February 29th, 2012 | By Richard Glenn
Ah, point-and-click adventure games. Once basking near the forefront of the invisible line separating so-called hardcore gamers from their casual brethren, they’ve now long since been usurped by the swankier, more sophisticated action-adventure romps of the twenty-first century.
Thank goodness for the smaller studios, then. Over the last few years, the point-and-click genre, though still markedly absent from the retail release schedule, has enjoyed a miniature renaissance of sorts, thanks in no small part to the indie developers with a small budget and a fond remembrance of one of yesteryear’s most beloved gaming styles.
Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass continues this oft-understated resurgence with a wholesome blend of unashamedly old-school point-and-click gameplay and tongue-in-cheek self parody reminiscent of its most revered predecessors in the genre. Placing a firm emphasis on puzzle solving, environmental interaction and good, old comedic set-pieces, it’s both a copiously welcome throwback to the heady days of the early 1990s and a titter-inducing escapade that stands brashly and confidently on its own merits.
Day of the Jackass opens with its ragtag band of wrestling superstars, Brain, The Defender and Simon, doing what they (supposedly) do best – scrapping it out in the ring. A few points and clicks later, Brain finds himself the unwitting holder of the Wrestle Zone Title, lapping up the adulation of the fans as his peers look on in bewilderment. Things are looking rosy for all of a few seconds before Da New Guys’ ragtag bunch of wrestling rivals line up outside their flat, all staking their claim to Brain’s newly acquired prize. Just as Brain pulls off a suitably quirky and convoluted escape, he’s subdued and kidnapped by an unknown perpetrator in a mysterious van.
And thus begins a ramshackle point-and-click tale of controlled insanity as the rest of the gang embarks on a quest to track down Brain’s captors and regain the freedom of their beleaguered pal. On your travels through the dilapidated neighbouring metropolis, you’ll encounter a range of vibrant and distinctive characters, environments and interactive items as you delve deeper and deeper into Wadjet Eye Games’ bizarre world.
It’s just as well that the humour exhibited in Day of the Jackass is so successful because, as we all know, a point-and-click adventure game without an enjoyable narrative is akin to a first-person shooter without guns. The game doesn’t just throw in a slew of insider wrestling jargon for comedic effect, but it does so in a manner that is subtle enough to raise a mirthful chuckle from the devoted wrestling fraternity, yet one that’s light and general enough to avoid alienating those without a taste for the sweaty shenanigans of the squared circle. Safe too are those who, like myself, never played Da New Guys title, with the developers taking extra special care to flesh out each recurring character with sufficient gusto to bring newcomers right up to speed.
Day of the Jackass is presented in a simplistic 2D art style. Rather than undermining the quality of the gameplay with an unwelcome element of tacky visuals, this tawdriness admirably complements the wacky, surreal nature of the game’s story and its flavoursome game world, firmly accentuating Day of the Jackass as an archetypal example of how to deliver the full comic package through the medium of video games.
Sporadic audio issues do, sadly, take away from the immersive charm of the game, even if they do only pop up once in a blue moon. Stutters, overlapping and incomplete utterances are all blemishes that rear their heads from time to time and, even though the in-game subtitles ensure that you’re unlikely to miss out on any vital instructions or hints as a result, it would still be nice to see them stamped out.
Day of the Jackass also falls foul of the gremlin that haunts the vast majority of point-and-click adventure games. I’m speaking, of course, of its limited replay value. Once you’ve tackled the puzzles that form the crux of the game’s content, subsequent replays will inevitably lack some of the punch and satisfaction that ensues when you finally solve a bothersome quandary, leaving just the story, which, though amusing and memorable, might not be compelling enough to warrant future playthroughs for most players. On the plus side, though, Day of the Jackass embraces the modern gaming custom of implementing in-game achievements into the mix, offering players an extra incentive to explore every little piece of content the game has to offer. And that’s not to mention the unlockable items of content art that reward the player’s perseverance and intuition, adding another veneer to what was already a reasonably substantial package.
Does Day of the Jackass do anything new in a genre that’s about as uniform and clear-cut as they come? No. In truth, if you weren’t a fan of point-and-click adventure games before, this game won’t provide the epiphany that bucks the trend. If, however, you’ve got a point-and-click itch that’s in need of scratching, Day of the Jackass fully deserves your full, undivided attention. A self-mocking tale of silliness carrying a laid-back attitude from the word “go,” it’s a charming adventure that makes sure never to take itself seriously, instead focusing on the fantastic pillars that have made point-and-click adventures the enduring cult entities they are.