There are quite a few things in life I’ll never understand. Astrophysics, twerking, and girls all fit snugly into this ignorance-based category, but recently I discovered a new addition: Point-and-click adventure games. How an entire genre can be played simply by pressing the left side of your mouse (right side for all you lefties?) is beyond me, it just sounds too damn simple. However, the prevalence of these types of games on the internet, usually in browser-based form, speaks to their ability to draw players in through other means, whether it be an interesting story, novel problem solving, or the fact that you forgot all your peripheral gear at your friend’s house. Today we put those means to the test as we take a sneak peek at Nexus Game Studios’ latest irreverent misadventure, Randal’s Monday.
Set in the bowels of your standard-issue derelict city, you, the lovably hateable Randal Hicks (Clerks fans, I’ll get to you in a moment) find yourself the victim of fate, the time-space continuum, and your own damn fault. Forced to live the same day over and over (Groundhog Day-style) as a consequence of your self-centered ways, you must navigate your surroundings and interact with a myriad of charmingly crusty characters in order to break the cycle and return to your normal, probably dirty life. To give you some septic perspective, Nexus Games Studios proudly claims your character’s main personality trait is that of a sociopathic kleptomaniac. It’s clear from the start that you aren’t guiding Mother Theresa on this haphazard journey.
Randal’s Monday boasts several different features that are certainly worth noting, including A-list voice acting, pop culture references, and novel problem solving, but let’s tackle one at a time since the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Now, it’s hard at times to express sarcasm over writing, but when I said A-list voice acting, I was definitely being facetious. Randal himself is voiced by Clerks and Clerks II star, Jeff Anderson (Randal Hicks being a combination of the two main characters’ names; Dante Hicks and Randal Graves), whose nihilistically sardonic demeanor fits the role like my aforementioned leotard (tightly). Now don’t get me wrong, I love Anderson’s acting, I think he’s funny as hell. He is, however, not Oscar material and thus perfect for a role in videogames (I quit the day Brad Pitt resorts to videogame acting). Overall, Anderson’s presence makes up for the other, weaker voicing, and thus acts in the game’s favor, so long as you’re a fan of Clerks.
The second muscle Randal’s Monday tries to flex is their use of almost every reference spanning from the year 1990 to the present day. Seriously, nearly EVERYTHING in the game is a shout-out to a movie, videogame, show, or culturally-relevant issue that debuted within the last twenty years. Hell, the game itself is a reference (Groundhog Day, minus the Murray). Now, this can go either way at first. If you’ve spent a second on Reddit or 9GAG, you understand people’s creepy lust over the 90s; it is absolutely insatiable (50 Shades of Grey insatiable). Randal’s Monday banks on this, throwing everything they can think of into the mix in an attempt to draw out the wizened 90’s fiends itching for a fix. It’s cute, maybe for the first thirty-three minutes, after which it becomes so horribly excessive that you just want to take your Pogs collection, cram it down your throat, and choke to death. With so much of the content being a reference to someone else’s success, it’s hard to say what’s actually unique about the game. The bottom line being they come off as distrustful of their own material, and must thus borrow indefinitely from their childhood upbringing.
For those of you who nearly dropped your prized Beanie Babies in shock over my seemingly blatant attack on your favorite time period, take a second to realize that I too am a child of that golden era (growing up in the country did mean I missed out on a lot of cartoons, though), but I know when enough is enough. You can’t have a game built solely on “remember whens”, it just doesn’t work. So what else does this game offer that might not bore you to tears? Puzzles, I think I mentioned those earlier, right? Yes, puzzles seem to be the bread and butter of the adventure part of this game. While you progress through each chapter by talking to other characters, selling used junk at pawn shops, and avoiding your landlord, you come across pitfalls that require all the creativity and expertise of a second-grader in order to solve. I need to reach that high-up latch to activate the fire ladder? Better use my trusty wire hanger and a rubber duck! The preacher wants a stronger adult beverage? Better squeeze some rotten lemon juice into his cup! These…puzzles…will end up taking you more time than you’re willing to admit simply because they make no goddamn sense to people not suffering from Spongiform Encephalopathy, but I guess that’s what makes them puzzles, no?
Overall, the adventure part of the game falls short while the point-and-click aspect reigns supreme. Using the left (and sometimes right, oooh!) mouse button to navigate your way around the 2D environment becomes awfully taxing, and you’ll soon find that you have to click on everything at least twice to figure out if it’s pertinent to the mission at hand. The library’s worth of Anderson’s dialogue is usually funny, if not a bit self-serving at times, but I really don’t need to hear him explain what a dirty sock under his bed is for more than once. Though the visuals of the game boast two dimensions, the gameplay struggles with one.
Speaking of repeating things more than one time, let’s talk about what you won’t be doing once you finish the game. If you, through some measure of dedication to seeing things through, manage to make it through the seven chapters available, I can all but promise you will never do it again. The story is linear, and though you may have possibly missed some vague reference to Back to the Future, you will certainly not want to slog through hours of clicking in the hopes of catching it on a second playthrough. For any developer, not having gameplay worth a second look is crippling on the scale of Tiny Tim during Christmas. The reliance on comedy would work if the humor consisted of more than one-time jokes (come on, Heinlein fans, Mike would be proud), and the overall feel of watching a game over actually playing it further bogs down the desire to experience it a second time.
In the end, Randal’s Monday is unique in that it can make you laugh and feel like a bad person, all at the same time. The tongue-in-cheek humor and grimy environment, coupled with Anderson’s spot-on personification of the world’s worst person, really does the game justice in terms of novelty. Unfortunately, the overload of not-so-topical references, lack of actual gameplay and coherent puzzles, and single-use nature of the adventure truly hobbles overall potential. Clerks fans and 9GAG devotees may flock to pick this up and appreciate every single innuendo, but the average gamer could pass this up and still sleep soundly at night.