What do we want out ot adventure games these days? More than we really expect, but I suppose that the ability to rise to the challenge of solving progressively harder logic puzzles in order to advance an intriguing plot is probably one of the central requirements. What we don't want to see in an adventure game is a series of cartoons interrupted by a handful of spoon-fed puzzles that do as much to stimulate the mind as a Live & Kicking interview with Westlife. But it's a case in point that needs to be detailed further, so scan on, dear reader.
No point in delaying it any further: it's nowhere near as good as Monkey Island. There. Might as well get that out of the way. For a series that's seen as the peak of adventuring finesse (if you squint a little at the third one) it's a pity that Stupid Invaders gets released at the same time as Escape From.... Then again, if it wasn't there wouldn't be a better chance to hold it in comparison to how things should be done in today's barren adventure climate. Just let it be said that the recent fourth game yanks Sts trousers down, pointing and laughing before it can even get onto the podium.
A Rubber Chicken With A Pulley In The Middle
Plot and character - a factor that means the world in this genre - aren't put to full use. The five characters you get to control, distinctive though they may first appear, are grossly underused. There's comparatively little dialogue and the situations each character finds itself in could be said to be predominantly interchangeable. Besides, there's no need to switch between each to solve a certain puzzle and nothing Uthat requires a specific talent. So what's the point?
What's disappointing is that Stupid Invaders looks great. You'd expect so too, since the four CDs take up 2.8Gb of space on full installation. The off-set angular backgrounds and vivid characters give it a look reminiscent of LucasArts' classic Day Of The Tentacle, while the animation of the in-game 3D characters blends in seamlessly with the numerous cut-scenes.
And, I'll genuinely admit, I did find it funny in parts. The humour's generally in the vain of Ren & Stimpy slapstick; indeed, any game that manages to kill Santa Claus in the first ten minutes is worthy of a few laughs. It's just unfortunate that 'few' is the most significant word. Y'see, readers, Stupid Invaders is rather a short game. Of course, I've got nothing too much against short games. I completed the first Monkey Island in two days (I thank you) and still consider it one of the best games ever. It's more to do with what makes the game short. Put it this way: do you remember those interactive children's storybooks? The ones where if you clicked on any of a large number of objects on the screen, you'd receive a funny, albeit non-productive, little animation. Sure they were for kids, but you couldn't deny it was enjoyable clicking on everything to see what it did. Well, compared to those, Stupid Invaders is positively anorexic.
Move your mouse around the screen and the most you're going to get are one or two hotspots essential to progress jumping out of the detailed backgrounds. While it's all well and good, avoiding frustrating the player too much, it often feels like we're being led by the hand throughout. The lack of red herrings mean that it's rare to find yourself clicking on everything else to progress, but it also means that there's little challenge as the minimal amount of objects you carry can only ever apply to a minimal amount of other objects.
What Possible Use Could That Have?
Of course, we can't lay all the blame at Stupid Invaders' feet -adventure games have been condensing their essence for years - however, it seems to stand out more than usual in here. Even if you do manage to click on something extraneous to the plot, chances are you won't even get a detailed description of what it is, with your character staying silent. As I said, for a game this large, there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of speech. They won't even grace the air with a 'I can't do that' when you attempt something wrong - not that you'll find yourself doing that too often where the puzzles are concerned.
Despite the aforementioned, minimalist approach, Stupid Invaders starts out quite well, with the expectantly easy initial puzzles setting the scene nicely. It's just that further on they don't seem to get any better. In fact, in some ways, they get worse. One certain scene sees you trapped in a pit with a giant fly. To get out you have to talk to the fly. There's no dialogue, nothing else to click on. Just click on the fly four times and you get taken out. It wouldn't be so bad if the exact same thing didn't happen throughout; click on the solitary switch in order to open the door to the next scene. Where's the puzzle in that? To add insult to injury, they even see fit to include one of those repeat-the-pattem Simon games along with a (thankfully deceptively small) maze. Still, at least there's a logic to them. Which is more than can be said about the death scenes.
I Am Rubber. Yuu Me Glue
If there's one thing we don't want back from old adventures, it's illogical death. Click on one inconspicuous lever and you die, click on another and you don't. A close-quarters explosion doesn't kill you but a gunshot will. And so on. It's all totally unexpected. You just can't tell where it's going to come from and chances are you won't have saved beforehand. Mind you, it's not going to take you too long to get back to where you started - playing through the whole game, knowing what to expect and skipping cut-scenes takes only slightly over an hour -but it has to be said, it's not on.
The lack of decent puzzles and the brevity of Stupid Invaders don't do it any favours. Not to put it completely down: if all you're after is a high quality, funny, interactive cartoon, well, you're perfectly catered for here. Then again, you'd be best checking out the highly underrated Toonstruck first - a game of similar elements that does a terrific job on both the twisted humour and puzzle front while displaying slightly more interaction than can be found here (even though it does have a Simon puzzle). Either that, or the obvious gentleman's choice: the new Monkey Islandepisode, which does a hell of a lot more for characterisation and length than Stupid Invaders ever will.
To sum up, if you're after a challenging game, you're not going to find it here. Right, I've got about 75 words left, just enough room for some bonus moaning: characters sometimes don't respond to mouse clicks, there are spelling errors in the subtitles and there's one section where you have to wander around similarly empty sections of barren desert, with little clue of which way leads to death, clicking everywhere just to find two necessary objects. And that's... about... it.... Bye! (Slam! Pit-a-pat-pat. Clunk. Click. Vrrm, vrrm. Screech! Vrooom!)
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode