Strip ’Em All – The Fanatic
Play Strip ’Em All,
the story building game where you use psychology to solve puzzles and play with comics!
Play The Fanatic,
the fourth game comic in Strip ’Em All!
At a first glance the panel set looks identical to the bodybuilder panel set in The Egocentric level. Considering the title of the currently wanted comic, that surely can’t be? The bodybuilder of that level appeared as the very embodiment of fanaticism so all we would have to do was to lay down the very same comic and presto – level completed. Sure enough, a closer inspection reveals conspicuous discrepancies. The Bodybuilder here reacts totally differently to the news about the life threatening muscle building drug. In short, he reacts like a rather normal person and not like the single minded maniac we encountered earlier. We then remember the text on the title screen; the theme of this level is rather the cause of fanaticism than fanaticism itself. How do we turn his passion for bodybuilding into an obsession? How do we turn the current panels into the already encountered panels of The Egocentric level? Clicking the radio has no effect. Perhaps expectedly so, as the correct radio voice bubble already seems to be in place. If we haven’t already done so, we now order the panels correctly in hope of gathering clues from the resulting story.
The joke here is that the few weeks of Dipuranin supplementing has already made him bald as a billiard ball. A fact that he is happily unaware of. But the punch feels feeble and the monologue somehow unfinished - why does he bring up the sleep disorder narcolepsy? The explanation for bringing up narcolepsy lies in the radio panel. If we study the radio voice bubble of that panel, it actually does diverge compared to the bubble of The Egocentric level. This time it lists several neurological and mental disorders instead of conveniently lumping them together as one. The first symptom, baldness, is undoubtedly already in place. The second one, denialism, is apparently also so. The third symptom is narcolepsy. We now recall that the eyes were sometimes clickable in The Egocentric level and we suspect a connection. Indeed, clicking the eyes makes our guy fall asleep at an instant!
As the publish comment asks: What does he dream about? Perhaps we’ll find out if we instead put the panel in the first position and induce the narcoleptic sleep once again. Four of the following panels transform to dream depicting panels. Another panel is slightly modified and shows our guy with closed eyes and with a facial expression that makes it clear that the dream he is having is a nightmare. The publish comment now hints about the need to wake up. While we can click to open the same pair of eyes that we closed, this does not correspond to an awakening but simply to the undo of the act of falling asleep. What about the eyes of the other panel? A mouse roll-over triggers a thought bubble that explains that they are indeed meant to be clicked but only after the nightmare has reached its terrifying climax. So let’s figure this nightmare out! With the fall asleep panel in the first position and the wake up panel in the last position, we only have to figure out the order of the four nightmare panels.
Aha, surely you are now able to sympathise with the bodybuilder. Despite all his efforts, including torturous workouts, scientifically planned diets, and costly supplements, he is still in doubt about his big guy status! This is a wake up call! Nothing is going to stop him now! He is going all the way... We click the eyes of the last panel and all the panels (the preceding panels and the clicked panel itself) change back to their familiar look but now they actually matches - word for word - the panels of The Egocentric level. Now all we have to do is to rearrange the panels once more and this time the theme of death & glory will fit the title (The Fanatic) well.
That’s it. Level completed! But let’s hang around for a while and consider the list of symptoms. Not only do they have been eerily well predicted, they have also emerged worryingly fast. Amnesia, memory loss, explains why he does not seem to recognise the news when they are delivered the second time. The penultimate step, the one that leads to fanaticism, has also already been taken. Thus only the final stop, painful death, remains. Well, if he continues to fall asleep behind the wheel, he may not last long enough to experience that painful death in particular. Wait, what happens if we click those eyes once again? We may recognise the resulting panel. Sleep does not onset. Daydreaming does! However, if falling asleep occurs in other panels than the very last one, the subsequent panels diverge compared to The Egocentric level. This time the daydreaming progresses and does so in a way exactly parallel to the previous nightmare, only this time the paramedics have the courtesy to compliment their cargo.
We can undo the act of daydreaming by clicking the same pair of eyes that inflicted it. May we also advance the story, by letting the daydream have its run and then wake up in a closing panel? Well, the eyes of the potential wake up panel do not seem clickable. A mouse roll over the head does trigger a thought bubble, but it merely refers back to the kind remarks of the stretcher carriers in the preceding panel. However, a steering wheel has conspicuously entered the picture and demands our attention. Driving with closed eyes seems like an accident waiting to happen and a click on the wheel actually makes it happen! If the wheel panel is the last panel nothing more happens. Actually it’s Game Over and you have to restart the game to try again. Well, this should discourage everyone but the real fans to persevere.
While the nightmare wake up had to occur after the climax, it turns out that the accident can happen anytime while daydreaming, as long as the steering wheel panel is placed somewhere after the panel that actually launches the daydream. Naturally we are curious about the outcome of the accident and we therefore place the steering wheel panel at the very beginning, second only to the launch panel. Let’s do a mouse roll-over to read his thoughts before we click on the steering wheel: “I can’t wait (to be the biggest corpse ever)”, he muses. How appropriate ...
For the third time the scene with the stretcher carrying paramedics is recalled. Only this time, the clear lines of the drawings tells us this is really happening; it’s not a dream. It turns out reality has not much in common with neither the nightmare, nor the daydream. The paramedics seem rather indifferent towards our protagonist and instead start a meta dialogue that hints that the game now has changed to pure pixel hunting, and furthermore, pixel hunting of the rather mindless kind. While this is part joke, part tribute to Richard Scarry’s children book Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, it is also a mechanic that can be utilized to encourage careful viewing and reading of the comics. This was actually one of the incentives behind Strip ‘Em All as we felt that comics are often too hastily read and the art is not given the attention if deserves. So “pixel hunting” is actually a mechanic that we wish to exploit more in future game comics, although in a somewhat more clever manner than exampled here.