Publisher: Wadget Eye Games
Developer: Icebox Studios
System Requirements: Windows ME or later, Intel Pentium or better CPU, 64 MB RAM, Direct X-compatible graphics cards and sound devices
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: February 29, 2012
Step into the wayback machine with me for a trip to the 1990s. This was the heyday of the point-and-click adventure. Puzzle solving. Pixel hunting. Punishing difficulty with no hints to be found anywhere. Nonsensical combinations of inventory items. We’d never have the patience for games like this today; we’d just find a walkthrough on our favorite cheats site and breeze through without a care in the world. But indie developer Icebox Studios is taking a chance that there might still be dedicated adventurers out there searching for a new challenge. Hence Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass, a classic point-and-clicker with a hearty helping of dry British wit.
Meet Brain, Simon and The Defender. They’re stars of a small-time wrestling circuit in a typical seaside town. As we first encounter them, the boys are entering the ring for a battle royale, with the championship belt on the line. While Simon and Defender jump in and mix it up with their opponents, Brain grabs a ringside table and wipes them all out with it, claiming the belt for himself. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the vanquished grapplers, who decide to try to reclaim the prize outside the squared circle. But before they get the chance, Brain is kidnapped by persons unknown, so Simon and Defender search for clues to help them find the culprits and rescue their clueless friend.
All of the usual P&C rules apply here. Click on a section of the environment and the character you’re controlling moves there. Scanning the scene with your mouse reveals items with which you can interact. Your inventory pops up at the bottom of the screen if you hover your pointer there. Inventory items can be used on places in the scenery or with other characters, or they can be combined by dragging one onto another. Conversation topics also appear in the inventory area; clicking on these allows you to speak to NPCs. Information gained during conversation can be vital to solving the game’s puzzles, so you shouldn’t skip any of it.
At its heart, Da New Guys is an interactive cartoon. There’s no need to worry about your rig’s specs; if your PC turns on, it most likely will smoothly run this game. The graphics consist of large, low-res, colorfully hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. The story is meatier than most P&Cs, with two lengthy acts. You control Defender in Act I, but in the second half you have to use two other characters as a team to solve most of the puzzles (there are places where one of them can go but the other cannot; some items can be held by one but not by the other). Puzzle difficulty can be extreme, at least until you finally figure them out, after which you might slap yourself upside the head and wonder what took you so long. However, unlike many recent adventure games, there’s no hint system to bail you out of a jam, so you might have to do some FAQ searching on the Internet if you run out of ideas.
The things that hold Da New Guys together are the witty writing and the quirky characters. Defender is the leader of the three, with a friendly, easy-going manner (he ends practically every sentence with “my friend”). Simon is a giant brawler who’s probably just as happy at the local pub as he is in the ring. And Brain is a self-centered goofball who tries to substitute his intellect for his lack of physical prowess. Unfortunately, they’re center-stage in a story that’s far too long; the game could easily have ended after Act I. Throwing in the wrinkle of having to tag-team through the second act adds some complexity to the gameplay, but it only works if you care enough about the story to continue to the end. And then there are the puzzles, some of which really take you back to the old days; one of them almost requires you to blow the dust off your ancient pad of graph paper and draw yourself a map. Despite my fondness for days gone by, I suspect it’s a mistake to not offer in-game hints, something that adventure-game developer Telltale has used effectively without making their games too easy.
Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass is only for a certain type of gamer, someone who has the ability to holster his twitchy trigger finger and use his brain as his weapon of choice. Younger players will be put off by the primitive graphics and the lack of puzzle hints, and the game probably would’ve been better served by being divided into two episodes and sold separately. But if you managed to push through the original Monkey Island games and their ilk and emerged victorious, then you should give this silly adventure comedy a shot. You might raise a welt or two on the noggin by banging it against the wall, but that just makes solving the puzzles all the more fulfilling.