by Jed Pressgrove
Thanks to the nearsighted Indie Game: The Movie, developer Edmund McMillen will primarily be remembered as one of the creative minds behind the pop game Super Meat Boy. Playing through McMillen’s catalogue of work shows that the Super Meat Boy story doesn’t sum him up, as games like Time Fcuk and Cunt respectively convey his despair and misogyny. McMillen’s latest game, Fingered, shares a gleeful misanthropy that’s also not as easy to swallow as Super Meat Boy’s cuteness.
In Fingered you play an executioner who must “finger” the guilty party from a line-up of suspects based on eye-witness accounts. As you progress round by round, the accounts become less straightforward and more unreliable. If you execute two innocent people, you have to start over at the first round. Although the suspects are randomly generated, the process gets stale due to the unchanging witnesses and, more significantly, the vagueness of their clues. It’s little help when someone tells you the criminal looks “odd,” “crazy,” or “neat,” as every suspect is drawn in an exaggerated style that reflects McMillen’s contempt for humankind and society.
This unusual design means that you must either decipher (through tedious trial and error) the intentions of various phrases or interpret Fingered as a nihilist’s satire of the U.S. justice system. In any case, McMillen asks you to accept his fatuous ideology. Every successful round ends with death cries as you pull the switch for the electric chair. These screams seem to call for more wit than McMillen’s bland “It’s bad if you send innocent people to the electric chair.” Who cares about innocence when it’s clear McMillen’s hatred for people goes hand in hand with the death penalty? After all, the witnesses beg for your laughter and prejudice as much as the suspects with names like Negative Nancy and Dim Dan. And who is McMillen trying to fool with Bigot Barny? The blunt message about Barny (“He’s racist … ”) indicates that McMillen can’t see the bigotry in himself. (At least McMillen’s juvenile Cunt openly admits his fear of and disdain toward women.) According to one of the post-execution newspapers, “I stoled the TV!” might be the last words of a dark-skinned criminal, but since McMillen’s game uses randomness, good luck guessing whether that remark could have been intentionally racist. Fingered’s attention-to-detail tests might recall Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please, but the latter knew the point it wanted to make (despite being overrated). Like a bumbling detective, Fingered is clueless.