[Editorial] You Tried to Make Me a Killer Vol. 2: Needles Kane aka Sweet Tooth
In this installment of “You Tried to Make Me a Killer,” I aim to make a case for one of gaming’s greatest mascots. Though his home franchise has lay dormant for the last eight years, this next prospective subject of The Entity once set out to be the greatest serial killer of all time. Through a couple of different timelines, he set out to destroy anyone and anything in his way, and his finale was either wildly successful and ominous or brutally bittersweet. This time, we are looking at the mascot of the legendary Twisted Metal franchise of games, Sweet Tooth, aka Needles Kane.
With Sweet Tooth, there is a load of possibility here. While putting him behind the wheel of his trademark ice cream truck isn’t really that appropriate for Dead by Daylight, having him stalking victims on his own two feet isn’t totally unheard of. In what ended up as a bonus for the Extra Twisted Edition of Twisted Metal: Head-On, the player could take control of the flame-headed flayer and walk around a few different areas, exploring content that was meant to be included in the follow-up to Twisted Metal: Black, one of the Playstation 2’s greatest and best-selling games. The fact that the developers gave credence to the idea of Sweet Tooth moving around sans vehicle means we’re not necessarily breaking new ground, we’re just bringing in a new backhoe after the old one was repossessed.
There’s also the problem of continuity within the franchise. In the first run of games that spanned the lifespan of the original Playstation, Sweet Tooth ended up running the whole show, knocking off big baddie Calypso in the third game and becoming the final boss of game four. In Black, he breaks out of the asylum, wins the whole shebang, and ends up slashing Calypso’s throat and carrying on with his murderous ways. And in the 2012 reboot, he kind of splits the difference, as the leader of his own gang, The Clowns, he winds up dead at the end of his storyline, but reborn in a sense with the Carnival of Carnage.
So in either case, we know that while he can organize big things with big numbers, he likes to work alone. His legacy and his body count have garnered a reputation in the canon and among the fanbase, but we do hit a snag when we remember that Twisted Metal is a Sony franchise, exclusive to the Playstation family of consoles. All I can say here is 1) fuck, and 2) if Left 4 Dead’s Bill Overbeck can make it to all platforms, getting Sweet Tooth to that level isn’t entirely out of the question.
While I made a point to talk continuity in my previous installment, I’m tossing the rulebook out the window (and to paraphrase Bernie Sanders, I wrote the damn book) and crossing the streams. For his Killer Power, I’m sticking mainly to the Black timeline, in which he is brought up on murder charges, is convicted, and is set to be executed. On the night of his execution, a preacher curses him, condemning his soul to Hell. In a turn of events, Needles breaks free of his restraints, survives the electric chair, and, to quote the man himself, “in less than a minute, I killed three guards.” The curse drives him mad for the three months he spends in Blackfield Asylum, before Calypso gives him an out in the form of the titular tournament. In our timeline, however, the execution is the tipping point, the moment when Sweet Tooth is saved from Death’s door by The Entity and brought into a new killing field, able to exert his will on his campfire-crowding victims.
Quick sidebar to suggest that Blackfield Asylum should be Sweet Tooth’s map, as any other locale featured in the Twisted Metal games are too general to really nail down. I know we already have an asylum with Lery’s Memorial Institute, but this would be a darker location than the light-heavy mental institution.
We’re calling Sweet Tooth’s power “The Old Man’s Curse.” As much as the curse haunts and harms him, it doesn’t do much to stop the world’s most dangerous ice cream man from his business, and his business is a-boomin’. Every hit that Needles lands will fill a Twisted meter. This should take a few hits to set off, maybe four or so. Once the meter fills, it triggers a Twisted state, in which Needles can put Survivors into the Dying state on a single hit. If he can keep landing successful hits, he’ll fill the meter a second time, and can unleash his full fury in the form of a Mori. To make up for this insane power, this self-contained Mori will be a one and done affair. If the Killer uses this ability, they won’t be able to use it again in the trial.
