When does patriotism and social injustices collide, that’s what No Bull Intentions tries to find out with its comic point-and-click adventure game Supreme League of Patriots.
Supreme League of Patriots
(UK 2015, developer: No Bull Intentions, publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing, platform: PC)
American Kyle Keever and his British sidekick Mel try to get into a superhero reality TV show, but things start to get a little bit too patriotic and weird when Kyle’s alter ego The Purple Patriot takes over his head.
A series of comic(al) pages
The game is divided into three episodes or rather issues, to take the correct comic book reference: A Patriot Is Born, Patriot Frames, and Ice Cold in Ellis. These usually end with a cliffhanger where the self-conscious narrator addresses the player in an exaggerated way and even interacts with the main characters. This is a nice touch, but it also shows that the game tries to be too clever for its own good by having very long dialogue scenes with lots of references to popular culture, outside the obvious comic book influences.
A bitter taste of sarcasm
Its self-referential humor is often too much, with the main characters commenting on the adventure game genre, something many other titles have tried and failed at before, especially since many puzzles one solves aren’t made any more clever or funnier when they’re ridiculed. The pop cultural references are difficult to keep track of as well with many of them being unknown to a lot of players outside the US or UK. What Supreme League of Patriots also tries to do is to deliver political and social commentary, but the satirical high standard is seldom kept up for very long.
Some social injustices like racism or certainly worth commenting on, while sexual orientation (and freedom) is also a topic seldom dealt with in games. Sometimes this works with the exaggerated use of the Purple Patriots’ harsh remarks being so over-the-top that one questions the reason behind them. But there are enough instances when things get a bit out of hand. This is especially true with computer geek Mel who for example makes a comment about a jury member with “Goebbels in Germany! I’m a Jew, get me out of here!” His constant sexual allusions are also extremely annoying and repetitive, and he’s not the only character who talks like this.
Talk, talk, talk to other more important people or not
Even unimportant points of interest are commented on in such an effulgent way that one can’t do anything but skip the whole descriptions altogether. This makes for a very boring start with two main characters who are so uninteresting and annoying that it’s difficult to continue. However, after this failed attempt of making the player feel any sympathy for a British sexually frustrated wise-cracker and an American who’s as fat as he’s stupid, things pick up a bit, even if it means meeting other characters who have even more dialogue to deliver.
But at least the illustrious cast of superheroes is original to a certain degree, and it’s here that the social/political commentary actually works. There’s a Russian who doesn’t like the prejudices against his country while paradoxically showing signs of his own hate. Then there’s a homosexual superhero who also has his problems to fit in. What makes these characters more interesting is that they actually have a backstory, something Mel and Kyle lack. To be honest, it’s never a a good idea for an adventure game when one would rather play the NPCs than the main protagonists.
Origin story, but not original story
The main plot isn’t anything to write home about, though. It’s nothing more than what so many other superhero comics have done before with their origin stories. The first episode only turns this into a casting show. The second one is simply about building a reputation and finding the appropriate gear, while the third one puts Purple Patriot and his companion(s) into action against a super-villain. So far so cliché, only with satirical elements with targets like unoriginal TV shows and the aforementioned political (in)correctness. But compared to superhero movies like Kick-Ass, there’s not much of suspense or clever humor here to really draw the player in.
Funny conundrums to solve with humor, Part I
Comic adventures don’t only depend on their humor, but also on their puzzles. However, Supreme League of Patriots also has some problems here. The first episode starts slowly when it comes to mundane tasks like opening certain data on a computer. Fortunately, it gets more interesting with some crazy ideas to convince the jury members that one has superpowers.
The only problem is that certain actions have to be done in a specific order, and even if one knows the solution to a puzzle, one first has to talk about it with Mel or another character, or do something else before. This makes proceedings extremely cumbersome, especially since there aren’t a lot of locations to visit and people to talk to, while conversations are too repetitive and rarely helpful. The rather unoriginal puzzle design isn’t made any better with repeated actions, like stuffing toilet paper into… well, a toilet, three times in a row. Taking the entire roll with one mouse click would have sufficed.
Funny conundrums to solve with humor, Part II
However, things improve in the second episode with more goals to follow and puzzle chains to solve in any order. There’s actually a whole city to explore, and with more locations to visit and characters to interact with, the puzzle design works much better with almost genius solutions. If it weren’t for the constant comments about how stupid certain actions are and what’s so annoying in adventure games or what comic heroes have to do…
Funny conundrums to solve with humor, Part III
The third episode shows a lot of promise with a couple of great puzzles which usually result in funny slapstick scenes. The timing is actually right here. But again the emphasis on fewer locations and characters means that it’s not as motivating to tackle the often mundane tasks. What’s also something of a missed opportunity in all three issues is that one can control both Kyle and Mel, but not at the same time. This could have made for an intricate puzzle design, but as it is, either it’s Mel on his obnoxious own or Kyle who can ask Mel for advice. At least the hint system works quite well for most of the time, something both beginners and advanced players will appreciate, because some solutions are really hard to find out without trial and error.
Looks a bit funny and sounds a bit weird
Technically, the game suffers from same problems other Phoenix Online titles have suffered since the company’s humble fan adventure beginnings (and still do: jerky animations with unintentionally funny character faces. Although this is less of a problem in a comic adventure game with slapstick scenes, the excruciatingly slow walking animations are a big problem, especially since these movements can’t be stopped or skipped. Already long conversations become even more boring with repetitive animations, while there are instances when the characters have pathfinding problems. The graphics are certainly colorful with varied, well-drawn locations and characters. But the lack of real cutscenes (here the trailer’s a bit misleading) make transitions in the story even less exciting than the lame plot itself.
Music is rather good and varied with funky tunes and rhythmic guitar parts, coming straight out of a campy 70ies or 80ies TV series. Voice acting is also pretty strong, although the British actor of Mel can be grating on the ears with his overlong remarks rarely leaving their tonal comfort zone. Kyle or the Purple Patriot on the other hand sounds just right with an exaggerated self-important tone that perfectly captures the spirit of past superheroes. The other voice actors do a good job as well, although each one of their specific theme songs can be both disruptive and repetitive when the main music stops and their musical parts begin.
Episodic method in madness
Supreme League of Patriots is a game that doesn’t make it easy for the player to love it, although a lot of love seems to have been put in its comic look and feel. The satirical elements are commendable, but they’re overshadowed by dialogues which are way too long, while the general timing of jokes is off. This isn’t helped by the main protagonists who are sometimes a pain to play as, while the plot and other characters rarely step out of mediocrity.
However, after persevering through the first episode, the puzzle design takes many steps forward, and it actually becomes fun exploring the world, while Kyle and Mel don’t necessarily become best buddies with the player, but at least one can laugh with or about them more. There’s not much of a story, either, but the whole superhero parody works.
The third episode drops somewhat in quality, although it’s not nearly as bad as the first one. It has its moments, especially with some great puzzles being almost on par with some (of the okay) puzzles of old Telltale games. So with a cliffhanger, what does the game leave the player with? Hope for a continuation with the same controversial humor? Hopefully with shorter sentences, that’s for sure.
(5/10 for Issue 1,
6.5/10 for No. 2,
and 6/10 for the third one)
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