Shoot at us but not our 'fat hen', say Germans

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Aliens from outer space have landed in Germany. Resistance proves futile; in the hallowed surroundings of the Reichstag the final battle looms. Welcome to the apocalyptic scenario of Invasion Deutschland, a computer game which is upsetting Germans in high places.

Aliens from outer space have landed in Germany. Resistance proves futile; in the hallowed surroundings of the Reichstag the final battle looms. Welcome to the apocalyptic scenario of Invasion Deutschland, a computer game which is upsetting Germans in high places.

Germany being laid to ruins by malevolent extra-terrestrials may not be everyone's idea of fun, but Germans are capable of appreciating a good joke, even if it is perpetrated by their historic enemies. For Invasion Deutschland is the creation of a Dutch software company. It was a Dutchman who set fire to the Reichstag in 1933, giving Hitler a pretext for rounding up communists and trade unionists.

This time the Dutch have brought an alien leader named Thor into the building. In the duel with Thor, players will inevitably injure the eagle, Germany's national symbol, which guards democracy under the Reichstag's glass dome - and that is verboten. To the Dutch company's utter amazement, the German parliament is threatening to sue unless the eagle is removed. The official view is that the game depicts the eagle in an undignified manner. What has outraged parliamentarians most is the way the bird shrieks every time it takes a hit from a laser gun.

Davilex, the software house that wants to flood Germany with 50,000 copies of Invasion Deutschland, has offered to create a "patch", enabling users to blot out the eagle if its suffering offends them, but officials have declined that compromise so far and are talking to their lawyers. "We don't understand what the fuss is about," says Alexander Vesely, spokesman for Davilex. "It was never our intention to whip up nationalistic feeling. We are defending the Reichstag."

The company, he adds, tries to create authentic graphics, and the image of the bird makes the interior of the parliament building instantly recognisable. "The eagle is totally unimportant to the game. But without the eagle, it could be anywhere."

With the help of scientist Uncle Albert and his niece Lea, players progress through numerous challenges, including an encounter with Thor on the 15th level. Before then they must solve a series of riddles. Every correct answer will be rewarded with a super-weapon which will come in handy against Thor. If you miss him, there is a good chance you will accidentally zap the eagle.

The worst that can happen, Mr Vesely asserts, is that Thor triumphs and Germany remains occupied by the aliens. But no permanent harm will come to the eagle, he says, it shrieks merely for the players' entertainment. But the German parliament does not let anyone mess with its mascot, regarded as the embodiment of the country's prosperous democracy. Dubbed the "fat hen", this plump version replaced the rapacious carnivore used before the war. In its current shape, it could not hurt a fly, let alone invade Poland.

Even Sir Norman Foster, the British architect entrusted with the redesign of the Reichstag, fell foul of German sensibilities. His attempt to turn the "fat hen" back into something more closely resembling an eagle was vetoed by MPs. With loving care, the shield was transported from Bonn and hung in its new home.

Nor is this the first time that German officials have dragged someone to court for preying on their bird. In September last year, the comedian Stefan Raab turned Gerhard Schröder's plea "for a bottle of beer" into a rap hit without the Chancellor objecting, but when the CD appeared with the Reichstag eagle on its cover, Parliament sued, forcing him to remove the emblem.

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