(It's highly advised to play the game before reading this article)
All right, let's be honest. The La La Land games do not make much sense. But that's what makes them so much fun.
This time, Biggt starts off being confronted with a heavily-pixelated large sprite that proclaims "ia m a poor fishhead in need of money. it's okay to steal from the rich cos they have lots to spare!" And thus, you travel through the rich people's home and take from a pile of gold, handful by handful, until the fish-head has enough to buy a necklace. Meanwhile, a song dedicated to the beautiful people of earth looms over Biggt’s deeds (with lyrics that go: “an ecology song that is for hearts that care, protect, conserve, love and share”). Upon returning to the rich, who are now dead, the game rhetorically asks "without money how were the nobles to survive?".
La La Land 2 deliberately puts and holds the player on the wrong leg. The loading screen ("Music, Ecology and You!") suggests the game might teach you something about the harmony between you and nature, only to fill your screen with horrifying pixel pollution. The fish-head suggests that stealing from the rich will bring justice, but your heroic deeds lead to death and despair. Maybe the game is trying to show how ugly greed and consumerism is, while the dirty capitalists drink away the little people's tears. Maybe the game is actually showing us the ambiguity of supersymmetric manifolds in Danielewski’s theory of agoraphocis. It's your call.
Besides being fun for being plain-out-right weird, La La Land games achieve this by following a four-step program for the player: Observe, Understand, Execute and Receive Reward.
When the player is dropped into the world of La La Land 2, the screen is suddenly covered with twitching, oversized pixels vaguely resembling a cat standing on its hind legs and, erm, a fish-head, apparently. The texts rapidly blink from side to side and around the screen. The speakers introduce the kind of song you’d never listen to for your own pleasure, but want to share with all your friends because you’re sure it’s stranger than anything they’ve forced you to listen to. That’s the observing part. After fiddling with the arrow buttons, the player will become aware they are in control of the cat. And after translating the texts and walking around, it’ll become clear to the player that they have to take money from from the right screen and bring it to the left screen. That’s the understanding part. The execution part is easy: all the player has to do is walk left and right. There’s no death, strategy or tricky jumps in this “game”. With each trip, the game makes it clear you’re doing the right thing with visual cues: the fish-head thanks you as his total money grows and the nobles’ cat cries more and more for the loss of gold (at least, that’s what I make of it). Eventually, the reward climaxes with the fish-head boastfully showing off its (her?) new shiny, and the nobles are knocked out cold.
La La Land 2 purposely enhances the first two steps, the parts where you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to do, putting the player in a long status of confusion. Once the player figures out what to do, she or he coasts through it, ultimately giving the player a clear sign when they achieve their goal. That way, all the initial anxiety is washed away, letting the player contentedly put this strange world aside and get back to the world where everything makes sense (or try the other La La Land games (found here).
Ed: Robert fancies a bit of Marxist critique, here's his lens on the game:
- You steal from the rich (who apparently don't need that money, according to the fish)
- There's this weird song that's about sharing the ecology (left-wing, but not really Marxist)
but then there's:
- The fish-head uses the money to buy luxuries (that's not what Marxism is about)
- The rich die because of your actions (that's also not what Marxism is about)
- The game is about taking from the rich and bringing to the poor for social justice
- The cruel capitalists drink the tears of the poor as if it were wine
- But in the end, even the poor cannot help but waste their money on luxuries, like necklaces
- Capitalism is a zero-sum system: somebody is going to have to lose, including in this game