Branded as a point-and-geek adventure, does Nexus Game Studios‘ Randal’s Monday have what it takes to retain the same sense of humor Kevin Smith’s character with the same name but different behavior from the Clerks movies offered?
Randal’s Monday (PC)
(Spain 2014, developer: Nexus Game Studios, publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
After a stag night for his best friend Matt, Randal finds his wedding ring and sells it, unchaining a course of events that makes Matt commit suicide and Randal reliving the same day in different ways, trying to get out of the time loop.
Funny or bad taste
When does a game go too far with its twisted humor and many references to pop culture? One can ask the same thing about Kevin Smith movies. When does dialogue become tedious and characters unlikable? This is a question one should ask right from the start, because if one can’t relate to an sociopathic kleptomaniac who walks through a world full of weird people and countless references to games and movies, then one should better stop playing. However, one will miss quite an interesting Groundhog Day-like plot and often funny outcomes at the end of the day with an even worse day following. With many comic adventures playing it safe by not offending anyone, it’s refreshing to see that the Kevin Smith writing (without his actual involvement) is brought to life in all its toilet humor, swear words, but also interesting insights into people’s psyches and social interaction.
Randal might not be the most fun person to be around with due to his geekiness, wisecracking and egoistic behavior, but it’s still a guilty pleasure to see him make fun of even worse people. The line of good taste is often crossed, and there’s a certain lack of suspense throughout the game. But this doesn’t mean that it gets boring. Conversations are very long and can become tiresome, but those accustomed to the Clerks humor will see that behind all the swear words, there is quite some realistic dialogue which is complemented with funny moments, usually derived from really wacky and therefore memorable characters. Some scenes are also quite bloody, e.g. with Randal’s friend committing the weirdest suicides.
Nodding in all pop culture directions
To mention all the pop culture references would take too long and wouldn’t be as fun as finding them oneself in the game. Suffice it to say that there are obvious ones in the story, e.g. Clerks or Shawshank Redemption, or in the environment and dialogues, e.g. with Halo and Zelda the most prominent ones. Despite this overload of nods to movies or games, there’s also a story in there, with some interesting twists and turns, as is expected from a time travel game. Unfortunately, it moves at a rather slow pace and stays too long in the background, which is mainly the fault of the puzzle design.
Obscurity or ingenuity of puzzles
Obscure puzzles are always a problem in point-and-click adventure games. While some players like to get their head around these and find it rewarding to find weird solutions to even weirder problems, others simply give up and either grab a walkthrough or don’t bother continuing at all. Randal’s Monday doesn’t make it easy for newcomers or even advanced gamers to be loved for its puzzle design. While other games give enough clues or actually try to make it possible to solve a puzzle with logic, both are thrown out the window, to the wind or flushed right down the toilet of reason here.
This is a shame, because the puzzles are varied and usually connected to chains of problems which can be tackled in any order. The idea of not being able to make people remember the next day, because it’s the same as the one Randal already saw through, is also used to great effect. Even if it could have been used more intelligently (the same goes with the story), there are always goals to achieve despite stumbling on the way over various weird object combinations and usage. At least there’s a gradual help system for those who’re really desperate to get through to the end or who have lost count of the many objects cluttering the inventory
Indie looks and sounds
Graphically, the game offers some nicely drawn characters and detailed backgrounds, although the former only has few animations and the latter is even more static. Cutscenes are quite good and fit the comic book character, but one shouldn’t expect the most impressive artwork. It simply fits the style and shows its indie roots.
The same can’t be said about the voice acting, though, as it’s quite excellent with every actor being convincing in their roles, especially with Jeff Anderson reprising the character of Randal he already did to a certain degree in the Clerks movies. A guest star appearance of Jason Jay Mewes and even Doug Geralt of Rivia Cockle is on board as well. So despite overlong dialogue scenes, they’re nice to listen to. The music is also quite good with catchy guitar songs, even if they could have used a bit more variety, as they seem to repeat themselves too often.
Indie’s the name of the game, but not for everyone
Randal’s Monday is a difficult game to recommend, as one either loves the many pop culture references and anarchic humor of its main protagonist, or one simply hates him and the many dialogues which don’t really drive the plot forward. The story offers enough surprises to keep the player interested, although one has to be comfortable with a puzzle design that is punishing in its difficulty.
If one perseveres and also finds Kevin Smith movies enjoyable, one can’t go wrong with this one, as it’s quite unique in mixing movies and games with humor that doesn’t take any prisoners. It’s also one of the longer adventures with a playtime of 15-20 hours. With a small asking price, Randal’s Monday is definitely worth the admission.
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