"We all wish we could go back and change some of the mistakes we've made in our lives, but what happens when the man who's been given that opportunity is a sociopathic, kleptomaniac, good-for-nothing moron?"
So asks one of Randal's Monday's opening lines. The answer? A ton of illogical puzzles, apparently.
Help, I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone
The easiest way to describe Randal's Monday is this: Kevin Smith (of Clerks and Chasing Amy fame) didn't make it, but you'd believe me if I said he did. What Clerks did for the film industry, Randal's Monday does for games. That is to say, it's a point-and-click adventure game in its own right, but most of its charm comes from a constant onslaught of pop culture references.
Duff Beer, The Big Lebowski, Space Invaders, The Legend of Zelda, Ghostbusters — this game is crammed full of references on shelves, on posters, in literally every spare pixel of every screen. And it extends into the dialogue too, with jokes both obscure and obvious littered throughout. Even Jay and Silent Bob make an appearance, with Jason Mewes himself reprising his famous role.
It's the equivalent of a warm, fuzzy blanket of nostalgia that helps mask some of the game's more obvious flaws. You're so caught up in spotting references it's like there's a little buffer between you and the more obnoxious bits of the game. "Look, it's Tron!" is followed by "Oh, Maniac Mansion!" in the next room or "Ha, jokes about Star Wars and Star Trek!" in the room after that, and maybe that's enough to keep going.
But like I pointed out with South Park: The Stick of Truth earlier this year, a reference isn't a joke in and of itself. You can't just allude to the fact that something exists and expect that to be meaningful content. Most of the references in Randal's Monday are just that — passive allusions to classic touchstones in geek culture.
What makes it even more distracting is that the game's tone seems torn between loving homage to geek culture and derision. From the artwork and the way Randal talks about some iconic gaming characters you'd think the game is a celebration of nerds. Work your way through the story, however, and there's a dark underbelly to it all — one that mocks nerds as much as not.
One section in particular has Randal head to a science fiction convention. Once there, Randal makes fun of everyone and hands out shirts alluding to the virginity of attendees. It's a lazy joke regardless of intent, but within the larger tone of the game it's hard not to feel targeted.
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