We all wish we could play music like alternative supergroup
Animal Collective, but whoís got the time? The latest interactive experience,
Animal Collective Hero, captures the unique stylings of this critically
acclaimed Baltimore troop in one heady yet wildly straightforward game.
For beginners, all thatís required is a sense of rhythm, a love of musical
experimentation, an ability to stare into space marveling at oneís consciousness
within a world that becomes more beautiful as it falls to pieces, and a
gaming platform. The rest is self-explanatory.
HOW TO PLAY
Animal Collective Hero is a fun, simplified version of the real thing.
Your ergonomic controller -- a lifelike walrus body suit -- includes a
series of buttons that let you play everything in the Animal Collective
Index finger: Yellow. Hooting Cacophony button.
Middle finger: Blue. Sound Like a String of Chandeliers Dropped
Carefully Over a Waterfall button.
Ring finger: Green. Sound That Makes All Other Contemporary Music
Sound Distant and Stilted button.
Pinkie finger: Red. Precise Word for the Exact Emotion Youíre
Currently Experiencing button.
Sixth Finger: Orange. Tribal Drums.
First, make sure everything works. You will need to go through this
step again after about the 2:00 minute mark, as the first tune recreates
the look and sound of a game console malfunctioning. Youíll need flawless
timing during this crucial sequence. This is achieved by recoiling at the
displayed image that resembles a scrambled cable channel and button-mashing
to its accompanying music until you give up in frustration and yank the
cord out of the wall. You should go ahead and attempt to return the game
for a full refund. Once you reach the store, realize that you tapped out
the notes of the gameís screwy melodies across your dashboard and are now
seeing wavy confluent patterns in clouds and the clip-on tie of the flunkie
at the Best Buy returns desk. You also forgot to take off the walrus body
suit, so thereís little hope for you anyway. Return home to try once more,
only to discover youíve mastered the game. Youíll now need to set aside
Looking at the screen again, it becomes clear that you were fooled by
a hilarious optical illusion. You see everything now, a man with complicated
head gear bobbing over a keyboard, someone at the microphone prancing around
like an injured flightless bird, and another who canít stop staring directly
back of you. You also may see the band members.
In the center of the screen are various-colored streams and floating
icons. Whirling around among them is your hit zone. Some of these even
correspond to the controller buttons, though we couldnít possibly begin
to tell you how. Your job is to strike the right notes when the correct
icons enter that hit zone, by using a precise formula involving twelve-tone
technique, catastrophe economics, and Carl Jungís concept of individuation.
Now youíre ready to begin!
Start with songs you find catchy and may have already listened to Ė
ďWinters LoveĒ for instance. After practice, you can advance to the tunes
you know without ever having actually heard.
Keep in mind that most tracks are seven different standard indie songs
sped up and played at once. The red button will save you on more than one
occasion. Pay careful attention to the moments when each separate tune
converges into a singular sustained harmony. The game provides you with
a moment to lie down briefly at this point.
Donít skip ahead through lengthy periods of repeated noises. The long-awaited
change arrives just as youíre about to give up all over again. You will
then receive the highest score for winging it carelessly through the remainder
of the song.
Use your whammy bar or cross-fader, if that makes you feel better about
Also, donít pay too much attention to the tips people give you, as a
In fact, what are you still doing standing in the middle of the room
surrounded by all this crap. This is your freaking life weíre talking about
If you suffer from nothing, consult a doctor immediately.
If Animal Collective band members show up in your living room asking
for clues on how they recorded this music, humor them. Work on your fretting
while waiting for them to finish talking.
Do not attempt to form a religion around the game as youíll be forced
to explain yourself to others and wind up quoted out of context by Bill
If you find the game too difficult, try ratcheting down to something
simpler like Arcade Arcade Fire.
If youíve beaten all songs and youíre still not completely satisfied,
for that necessary sense of accomplishment, why donít you return to playing
games involving stealing cars and carrying out mafia hits.
Otherwise, dance, you doggone pasty, precocious angel of ascendant glory,
Dissonance comes in many forms. The world has never been this crowded,
nor this intimate. Also, you are a vision of grace and, at the same time,
may be damned to hell. The only way to reconcile such contradictions in
your life is by whaling on that Hooting Cacophony button.
You may have several knotty, cosmic questions resolved by now. Although
it may be true that a lifetime of wisdom is compressed into an epiphany,
itís still best to take off that walrus suit every so often or risk overheating.
As a conversation piece, however, hang onto the tusks.
Finally, donít forget that the game is not for everyone. Even if itís
for you, youíll benefit from getting out of the house and doing something.
Try mini-golf, for instance. Just remember to bring a date for your own
good. From here on out, things may get weird.