Gaming action takes a backseat for comedy

Penny Arcade Adventures is packed with depraved humour

Last year, when I was playing Valve's brilliant puzzle game Portal, I felt like laughing. I'm not sure when I first noticed it; perhaps it was when GLaDOS, the artificial intelligence, promised me "grief counselling and cake".

Most video games take themselves way too seriously. Would it kill the hard-boiled heroes of Halo or Gears of War to crack a smile? We've found some games that will certainly have you rolling in the aisles.


Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode One (Hothead, Xbox 360): Penny Arcade Adventures sees your house destroyed by a robot. With the help of two characters, Tycho and Gabe, you have to find out what's behind the attack.

The jokes are wonderfully depraved (the clowns make squeaking noises as they die) and, for the most part, too raunchy for kids. The laughs are complemented by the strip's art style, which makes this one of the best-looking games on Xbox Live Arcade.

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys (Ignition, Nintendo DS): This goofy adventure deftly combines two B-movie threats – the alien invasion and the undead uprising. What if Earth were attacked by floating brains? Who better to stop them than zombies, who, after all, feast on grey matter?

The three zombies are Lefty, who has one stretchy arm; Fins, whose tentacles enable him to climb walls; and Half-Pipe, a legless skateboarder. You have to keep switching between the characters to hunt down all the brains, making use of power-ups like Fins' flaming vomit.

Battle of the Bands (THQ, Wii): This rhythm game adds an element of sublime silliness to the duelling-instruments competition popularised by Guitar Hero. The gimmick is that you don't have to be a rocker – you can control a hip-hop posse, a mariachi group or a band.

It's very funny to hear country twangers and mariachis duelling with their respective versions of, say, Cypress Hill's Insane in the Brain. The 30 songs take awhile to play through and the gag may wear thin in solo mode, but it's a hoot at parties.

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