Experience the busy life of seafaring science folk in this Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator. Perform complex experiments with your explosive harpoons on some of the world's largest mammals - and don't worry about the necessary bloodshed, it's all in the name of progress!
Harpooned describes itself as "a Cetacean Research Simulator, where you play the role of a Japanese scientist performing research on whales around Antarctica". So presumably you're expecting a review of some vaguely interesting RTS resource management type game. Well you'd be partly right, Harpooned is certainly contained with the management of resources all right, but it's not an RTS at all. It's a vertically scrolling shoot em up.
Your job is to "research" whales by shooting as many of them as possible from your research ship and collecting the meat for "study". At the end of each level the meat you have collected is transferred to the mother ship for extra study and you're told just how many cans of pet food and hamburgers your "research" has produced. (Duds, are you on a commission from the patent holders of quotation marks, or what? - JM)
That's not to say that Harpooned takes advantage of its position as a political tool to be a slapdash game, far from it. Graphically it's very solid with excellent detail in the ice bergs, whales and your ship especially. The music is repetitive but beautiful and fits the general tone of the game superbly. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this. It plays well too, the controls and animation are smooth, it responds well and you're never at a loss for what you're supposed to do. While not especially challenging (you will complete it on the first try, that's kinda the point) it does throw extra obstacles such as protesters and news helicopters at you from the level 2 and as such there is actually some long term mileage in going for high scores. And when a full game is only 10-15 minutes or so, it's the kind of high score competition you could conceivably get the whole family in on. (Assuming that your family are into whaling - JM)
As you go through the levels, the political points are made in a commendably subtly but unmissable way as while the central aim of the game remains the same, the game does prompt you with the reasons for your mission such as "The whales seem to be scared of our ships, we must kill more to try and understand why" and "Some species are extinct, we must kill some of the remaining species to research why this may be the case". This leads to the final level of the game being incredibly Spartan with almost no whales, eventually leading to... (Spoilers removed! - JM)
It's a dramatic and surprisingly emotional way to make a very mature point, but ultimately (as a game) Harpooned is not that special, although by no means unpleasant and clearly a labour of love. However, there is absolutely no reason in the world why you should not play it, and make sure everyone you know plays it as well. It's by equal measure sad, fun and an absolutely commendable way to make an important political point. My hat is off to the developer and it would be a much better world if everyone could make an argument well in this manner.