Written by Jonathan Wojcik
A small tribute to RED TOM.
Shadow Madness was a Playstation RPG title originally released in 1999, and rather abruptly forgotten by most of the gaming world, though those who did play it remember it well for its dry humor, interesting enough storyline and a farming robot made of barrels.
What I remember Shadow Madness for, however, is its very first boss battle. Like many first boss battles, it serves only to introduce the players to the ins and outs of boss-caliber combat and is never directly relevant to the storyline or ever mentioned again, which in this case, is kind of a crime against nature.
Getting decent images of this game is next to impossible, but you should be able to make out RED TOM well enough. Why he's called RED TOM is never quite clear, since for the most part, he's as brown and black as an old, rotten tree. Very roughly skull-shaped, his most obvious feature is that massive pair of demented, yellow eyeballs, but he also sports rat-like teeth, two root-like tentacles, no lower jaw, and a short stalk where a neck or body would be. He can move around just fine, but the stalk never leaves the ground. Is there more of him burrowing around under there, or is it like the attachment disk of a sea anemone?
By far Toms most fascinating feature, however, is how the back of his skull is concave, and the space is occupied by a cloud of bugs. No attention is ever called to this, and he doesn't have any bug-themed attacks, but that swarm of flies stays concentrated right where he ought to have a brain, and I'm going to just go ahead and say that they do, in fact, serve as the seat of his consciousness, albeit not a very stable one, if his dialog is any indication.
Oh yes, Tom talks. He only talks for one brief, glorious moment before battle begins, but his lines are unforgettable.
Tom, you see, has been devouring one would-be monster slayer after another, apparently under the assumption that they were being delivered to him, like a series of pizzas. Why would you think that, Tom? Who did you think was paying for these things? Who did you think "they" were? The adventurer bake shop?
It's a pretty strange statement to be confronted with when you encounter a giant monster head in a tunnel full of rotting bodies, and our protagonist begins to question it, perhaps entertaining the possibility of a diplomatic solution. Unfortunately, Tom will have none of it, and he responds exactly the way any sane individual does in this situation:
If you're gonna come in here and tell me you SOMEHOW know a better string of things to howl before murdering a band of intruders with your gnarled tentacles, you are a damn dirty liar.
I know this is a very short post about only a single video game weirdo - more blog-post material than an article - but Tom is such a bizarre, inexplicable monster, communicating so much personality in so few words, he needed some small corner of the internet to call his own. Back in the day, back when Shadow Madness was a brand new game, we didn't even have "blogs." We had "homepages," and sometimes we made "homepages" about one character, like with five images and a sound clip if you wanted to get fancy, and we called those "web shrines." It may be 2014, but I have now made a web shrine for Red Tom and you can never, ever force me to undo that. Just try it. Fly right over here and beat me up. I'll never back down. I don't even know what I'm saying anymore it's four in the morning.
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