Developer: Icebox Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the point 'n click adventure game market is dead, what with Double Fine's Kickstarter proudly proclaiming itself to be the last great hope for the genre. But you'd be wrong. Numerous smaller companies still stick to their guns and continue providing us with great puzzles, snappy dialogue and random items to combine in increasingly bizarre ways, and Wadjet Eye are arguably at the forefront of their field. The emergent studio-cum-publisher has already delivered us the likes of Gemini Rue and the Blackwell series, and this latest title comes from British developer Chris Burton.
Da New Guys: Day Of The Jackass has a silly name and a worrying premise. Playing as The Defender, a costumed celebrity wrestler, you'll have to solve the mystery behind your comrade's disappearance, save your wrestling ring and possibly even get the girl. Burton is up-front about the fact that Da New Guys is very much an homage to Saturday morning cartoons, complete with colourful characters, plenty of posturing and relatively snappy pacing for an adventure game. And a deluded old man to beat up (or not).
But this isn't some burly, drooling and juvenile attempt to pander to hyperactive kids. While Da New Guys may look simplistic and sounds absolutely dreadful in terms of the title alone, the script is laden with sardonic charm and low-key comedy that's designed to crack a smile rather than gunning for belly laughs. The characters are impeccably voiced (most of them are English, brilliantly), superbly scripted and immensely likeable. Even if you haven't played the original game or watched the accompanying animation, you'll effortlessly engage with the cast and storyline within minutes. Day Of The Jackass is much smarter, infinitely more so, than the premise would suggest.
Puzzles, like Blackwell Deception and the first two Hector games, tend to rely on common sense and deductive reasoning over surrealism. Once you've gotten over the urge to randomly combine every single inventory object with absolutely everything in the world, you'll realise that a minute or two of brainstorming will propel you towards the solution much faster. A couple of interesting tweaks such as multiple locations and character swapping in the late game help to punch things up a bit, but it's more or less the same adventuring experience that we've been enjoying over the last few years - only mechanically polished, consistently exciting and dripping with personality.
A perfect balance between challenging and obtuse solutions help to delay the onset of frustration, and you'll rarely get truly stumped for more than a handful of minutes. Just sleep on it rather than reaching for a walkthrough.
Icebox Studios have also attempted to switch up the pace with a couple of less traditional gameplay sections such as bypassing a laser grid, sneaking past guards and an occasional fist fight. They are wrestlers after all. Sadly, these sections are only an exercise in pattern recognition and memory rather than deduction or reflexes - and are tolerable mainly because they're both short, forgettable and infrequent.
In terms of value, Da New Guys: Day Of The Jackass warrants its inexpensive asking price with a 4-6 hour story (naturally dependent on how skilled, experienced and adept you are at solving adventure games). It's an appropriate length, and allows the experience to remain fresh and relevant rather than dragging in the middle.
There's just one major problem... and whether it proves to a dealbreaker will ultimately come down to whether you prioritise graphics over gameplay. And even if you don't, it's difficult to ignore that Day Of The Jackass looks thoroughly awful. I appreciate that it's a labour of love from a tiny studio. I feel guilty for even pointing it out. But point it out I must. The characters, backgrounds and cutscenes are crude beyond belief, seemingly slapped together in either Flash or MS Paint (using the biggest brushes possible). Animations are jerky. Several key characters are barely recognisable as human, let alone being expressive and emotive. Regardless of how much you dig on the dialogue and enjoy the brainteasing puzzles, Day Of The Jackass is barely acceptable from a visual standpoint.
Even the concept art sketches, unlocked through a small selection of achievements, would have actually been preferable to the finished article. Many indie games get by on stylish, simple or minimalist art direction - and I personally couldn't care less - but Day Of The Jackass is ugly regardless of how you slice it. There's a line past which no excuses can be made, and while Day Of The Jackass isn't quite there, it's unbelievably close.
- Cerebral, satisfying common sense puzzling
- Superb scripting, engrossing storyline
- Brilliant voice work
- Horrendous graphics and art design
- A couple of weak and forgettable action segments
The Short Version: Da New Guys: Day Of The Jackass is a hilarious and satisfyingly cerebral point 'n click adventure game worthy of the genre's golden age. Sadly, it also sports graphics and art direction that would have looked dated and primitive back then. With a core gameplay experience this good, however, genre fans should get involved regardless.