“Daddy, it looks like those men are fighting.”
“Yes it does, son. Yes it does…”
Inflatality is technically the idea of a four-year-old boy.
The auspicious beginning: Australian game developer Rick Salter is driving past a car dealership. Like any respectable car dealership trying to hawk off cars, it had inflatable men.
Inflatable men. You know the type: strange fluorescent arms, like a nightmarish bouncy castle gone sentient, flailing in whatever wind they can gather. What do you even call those things? Inflatable men? ‘Wavers’ is the technical term, I think. Scary, weird creations those inflatable men.
“Daddy, they’re fighting.” That’s what Rick’s son had said back then. And he was right. Side-by-side, yellow and red, winging huge haymakers in the breeze. Imagine these inflatable men were actually in the process of settling some long borne grudge, how hilarious would that be?
One quick stroke of the chin later and Rick had an idea for a video game. That video game is Inflatality. A video game about inflatable men fighting to the inflatable death across a 2D plane. It’s fucking bonkers.
Inflatality has been one of the breakout stars at PAX Australia this year. It doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
Actually it makes all the sense in the world.
I’m handed the controller. I’m playing this game about inflatable men fighting.
In a weird way, in a correct way, it barely feels like I’m in control. This makes sense because I am an inflatable man. I am rooted to the spot. I am the most bendy rock-em sock-em robot ever. The left analogue stick allows me to duck and weave clumsily, the right analogue stick allows me to throw looping hooks that wouldn’t hurt a goddamn fly. But if I hit my inflatable man opponent enough times he will scoot off into the sky like a deflated balloon.
It’s like a hilarious, somehow harmless fist-fight between two drunk toddlers.
I lose the first battle. But with a better handle on the controls, I win the second. I enjoyed the experience. Inflatality is hardly Evo material, but it’s a stupid amount of fun in the right hands. Rock-em Sock-em Robots is an apt comparison. There’s hardly any skill involved. In fact, it barely even feels like you’re in control at all. Inflatality feels like a constant struggle against physical forces you cannot possibly understand or harness, but that’s how a game like this should feel.
In a strange way Inflatality is more about the crowd behind me, cheering on every inflatable slap like it was some twisted gladiatorial duel to the inflatable death. They’re hollering and baying, waiting for one of us to flap lifelessly into the void and I thought to myself, this isn’t a video game, it’s a spectator sport.
This is a game for drunk people. For people who just want to mess around and slap each other with zero real life consequences. For people who want to laugh at the absurdity of two inflatable men fighting. Truly, I am glad this video game exists.
Rick Salter’s son had the right idea. Even if those inflatable men aren’t fighting, they damn well should be. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.