Cult Caravan: Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Giants: Citizen Kabuto was a third-person shooter that thrust the gamer into three different character viewpoints a la the more successful MDK series. Giants introduces the loutish, Barrow Boy-accented Meccaryns, who are searching for two of their number that had an untimely crash on an unknown planet. Unfortunately for them, it’s filled with a happy, robed, big-headed tribe of harmless and excitable blokes called Smarties, who are being terrorized by pretty much every other thing on the planet, including tunneling, Zerg-like beasts called Rippers, the magical Sea Reapers, led by the evil Queen Sappho and her beautiful, rebellious daughter Delphi, and one helluva big Godzilla-crossed-with-King-Kong-eating bastard, Kabuto. Together, they make up the delightful cast of Giants, and you get a chance to blow between seven and fifty shades of something-or-other out of every single one of them over the course of the single player campaign.
Initially you control Baz, the leader and sole sensible member of the hapless troop of drunken, promiscuous and near-terminally daft Meccaryns. After finding your mate Tel teetering off the edge of a cliff and rescuing the primary school Smartie Akmed (though he prefers to be called Timmy) from a grisly end at the hands of the rippers, the trio find Reg, who was kidnapped by the Sea Reapers while in the middle of a game of Postman’s Knock with Timmy’s mother. A tragedy unites the five Meccs with the Smarties in a bid to liberate their people from the tyranny of Sappho and her subordinates.
Giants was one of the funniest games ever released, with a plot that centred on a group of gormless I.T. Department soldiers trying to get pissed/their end away on the holiday planet Majorca, and end up inadvertently starting a revolution. The dialogue is delivered with wonderful comic timing and intonation on almost every line by characters that are so well defined, they could break an LCD screen just by looking at it. The highlight of these is the cranky, thieving, batshit-insane, vindictive and horny old Smartie Borjoyzee, Timmy’s granddad, who finds himself the unwitting catalyst and tactician of the uprising. Following a desperate kidnap/rescue of the princess Delphi, the team is assembled and prepares to wage war.
On the surface, Giants is a straightforward shoot-em-up. There’s nothing revelatory about how it plays, bar some of the excellent weaponry (namely the apocalypse-at-your-fingertips Millenium Mortar), but it unites several differing genres so easily. You can usually go in all guns blazing and come out the other end unscathed with hilarious results. Though if you prefer, you can explore a surprising level of tactical planning to try and finish each mission more efficiently, particularly in Delphi’s campaign, where the levels were similar to Commandos in their tactical, puzzle-solving bases. There’s a beautiful contrast to the three points of view, from the lightweight, airborne, base-building Meccs, the seacombing, magic-infused Delphi and the all-stomping, fire-breathing Kabuto.
The ‘British’ accents of the Smarties, in stark contrast to the excellent voices of the Meccaryns, are hilariously, awfully out of joint, sometimes sounding like Alan Partridge putting on a Scottish accent, others sounding like Enda Kenny impersonating Mick McCarthy. The Monkey Island-like tones of the Sea Reapermen are also great, though only experienced up close once you have the deployable hedge with which to sneak past guard posts, Snake Solid-style. The other notable element of the game’s arsenal is the Pop-Up Bomb, a weapon that physically deforms the whole level once deployed and detonated.
Despite being hilarious and easy to pick up and play, Giants completely tanked sales-wise, mainly attributed to the ‘British’ humour of the game not translating well in the United States. The multiplayer was also highly ambitious, potentially pitching one player into a real-time strategy game with the Meccs against a resource-gathering, Rampage homage Kabuto player in a mish-mash of genres. The execution of the mix (which brings out inevitable bugs) turned a lot of people off and, despite hugely positive reviews from just about everywhere, it just didn’t make a dent in the market. And lo, a genuinely great game was laid to rest, criminally underappreciated and rarely referenced nearly 12 years after its release.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto will easily give the gamer a couple of days’ play, a story drenched in barmy comedy, an unforgettable cast of characters and a cross-eyed ninja dwarf who references one of the greatest Monty Python sketches of all time.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto is available on GOG.com for mere pennies. A true lost classic.