Mortal Kombat Deception is stupidly enjoyable

15 years later, a Konquest for the rest of us

Stupidity in videogames is a roll of the dice. Tongue-in-cheek doesn’t really work for me, because winking at an audience entirely accustomed to the outlandish excesses of the form is an exercise in futility. It’s why most “comedy” videogames don’t work – the frustration of a lame or tired mechanic will always override the character pointing at it and going “Eh? Eh?”

Sometimes, though, a game is so cataclysmically stupid that it becomes wonderful. Mortal Kombat: Deception – and more specifically, its absurd Konquest mode – is breathtaking duncery from beginning to end, filled with imbecilic NPC dialogue, ludicrous animation, hideous graphics and pitifully samey environments. And yet, is it an absolute pleasure to endure, a masterpiece of nonsense. Why? Because it never once drops its apparent sincerity.

Konquest puts you in the sandals of the most gullible malcontent in gaming history, Shujinko. How gullible is he? He’s so gullible, Knuckles the Echidna would call him a mark. Yes, Shujinko roams the barely-shaded, hideously rendered Realms in search of the mysterious Kamidogu, performing bizarre tasks for the mannequin-like villagers, raiding their homes for Koins (which open Koffins in the Krypt, natch) and undertaking thinly-disguised training with each of the game’s 26 Kombatants.

I found it astonishingly kompulsive (coughs) excuse me – compulsive – with the constant rewards of the various Koins always just about within your field of vision. Unlike later instalments, the unlockables you can purchase are quite interesting – there’s a lot of concept art, yes, but there’s also commentary lending it a welcome context. Also, on a broader level, it’s a surprisingly full-featured single-player mode in a genre that didn’t really cater to the lonely gamer – a tradition that Netherealm have kept up and expanded upon in their subsequent releases with the expansive story modes of Mortal Kombat X and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

As I have hopefully established, Konquest is wildly stupid nonsense. It is also great fun. If nothing else, you can hold L2 and make Shujinko run comically fast. Combine this with rapid spinning of the control stick for even more laffs. The game was worth my £39.99 just for this spectacle.