Caution – It is possible that certain scenes in this post are shocking to an unwarned public. Or maybe not…
(There’s also spoilers)
Since I mentioned Off in the last post, I feel like this is a good time to talk about it, at least for a little bit. I unfortunately don’t have a lot of time, so let’s just get started!
Off is a weird, weird game. A French RPG, it’s the story of a baseball player, known simply as “the Batter”, on his quest to purify the world. While the actual gameplay isn’t too interesting to be perfectly honest, the game’s surreal and disturbing atmosphere, bizarre plot and character designs, and fantastic soundtrack make Off worth playing.
The Batter himself currently has the honor of being my favorite video game protagonist. (though Niko has recently shown to be a strong contender.) Here he is purifying some spectres in an early promotional comic drawn by the developer:
I think this comic does a decent job of showing who the Batter is. A stoic man who speaks as much as necessary, he takes every opportunity he can to eliminate the spectres that terrorize the world’s inhabitants. No amount of demons or bedsheet ghosts will stop him from cleansing the world of evil with his holy baseball bat. In other words, he’s like a ghostbuster that plays baseball.
(The weird masked man with the heart shirt is Zacharie, the fan favorite fourth wall-breaking merchant. I’m not sure what he’s even doing here, actually.)
However, this comic only shows who the Batter is on the surface. As the game progresses, it’s slowly revealed that his intentions are not as noble as they seem. The depths of the Batter’s personality can be properly explored through interactions with another character: the ever-smiling cat known as the Judge.
The Judge is the first character that the Batter encounters, and decides to assist with what the Batter calls his “sacred mission”. In direct contrast to the Batter’s simple, straightforward speech, the Judge is absurdly eloquent, and frequently describes clear and obvious concepts in a needlessly complex manner. For example, here he is basically saying “level up so you can win fights”. With the Judge’s support and guidance, the Batter makes it through Zone 1 and defeats its reviled Guardian Dedan, purifying it.
It’s in Zone 2 where the Batter’s intentions begin to be called into question. The Judge tells the player that he has a brother, named Valerie, who went mad and started calling himself Japhet, the Guardian of Zone 2. Once they reach the top of the Great Library where Valerie resides, the Judge tries to persuade him to come home with him to Zone 0. However, it’s revealed that Valerie had eaten Japhet, and because he was “too nice to chew through a little bird”, he became controlled from the inside. For the first time in the game, the Judge is speechless. What does the Batter think about this bizarre turn of events?
He literally says “whatever” before mercilessly slaying the beast. Even though Valerie is most likely already dead at this point, he makes no attempt to rescue him, or offer any kind of sympathy for the Judge. He just does his job and “purifies” the Guardian like usual. Unlike Dedan, who was designed solely so that the player would want to kill him, Japhet’s fight seems much less justified. This moment really emphasizes that “purification” is the only thing that the Batter cares about. He’s not defeating the spectres out of any desire for heroism, but because eliminating them aligns with his own mysterious agenda.
The particularly interesting thing about this twist is that the Batter never actually lied about his mission. Because he says so little, it’s never brought up exactly what he’s doing or why. The player just assumes that since he’s the protagonist, the Batter must be doing the right thing.
In reality, whenever the Batter purifies a Zone by defeating its Guardian, he’s actually cleansing it of all life. The Zones become a silent, desolate landscape devoid of color. The only inhabitants are the Secretaries, unsettling baby-like abominations that screech math terms at you. (I’m not kidding. Their attacks are named stuff like “Natural Logarithm” and “Oblique Asymptote”.) And for some reason that is never directly stated in the game, this is likely the world the Batter wants to create.
If the player decides to return to one of these charming places after killing Japhet, they can find the Judge at the top of the Great Library:
Although I could go on and explain what happens in Zone 3, where the game really descends into madness, I’m going to put OFF this discussion for a later date. Until then!
(Photo Credits: uboachan.net, forum.starmen.net, pathofpins.wordpress.com, offgame.wikia.com)