I can already hear the Survivor mains freaking out in the distance. Historically speaking, they hate that a Killer can, well, kill anyone if they have the right offering, or a Killer that has it in an Add-On (The Shape’s Tombstone Piece and Judith’s Tombstone) or a Perk (The Spirit’s Rancor). I’m going to refrain from going on a “suck it up, Buttercup” tirade directed at the Survivors, but having someone who is canonically a convicted serial killer with an ability to kill someone without some special circumstance or force makes entirely too much sense. I’m sure if it came down to brass tacks, Sweet Tooth would capitulate and sacrifice his prey via the Meathook Express, but deep down, he’d rather do the job himself. And who am I to keep the man from his murder?
Now that’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write.
As another sort of “alright, I guess it can’t be that powerful,” I’m willing to make one concession for The Old Man’s Curse. If, at any point, Sweet Tooth whiffs, if he misses an attack, the Twisted meter resets to zero, and as he comes down from his killer high, he will be stunned temporarily, something like The Cannibal dinging an errant hay bale with his chainsaw. As much as I will defend that Sweet Tooth should be able to Mori on his own, I am also aware that it should take some effort, if it won’t be aided by an offering.
With our first perk, Shut Up and Bleed, I ran into the issue of trying not to reinvent the wheel. We already have Sloppy Butcher, which makes the bleeding heavier and adds the Mangled status. So this could end up as a poor man’s version or a Spider-Man meme, and either result is less than agreeable. Then I thought back to a Survivor match I played some time ago, against The Cannibal, in which he insisted on downing everyone before doing away with them. Makes sense, as he can punish altruism with a well-timed swipe of his chainsaw upon an attempted hook rescue. By pure luck, I managed to survive long enough to crawl to the hatch, barely avoiding bleeding out, rejoicing in my skin-of-my-ass escape that really should not have worked out like it did. As such, Shut Up and Bleed will speed up the bleed-out timer upon downing a Survivor. While the proper top-to-bottom bleed-out timer clocks in at four minutes, this could shave it down to three at tier 3, and while I realize this would be a niche sort of perk, it does have some potential, especially if paired with Sloppy Butcher or Deerstalker.
For the second teachable, we’re taking a page from the 2012 reboot’s playbook, as this one will be known as The One Who Got Away. In it, one of his first victims got away, and it ultimately led to his downfall, so let’s make a weakness a strength with this perk. If a Survivor escapes a Chase with their Obsession unscathed, the Killer gains the Rage status effect. If they find the Obsession again, chase them, and score a hit, then that hit will put them in the Dying state, just as Sweet Tooth meant to do to dear little Sophie Kane all those years ago. If the Killer whiffs on the second attempt, the Rage status is dropped and the perk goes into a cooldown. If they come across another Survivor while Enraged, then the status goes away, though the resulting cooldown will be slightly shorter.
For the final teachable, I give you Ringleader. If there’s one thing Needles Kane can organize, it’s chaos of the highest order. As the once-leader of The Clowns (and consider the streams crossed, Egon be damned), he knows how to orchestrate mayhem and play the role of conductor. The more things are working in unison, the more savagely satisfied Needles is. If, at any point, the Killer has multiple Generators broken or Survivors on the Hook, their rates at which the meters decay will speed up. We could add bleed-out timers to the mix, but Generators and Hooks are plenty for this perk.
Add-Ons for Sweet Tooth should revolve around the power for obvious reasons. How fast the meter fills up, maybe one higher add-on that allows for a mulligan for a missed attack, and maybe one gear change of sorts. Maybe have an add-on that deactivates the Mori, but instead allows for bonus points for a hit streak or something of that nature. I get that these aren’t popular, per se, but with an admittedly one-dimensional power like this one, we have to get creative.
For a Mori, Sweet Tooth will finish what he started, as he drives his machete through the heart of his victim, then slashes at any exposed body part in a mad rush. At least in figuring out what weapon Needles would carry, we have a solid precedent besides the napalm cones featured on his devilish ride. Better than the research I did for the Chucky article, in which I went through damn near every film’s Kill Count (shout out to Dead Meat and their awesome channel for getting me through).
After going an entire generation of consoles without any real attention, Sweet Tooth needs to make his mark in one way or another. If we’re not getting another Twisted Metal game on PS4, and nothing has been indicated for the impending PS5, then this is as close to hopeful as we can be for the Playstation icon to be burned into the conscience of the current console generation. Needles Kane would be a great addition to the campfire, and a perfect proxy for The Entity and its bleak, sadistic will.
See you in The Fog.