By: Derek Yu

On: January 20th, 2008


Harpooned is a socially conscious shoot ‘em up that puts you at the helm of a Japanese whaling boat. It was created by artist Conor O’Kane as a criticism of the Japanese practice of “scientific whaling.” In the game, you shoot whales for their meat, earning “species” combos by killing two or more whales in a row. Protesters and icebergs are your main obstacles. At the end of each level the meat you’ve collected is packaged into pet food and hamburgers.

In 1982, the International Whaling Commission declared a moratorium on commercial whaling. Since then, Japan, one of only three nations which hunt the so-called “”http://www.hsus.org/marine_mammals/a_closer_look_at_marine_mammals/great_whales.html">great whales," has begun whaling for science, claiming that the meat which they collect is sold only to offset the costs of their expeditions, and that their lethal and cruel approach (which really does involve exploding harpoons) is necessary to understand the animals. Not surprisingly, it’s an extremely controversial topic.

The game definitely argues its point well for the most part, and its message is bolstered by the fact that its production is fantastic and the actual gameplay is challenging and fun. If I had one qualm with it, it’s that the high scores list includes well-known scientists like Darwin, Einstein, Newton, and Sagan, implying that all science is somehow inhumane (or that these men would condone the mistreatment of animals).

It’s interesting to note that developer O’Kane hails from Australia, which is a staunch anti-whaling nation, and recently ruled Japanese whaling illegal. For more information on Japanese whaling, check out its Wikipedia page, as well as this BBC article (along with the links on the game’s website).

  • nullerator

    I have tasted whale meat. It tastes like beef marinated with fish oil.

  • Gr.Viper

    The game’s quite easy to complete but difficult to score. Darwin, Newton and Einstein are still beyond my reach…
    Too bad that meat collected from protesters’ bodies is too scarce to compensate for legal fees.

  • Splinter of Chaos

    I just finished the game. What bullshit! Everyone disappeared with no reason! Maybe they said “so long and thanks for all the fish”…but that was dolphins!

    The only problem I had with this game is how they expected me to read their information while dodging ice burgess and staying alive. Plus I couldn’t shoot the helicopter. Sure, let me after protesters, but when it comes to a real kill…

  • Movius

    “Staunch Anti-whaling nation” but not a “Staunch anti-hunting several species of fish to extinction nation.”

    Would also be helpful to know the difference between “Australia” and “Australian Antarctic Territory.”

    Anyway… Despite fully expecting this game to be horrible, it’s not.

    This game is great. It’s fun and hilarious. it concentrates, correctly, on the absurdity of the Japanese Whaling industries PR campaign ratger than stating the obvious (killing whales is bad).

  • PHeMoX

    Quite enjoyable indeed. It gets a tad annoying when those protesters get in my way, mmmm perhaps they should have given extra points instead of penalty points when you accidentally hit them though. ;)

  • PHeMoX

    Another thing, I really like the art style of this game a lot too by the way, looks very polished and good. :)

  • Cas

    Remarkably well polished and actually really quite fun. As well as funny, in a nice sick sort of way.

  • Bob


    “Hunting several species of fish to extinction”? What? Please name some.

  • rndll

    After this game I’d actually like to see how whale meat tastes. Unfortuantely it’s virtually impossible to buy or get in any restaurant in my country :-/

  • Thomas
  • Movius

    Comical mismanagement has been pretty much standard in most fishing regions in Australia for years.

    The difference with whaling is: 1) Theres no Australian industry (anymore) to get caught in the crossfire. 2) It involves filthy asian foreigners invading ‘our waters’.

    So this provides good distraction material for the government, who can easily score points with both hippy green types and paranoid xenophobe rednecks without having to actually do anything, because no one that matters actually recognises Australia’s claims over this area of the sea.

    Whaling is off course horrid, but theres little to be gained by pretending anyone in power here actually genuinely gives a shit.

    Furthermore, talk about the fucking game. It’s good.

  • SugoiDesu

    Keep in mind that Japan tends to perform these feats within Australian territorial waters. This shouldn’t be tolerated.

    I suspect a good destroyer blockade might be in order.

  • rndll

    They don’t do it within the Australian territorial waters (as ruled by an international court) – they do it around the Antarctic which doesn’t belong to any country.
    And they cannot send destroyers there, as military activity there is banned (well, at least on land, but I suppose it also stretches over Antarctic waters)

  • PHeMoX

    Indeed, it’s no-man’s water, enforcing a law with military force might provoke war lol…

    By the way, it’s not quite true that there a ban on military *activity* over there, it’s only forbidden to build bases there, but everything else is pretty much allowed. Submarines and the likes still go there frequently, it’s a strategic thing.

  • Pacian

    “implying that all science is somehow inhumane (or that these men would condone the mistreatment of animals)”

    Alternatively, it could be making a point about how these whale ‘researchers’ are really taking the piss by equating stuffing ocean-going mammals into tins to the pursuit of knowledge.

  • Bob


    You still haven’t given any species that are “hunted to extinction”. I don’t think that we’ll run out of tuna any time soon.

  • Xander

    15 comments in and no references to HUGE GUTS?!

    I don’t even know this place any more…

  • Cas

    Actually, we are about to run out of tuna. It’s been hunted to near extinction in most fishing grounds. Do a bit of research on it, it’s grim reading :(

  • shinygerbil


  • http://harpooned.org Conor

    Thanks for the write-up Derek. Just to clarify a few points – I’m Irish, not Australian, although I live in Melbourne at the moment. However, the nationality of the messenger shouldn’t affect the message. Secondly, as Pacian suggested above, the purpose of putting real scientists in the scoreboard was to contrast the pseudo-science Japan is practicing with actual science. I thought it would be funny and sad to see the player’s name credited as a “top scientist” alongside the likes of Darwin and Einstein, when all they had done in the name of science was kill some whales and process their meat.

  • Derek

    Thanks for the clarification, Conor! And no, your nationality doesn’t matter, really (to the game’s message)… I just wanted to point it out as a curiosity, since there was a lot of anti-whaling activity in Australia recently.

  • Calanctus

    The weird thing about whaling in Japan is that whale meat wasn’t even a big industry before this crap all started. It’s something the government has been trying to push on its own people, for whatever reason.

  • Bob


    Grim, indeed.

  • http://harpooned.org Conor

    Derek – the reason I pointed it out was because I’m getting a lot of comments (on the YouTube movie) along the lines of “but you can’t criticize Japan’s whaling because Australians eat kangaroos” which would be ridiculous even if I was Australian.

  • Jad



    Check out the ‘instances of overfishing’ topic.

    It’s not like we’re NOT going to drive a lot of fish species to extinction.

    “I don’t think that we’ll run out of tuna any time soon.”


    “Bluefin tuna populations in the Atlantic Ocean have declined over 70% in the last 30 years”


    “A new study warns that overfishing has shrunk marlin, swordfish, and tuna populations by 90 percent since 1950.”

    Google ‘tuna overfishing’ ):

    I do think that we’re going to run out of tuna anytime soon :

  • hm

    Whatever, that doesnt change the fact that stopping whaling will mean one less species brought to the brink of extinction.

    Either you give a shit, or you don’t, end of story. The subject here is whaling and should it be stopped or not.

    Tuna, marlin, swordfish or whatever is a totally different (and equally valid) subject. But not related to this one.