The Cyanide & Happiness comic always brings a smile to my face. With its twisted sense of humour the comic addresses controversial topics which most people will find insulting whereas others will appreciate its fearlessness and immaturity. Being a casual fan of the webcomic I was excited to play Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse Part One – Hall Pass to Hell. Knowing it was a point-and-click adventure instantly made me hesitant but how bad could it be? The creative force behind C&H have made animated shorts, a TV show and a couple of tabletop games. They can make an engaging drag-and-drop puzzle game, right?
I only spent a few hours with this thing but I still couldn’t tell you what the story was about. I know you play as Coop, a pathetic high-schooler looking for a prom date, yet at no point was I actively looking for anyone to hook up with. Instead, you’re subjected to endless fetch quests and monotonous conversations that last longer than Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League. 2 hours in and the title Freakpocalypse made even less sense because nothing freaky happened. So far all I achieved was forging a hall pass, returning a book to the library, and delivering some fried chicken. It’s felt like nothing more than a fly-on-the-wall documentary about a standard day at an American high school. No stakes. No risks. No rewards. I wish I had more to say but I honestly can’t pitch it better than that.
Freakpocalypse doesn’t reinvent the wheel; what you expect from a point-and-click is what you get. Everything can be needlessly interacted with, complete with tedious strings of descriptive dialogue for shit you can’t even pick up. It’s as if everything can be interacted with as a thin veil to distract you from the stuff that’s actually useful.
I can learn to ignore the set dressing but what I can’t ignore is the inconsistency in item collection. Within the first hour my backpack was full of items I was biting at the bit to use, so you’d assume you can pick up any old rubbish, right? Well, turns out some items have to be picked up in a certain order when quests and milestones are met. That makes sense. Except, why is my backpack already full of rubbish I’ve found littered around the world? I assumed they were reserved for future side quests, so why is the game letting me pick them up now but not letting me pick up the pen I know I need for the active quest “forge grandma’s signature”? I still had a football helmet and a tampon in my backpack from when I started the game – both of which were yet to see a drop of blood.
From my short time with Freakpocalypse most of it was wasted button-mashing through conversations but when the game actually let me play it wasn’t that bad. Figuring out what items were useful for a particular puzzle and riding that wave of dopamine when everything fell into place was great but those opportunities weren’t frequent enough. It’s clear to me that Freakpocalypse is nothing more than a vehicle for Cyanide & Happiness gags. It’s packed so tightly with jokes there’s no room for play time. It’s as if the gameplay was an afterthought, and that’s never a good vibe.
Speaking of jokes, the comedy was on brand. Everything was delivered with quality audio performances and presented in polished, colourful artwork featuring the familiar style of C&H (Karl Pilkington heads on stick figures). Freakpocalypse definitely made me laugh. It’s certainly C&H down to a T but that’s the only compliment I managed to wring from it. The problem was nothing was left on the cutting room floor; this game has a serious case of verbal diarrhoea. The comic strips and animated shorts are funny because they’re short, simple and snappy. The conversations in Freakpocalypse are like having breeze blocks slammed into your head. It’s a freight train of punchline after punchline. It’s as if there are too many jokes – what a bizarre conclusion to come to for a comedy game!
As Freakpocalypse was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign there must be an audience out there. I just hope to God they get what they paid for. All I know is I won’t make the same mistake twice. For Me, Freakpocalypse Part Two is definitely off the table.