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What would a video game developed in 1923 by a bunch of angry modern artists look like? That’s the alternate future hypothetical Steve Mehallo sought to answer when creating FLOMM! THE BATTLE For MODeRN 1923, an iOS game released in February for iPhone and iPad in which you battle through the resistance of tradition as a warrior for the avant-garde.
The game’s touch controls are pretty simple, and allow you to guide your modernist spirit symbol of choice — whether it be the red Bruno Munari-esque “positavo” or yellow “ByBy” plane — and shoot whatever blocks your way. Opponents on the battlefield include classical columns — the “shadows of antiquity” — rococo blobs of “rotting extravagance,” and expired parking meters that serve as “enforcers of time and place.”
Mehallo told Jess Joho at Kill Screen that the game was inspired by his arcade experiences in the 1980s and teaching design history in California colleges. The depth and variety of the graphics in the game make it continuously visually compelling, whether you’re soaring over heavy Bauhaus sans-serif block letters or collages of imagery that seems inspired by Kurt Schwitters’s newspaper clipping assemblages. I found the gameplay initially frustrating, as just the slightest touch against an impeding objects makes your avatar explode into a colorful cloud and the shooting didn’t always seem to work. However, as the game’s manifesto reads (and how many video games have a manifesto?): “If it’s not working, start over. If that doesn’t work, start over again. Repeat.”
Turning the tension between new and traditional art into an actual conflict is a fun idea for a game, and the final screen seen by losing players — “Tradition Wins!” — encourages you to keep fighting. Although you aren’t going to learn much about art history just plowing through the enemies, FLOMM! includes a thorough online component where you can explore the influences behind it.