Corporations have vast control of the world. Open fascism is on the rise. Oh, I’m not talking about our world. Our world does not have sick suits made out of meat – but the world of EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER does.
Extreme Meatpunks Forever (or Extreme Meatpunks Forever: Powered by Blood) is a game directed by Heather Flowers and it is an episodic game, with its first season out in its entirety. In an age of big games refusing to commit to any message, Extreme Meatpunks Forever wholeheartedly wears its leftist ideology on its sleeve.
The first episodes of the game quickly establishes the whos and whats of the game’s world. We have Sam, a guy that has trouble connecting to other people. We have Brad, a trans meme lord looking for respect. There is Cass, and they are the only one in the playable cast with a brain cell. And then there’s Lianna, a gal that really wants to beat up some fascists.
And there’s a whole lot of them. In a dystopic world where the sun disappeared, fascists are everywhere. Meatpunks act as an opposing force to them and Lianna tries to establish her own cell, but she and the new ragtag gang are forced to flee after they beat up the sheriff’s fash son. On the run through the desert, our heroes try to join up with the Meatpunks up in Hopeville, bonding and learning about themselves on the way. And killing a whole bunch of fash with meat mechs.
Oh that’s right: everyone has a mech made out of meat and they appear to have taken the place of cars. Why? Who cares. It’s very cool. Probably good for the environment, too. Hate to read the description of jamming that thing into spines whenever somebody gets in one, though. It’s not good to me.
In between Extreme Meatpunks Forever‘s visual novel segments, you pilot meat mechs to fight fash standing in your way. These gameplay segments are top-down fights where you try to punch enemies off cliffs, which can be found everywhere for some reason. Each character has a unique secondary and passive ability; personally, I preferred alternating between Lianna and Brad. I like Lianna because I like having fast builds in games and pulling off Brad’s huge punch is cool as hell.
I also love that each character has their own take on the battle theme that fits who they are. Sam the farmer’s got some bluegrass mixed in his version, Lianna’s is straight punk music, etc. Cass’ theme is my favorite out of them even though I didn’t use them too much in my playthroughs. Their theme has this dramatic build-up to it, which feels perfect in the context of the one fight you’re required to use them for. In general, the soundtrack for Extreme Meatpunks Forever, composed by Visager, is wonderful, fitting the game’s punk sensibilities and setting.
For those that don’t care for these segments, you can choose to skip the segment after getting a game over; I kinda wish that at that point though, maybe include an option to skip fights altogether. I did like these segments, but they’re just kinda okay and aside from the last fight, they kinda wore thin with me.
Besides, the visual novel segments are the main, dare I say, meat, of the game. The thing to know about Extreme Meatpunks Forever is that its dialogue is informal as hell. Dialogue sometimes ignores capitalization, nor does it always use punctuation correctly. In fact, a lot of Brad’s dialogue just feels like he was casually tweeting stuff out – which makes sense, as he declares himself to be always online. The dialogue is all just Twitter discourse put into visual novel form, which I think strengthens the sillier moments. In fact, Extreme Meatpunks Forever feels like a distillation of my personal Twitter experience of shitposting gay leftists hollering about absurdism, anime and the rise of fascism. In contrast, the narration is more flowery and formal, and I feel the contrast highlights the more important bits of the story told through narration.
Extreme Meatpunks Forever is a game that encourages replays. There isn’t a central main character (though Cass gets a lot more focus toward the end). Instead, story choices asks you whose perspective you want to switch to, allowing you to follow around different sets of characters that will also give further choices to unlock more dialogue. The act of picking a character for the meat suit segments is also significant, as you’ll be shown how the character feels about the events that just transpired as they jam a spike into themselves. Only playing the game once means missing out on a bunch of character perspectives and character development. I personally related to each of the characters on some level, from depressed to shitposter, and I sincerely loved to see them. Thankfully, play sessions of the game are short, so getting to see stuff I missed like Cass’ depressing encounter with someone in the desert was easy to do.
The art of Extreme Meatpunks Forever is strange. The visual novel segments have characters that stick to a specific color scheme set against backgrounds constructed with ASCII art. The gameplay segments looks like an old flash game. There is a few pieces of cutscene art but they’re not even of the same style. It’s all kinda inconsistent. However, for the sake of the game’s creation, it doesn’t matter.
“It’s not about fancy production values, it’s about the strength of your conviction and how well it shines through. If your game can exude raw fury then there’s nothing else in the world like it,” Heather Flowers wrote, in the MEATPUNK MANIFESTO, a set of rules she wrote out reflecting her work for the Manifesto Jam.
For the sake of making something honest, the production doesn’t matter as long as it succeeds at saying what needs to be said. In some ways, it reminds me of a game I’m also currently playing through, the original Nier. The original Nier does not look good even for its time and isn’t exactly the greatest action RPG – but shining through it is a strong emotional narrative and world that carries the experience. Much like Nier, Extreme Meatpunks Forever shines through with its own narrative: an honest, wrathful threat toward a growing far right and finding solidarity with others.
Extreme Meatpunks Forever is a game that openly upholds its ideals. It’s a game with a lot of laughs, hope and despair. And it’s not over yet. The game ends on a big cliffhanger meant to lead into Season 2, which is planned to have a Kickstarter later this summer. I honestly love this game and I, for one, am looking forward to and hoping that the heroes gang together in a polyamorous relationship to bash more fash heads with meat mechs.