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Randal’s Monday Preview – Doomed To Fail?
Gaming is a part of the tastes that someone who identifies as a nerd. That collides with many other worlds, such as movies, shows, comics and more media that’s targeted to this audience. Point and click adventure Randal’s Monday encapsulates this in a reference-heavy journey, where pop culture is always just a visual or audible cue away.
This game hits all the right beats when it comes to its presentation. A solid 2D environment is filled with tons of interactive content to peruse. Characters bear their cartoon models well to represent the overall humorous tone.
Easter eggs are provided virtually anywhere on the screen for sleuths to find and enjoy. Conversations have sarcastic quips built in with almost every line, which isn’t universally great, but certainly will be good for at least a few hearty chuckles.
For an additional kicker, animations are surprisingly smooth and don’t opt for the limited “old” look, for once. Locations, from seedy dives to pawn shops filled with memorabilia, flow smooth as silk with an added scrolling screen for more visual stimulation, rather than the usual one screen equals one panel of other point and click games.
Gameplay though, that’s kept as classic as possible. In fact, were it not for the brand new style Randal’s Monday is sporting, it would feel more at home as a throwback than anything else. Titular character Randal, voiced by the same-named misanthropic video store employee in Clerks, can scan rooms and crack wise about objects or stash them in a clunky inventory, set up as a comic book. Lifting objects is justified lightly with the total acceptance that kleptomania isn’t so much a problem as much as it’s just a condition.
With a pocket full of random objects, it’s then possible to interact with other things in order to solve puzzles. Here’s the problem with the dated gameplay in Randal’s Monday: There isn’t really a strand of logic for puzzles. Since items are picked up in one scene without reason and then used only several panels further, it’s hard to see any connection, if at all.
Since this is an adventure game that revolves on figuring things out, conversation options are often also esoteric. Unfortunately, as the game has an open direction, this leads to a lot of confusion where the continuation actually happens.
While obscurity is the point and click adventure’s bread and butter, going overboard makes it a trial and error ordeal of fitting every object into every other, in the vague chance of it paying off. To top it off, Randal’s Monday actually uses pixel hunting, which means meticulously running the cursor across the breadth of the screen, as a selling point.
Running a fine comb over every inch of a location and applying a random series of combinations isn’t rewarding, it’s aggravating. Old titles like Broken Sword were guilty of this nonsensical behavior. And while that may be pitched as nostalgic, in any other view it’s an obsolete design choice that is only meant to keep progression at bay at any cost.
Moreover, some of the picked up scraps can provide their own puzzle. So, even with the proper tools in hand, it may still be needed to further break down elements or combine them in the inventory, before they become applicable.
Randal’s Monday or Doomsday?
Does that mean that Randal’s Monday is doomed to fail? These are a lot of core design flaws that are likely to stay embedded in the game after all. Possibly so, but instead, it’s likely that this adventure will only be food for an incredibly narrow audience. Is that the same as a bad game? Not necessarily, no.
A big part of Randal’s Monday is pop culture. Everything in the game is a reference. Just like in the movie Clerks, classics like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man and so on are thrown around copiously. The more these prompts are understood by the audience, the better the game becomes. Clues become easier to understand, puzzles are less of a drag to solve, conversations become richer; it goes on like that. It’s so obvious that, again, publisher Daedalic markets this willingly, stating:
Gameplay time will depend on how much time you spend in front of the TV in your childhood.
Admittedly, this is a cynical point towards any outsider and a dangerous approach to a product meant to sell, but it’s the one pinpointed thing to keep in mind with this game. This is made for the walking encyclopedia of references. Enjoyment is directly correlated to the degree of this particular knowledge.
Still, there are saving graces for the general audience as well. For instance, Randal will periodically wise up and give a clue as to how to best proceed. Sometimes, the only significant object in the room will be hinted at as usable, while others are immediately discarded.
Most importantly, it’s possible to hold a certain key to make prompts appear on screen that display where interactions can be done. This last point significantly reduces the amount of needed pixel hunting.
As a product, Randal’s Monday is likely to either fall on hard times or garner an audience that will not welcome its exclusive nature. As a specialist item solely meant for the most dedicated pop culture fan, however, there may be a point and adventure worth living through, molded in a slick shell.
Its confusing, olden puzzle model may not appear as archaic to those who just want to be entertained with humorous references. It’s not exactly a tribute to games of yore, but it will definitely hold nostalgic value to a select group of fans through its pop culture adoration.