Fred Zeleny is rather a
conniss… conna…lover of the sort of things we cover in Bright Shiny Things, so I thought this go-’round I’d let Fred tell you about one of his favorites. Mr. Zeleny, you have the floor….
Imagine Sid Meier’s Pirates!, but replace piracy on the high seas with depth-defying salvage in treacherous waters. Less swordplay and swashbuckling, and more steampunk and surrealism. But keep the minigame action and addictive qualities.
Oh, and add the occasional geyser of blood. Never forget geysers of blood.
Now you have One Ton Ghost’s hilarious, award-winning browser game, Iron Dukes.
Like a lumbering juggernaut, Iron Dukes is basically three minigames welded into one whole. Iron Dukes is also wildly, ridiculously funny, which takes it out of the realm of lumbering juggernauts. Unless we’re talking about some sort of lumbering vaudeville juggernaut. In which case, you’re talking about Fatty Arbuckle, the 1920s star of stage and screen who was constructed of ten tons of solid steel and required a support crew of twenty to keep provide coal for his furnace. The preferred delivery method for this fuel was in the form of pies to the face.
Leaving behind all concepts of steampunk vaudevillians, the three minigames that make up Iron Dukes are light fare: enjoyable, but not very complex. In other games, this would be a negative, but the real charm of the game is the wit and surrealism in the writing. Much like chips are merely a vehicle for sauce, Iron Duke’s minigames are just a vehicle for getting a chance to acquire more of the strange and hilarious items. The fact that the minigames themselves are often funny is just a nice bonus.
Reading the descriptions of items in the store is enough to make me have to pause for breath, and seeing my characters in their increasingly ridiculous salvage attire really hits it home. The overarching plot is just as surreal, as it sees you collecting deep sea salvage from lost seas, fighting monsters of the deep including island-sized dolphins, and outfitting a fighting crew in an attempt to get revenge on the evil warlock Thomas Edison. Seriously.
Iron Dukes is still only available in demo form, but considering its recent surge of popularity â€“ from winning the Independent Game Festival award for browser-based games and from its mention on Penny Arcade â€“ it’s only a matter of time before the final, fully-polished form shows up on your doorstep, smiling and smelling damply of grease. It’s not a tremendously deep game, like Pirates!, but it’s a treasure trove of style and humor.