Game: "Ugly Americans - Apocalypsegeddon"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: It’s not easy to make a game based off a TV show. At least, that’s the read I get from looking at past offerings. Still, when a developer feels confident enough to compare their game to the likes of Gauntlet and Robotron, you tend to take notice.
The game expects you to have some knowledge of Ugly Americans before you jump in, but like the aforementioned old-school games, story is not the main focus. The short version goes like this: Mark Lilly is a mild-mannered, milquetoast guy working at the Department of Integration (sort of like the INS, but for monsters) in New York. During a routine investigation, he and his friends notice that the various monsters in the city are being driven to madness by the music of a new female artist named Desdemona. Riots erupt across the city, and it falls to Mark and his friends to stop Desdemona from wedding Mark’s demonic boss, Twayne, and triggering the apocalypse. Simple stuff, no?
To facilitate the mass suppression of hordes of angry monsters, Mark and the rest of the DOI have been outfitted with the BSU (Blow Shit Up) 2000, a gun that converts any household object into a deadly projectile. And also replicates said object so that it can be fired indefinitely. Thus, instead of machine guns, rocket launchers, lasers, you’ll be fighting with baseballs, wrenches, and rubber chickens. Each object comes with a unique attack pattern styled after some of the classic shooter weapons, with rapid fire, spreadshot, piercing, and even spiraling projectiles.
As you progress through the game, more are unlocked, sometimes overlapping earlier ammo types, but the game includes stat bonuses/deductions for each weapon so that you never truly feel that a new set of weapons has rendered the earlier ones entirely obsolete. Better still, the four characters in the game (Mark, his half-demon girlfriend Callie, his alcoholic wizard friend Leonard, and his hard-boiled cop buddy Frank) each have a handful of specialty weapons that unlock special abilities like extra damage and stunning when in the hands of the right character.
While the game is similar to Gauntlet in that the four characters fulfill the four different archetypes of that game, the individual levels in UA: A are more akin to Robotron, in that they are mostly empty spaces that fill with enemies over time. Each level consists of a corridor that you must walk down from left to right. Ammo and powerups are found in destructible objects like trashcans and mail boxes, but these objects are almost always found at either the very top or the very bottom of the screen, with a big open space in the middle for fighting the waves of enemies. Later levels try to break up the emptiness by throwing in the occasional environmental hazard, but the earlier levels could have benefited from the presence of more obstacles, if only to introduce an element of strategy to the battles. It would also make it easier to ignore that the game reuses several levels with only a change of colors to differentiate them.
Speaking of repetition, there is one thing, above any and all other problems I may have with this game: the dialog. The devs made an effort to implant the game with all the humor of the show, and I can respect that, even though it doesn’t really resonate with me. What I can’t get behind, however, are the lines written for the enemy monsters. A lot of the lines are either odd remarks (“Ugh, need Nyquil.”) or horribly dated one-liners. One boss character declares, “Somebody stop me!” and *shudder* “Git ‘r done!” And the remarks are spoken over and over again by the enemies as you fight and kill them. It doesn’t matter how funny you think it is to hear a manbird angrily shout, “Suck my balls!” After hearing it for the thirtieth time in the span of ten minutes, you’re going to get sick of it.
For all the effort that’s gone into making sure the game sounds like Ugly Americans, surprisingly little effort has been put into the visual presentation. The in-game graphics work well to represent the fairly flat style of the show, but the handful of cinematics in the game can hardly be called cinematics. The characters and scenes are fully drawn, but animation is done only in the most perfunctory fashion, with characters given no more than a handful of movement animations and speech conveyed by having a character open their mouth and twitch back and forth from pose to pose. The result is that you feel like you’re watching a well-drawn animatic. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t simply animate what few of these sequences there are, as the longest of them can’t be much more than a couple minutes. It’s all the more confusing when you consider that the devs included an entire episode of the show as a extra for beating the game.
I admit that I am not the biggest fan of Ugly Americans. I think the writing leaves a lot to be desired, especially when shows like Futurama demonstrate that you can have your show set in an unusual place full of unusual creatures without having to constantly resort to scatological humor and jokes where the punchline winds up being, “hey, look at this outrageous thing!” Nevertheless, it’s a fairly solid shooter, even if some of the elements of the presentation don’t quite work. If nothing else, fans of the show will get a fairly enjoyable evening out of the game.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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