping by reflex.)

  2. Restraining Order – fun but a bit disturbing game :: FrostClick.com :: 100% Legal Downloads for FrostWire - Free Movies, Videos, Music, Software, Graphics Says:

    […] Links: Restraining Order Official Website Restraining Order on Play This Thing Restraining Order on Art of Game Permalink Posted on November 10, 2010 at 8:31 AM < Previous Post Next Post > […]

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