A slightly interesting socially connected adventure framework in search of an actual game.

Just so we’re clear from the beginning – Linkin Park: 8-Bit Rebellion is a licensed property of a real band used as inspiration for a fictitious setting in an iPhone video game, which is also a schizophrenic mash-up of the fleetingly hip 8-bit graphics craze. If this isn’t meta, then I don’t know what is.

It took me a few moments to wrap my head around it.

Full disclosure: I don’t know Linkin Park. I simply know of them. I think I could place maybe one song by ear. So it’s from this perspective that I fired up the game, somewhat expecting the usual rhythm-based setup. I was surprised to discover something completely different.

Linkin Park 8-Bit Rebellion

At the most basic level, 8-bit Rebellion is a socially connected brawler. You move a character left or right along scrolling 2D spaces by tap-holding the screen edges, and perform a basic attack by tapping anywhere else. This very simple concept is lavishly festooned with role-playing tropes – avatar customization, item collection, even a little apartment you can decorate. There are several weapons to collect and numerous opportunities to shop for virtual merchandise and additional trinkets.

And all of that is connected online, so you can see other custom avatars walking around in “your” game world. They are not actually performing the same actions as they would be in their own respective games – they are represented as simply wandering zombie-like in the background – but you can tap on an avatar and send any number of communication requests, be they “pokes,” Facebook messages, tweets, or even a live chat. Many levels also feature a prominent public billboard of sorts that you can type on, asking or answering questions and generally communicating directly with your fellow iPhone gamers. There are even rewards for receiving a mixture of reputation gains from both the singe-player experience itself, as well as positive ratings from other users. The system is comprehensive, and seeing all the little customized avatars definitely added an extra layer of involvement in a fairly seamless way.

Sadly, all these many layers of fancy net-fu are applied to a very, very poor core game.

8-bit Rebellion tasks you, Nameless Thug, with helping to fight the impending takeover of hideous HD graphics upon the poor benighted citizens of an assumedly happy 8-bit existence. So Linkin Park, who also live in this 8-bit universe, ask you to retrieve six stolen musical tracks which, if assembled together, will inspire the low-res masses to rise up against their HD oppressors… or something. What this means is that you embark on a tedious series of fetch-quests, tapping the screen to dispatch the two to three enemies that charge you with no finesse or strategy on every one of the game’s six levels. You are only given clues about where to go next by talking to the game characters, which works horribly for a mobile game format, as you might pick up the game a day later and no longer know what to do.

Linkin Park 8-Bit Rebellion

This bizarre world resembles a kind of crass fever-dream of casinos and urban strife, where people are regularly taser-ing and flamethrower-ing each other, dying in splashes of green blood. The atmosphere is sneeringly abrasive. At one point I was required to chainsaw several dogs in order to proceed, something I wasn’t particularly interested in doing. The writing involves trite one-liner call backs, nonsensical gibberish, and what I presume to be Linkin Park references, although they were lost on me. (I certainly didn’t learn anything about the band from the game.)

Music was a bright point, consisting of catchy, minimalistic 8-bit remixes of original Linkin Park tracks. The actual “HD” characters themselves look like low-budget vector art, and I think this must be intentional given their “evil” status in the game, but at the end of the day you’re still left staring at some pretty poor (albeit highly customizable) avatars.

The entire main storyline can be completed in under two hours if you don’t bother shopping or interacting too much with other players, and this makes the game a low value for the price. Finishing the story nets you an unreleased Linkin Park track (a real one) which is perhaps of greater value to fans of the band.

Otherwise, the virtue of this complicated social interaction system – which has potential – is hamstrung, employed in service to what would be considered a bad Nintendo title in 1986. It’s just not a very fun game.