When the code for this game was sent to gintendo, I was given it as “it seems like a Luke game”.
In theory, that wasn’t wrong. This is an interesting, novel and amusing idea for a game. Two opponents face off, not to exchange punches and fireballs but insults. Make a mockery of your opponent better than they do you, and you win.
Each round, you’re given a selection of words and phrases which can be strung together into insults. Some are randomised, some the characters hold in their individual secret reserves, others are related to the location or scenario of the exchange.
The game understands grammar and syntax well enough to force you to write real sentences. It then scores you on how insulting you were to your opponent, with bonuses for calling back to an insult earlier in the fight or hitting with something they might find personally egregious.
If this all sounds brilliant, if a little derivative of classics like Monkey Island, don’t get too excited. The concept is sound but the execution is piss-poor.
It just doesn’t work. Sometimes you can score points for insulting the venue in which you’re arguing, even if that place has no more connection to your opponent than to yourself. Sometimes the opponent will score on a statement which holds no insult at all.
Even when the system is functioning as intended, there are some highly questionable decisions. You’re scored more highly for insulting women on their looks and age, for example.
Things are slightly improved in The Hollywood Roast, a standalone expansion which trades in send-ups of film characters and actors. The slightly more focused approach, and the room for the writers to make little digs and in-jokes, adds to the humour when the game works but does nothing to fix the issues that do exist.
I was hoping for Red Dwarf's brand of barbed dialogue, clever turns of phrase that insult without ever needing to use vulgarity or out-and-out rudeness. Instead, this is like a child trying to tell a joke before they actually understand the relationship between set-up and punchline. Meaningless drivel.
Ultimately, this works about as well as something like Just Dance. Between friends, there’s scope for enjoyment in putting together insults and hearing the game read them out. If players try to put any value in the game’s actual scoring system, though, it means nothing.
Having played the game, I now find the idea that it is “a Luke game” to be the biggest insult of all.
By Luke Summerhayes