Randal’s Monday is a point & click adventure game by Nexus Game Studios and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It follows Randal Hicks, who due to his own fault becomes trapped in a Groundhog Day scenario, repeating the same day over and over again.
- Good visual style
- Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes’ voice acting
- Uneven comedy
- Reference overload
- Shallow characters
- Frustrating moon logic puzzles
- Annoying inventory
Right before I received my review, I read the news that Jeff Anderson, the actor who portrays Randal Graves in Clerks, would be voicing this game’s Randal (whose name is a clear reference to that film: Randal’s name and Dante’s surname) and that Jason Mewes would have a cameo role. The article was distinctly mum on what the role might be but it turned out to be Jay, with his heterosexual life partner Silent Bob by his side (who’s not voiced by Kevin Smith, which is a real tragedy).
The game has a simple premise. Randal’s a good for nothing kleptomaniac bum who steals his best friend’s wedding ring. The band turns is actually cursed and forces Randal to relive the next day, Monday forever. Groundhog Day scenarios are difficult to pull off, and are fantastic tools for stories revolving around morality and growth. If everything resets, are you accountable for the atrocities you might commit? Is there any crime if it turns out to never happen? Those are the types of stories reserved for these tales, but Randal’s Monday isn’t one of them. One thing those scenarios need to be effective is a workable in-universe logic, which here goes out the window by the second Monday. I like that your actions affect the next Monday, as if the consequences for whatever you did just get piled on the next reset. It’s an interesting concept but the rules get wonkier when actions physically affect other characters, such as the barmaid who becomes more attractive with every Monday or a drunken one-night stand that turns into a marriage proposal and a girlfriend on the next day. “Whaaaat?” will be a question you ask yourself many times over the course of the game, in plot and gameplay.
The plot itself isn’t bad, it’s actually interesting but it takes too long to pay off. A smaller number of days would’ve been better and the game could have done without the Shawshank Redemption sequence near the end, which is too long, entirely devoid of entertainment and in fact has a blatant copy of a famous puzzle, the spitting competition from Monkey Island 2, only combined with the spit-based puzzle from near the end of that game. It’s one thing to have references, but when you rip off a puzzle, two in fact, then you’ve crossed a line.
The Ring itself behaves a lot like the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings, with its own agenda and malicious intent. By the end they even bring in the apocalypse and the Four Horsemen, but while the true villain isn’t obvious, it’s another “Whaaaat?” moment, because it seemingly comes from nowhere.
Crossing lines is what Randal’s Monday does best with its overkill references. One or two or even many spread out thinly over the course of the game can give your players fun chuckle moments, but Nexus goes overboard with them. Everything is a reference to another thing and when everything is a reference, nothing is original or entertaining. It took this ‘humorous’ game five of its days to do something funny. Aside from that, I never laughed once. One example is the comic book store with the HAL 9000 security system. I know the intention is to have a fun play with Space Odyssey, but they go too far by keeping the computer’s name, using the same red-eye design, giving it the same voice and even use the name Dave in dialogue. It’s too much piled on and it stops being clever and becomes dull. And don’t get me started on the Adamantium Claws.
Randal’s Monday’s humour is clearly Clerk-ish, a distinct style dependent on “dick and fart jokes,” but the writers at Nexus lack the comedic and dialogue genius of Kevin Smith and because of that, the humour sometime mostly falls flat and the characters come off unappealing instead of satirized over-the-top personalities. Randal is hands down one of the most unlikeable characters in video games. He learns nothing and he doesn’t grow, remaining the same disgusting human being throughout. The rest of the cast are cardboard cut-outs, with simple and bland (or annoying) personalities. The greatest offender is the extremely cliché hard-ass Detective you meet almost every day, who at no point is even remotely funny. It’s the Dirty Harry stereotype but it isn’t played with well enough to give you some entertainment value.
When I said you’ll ask yourself “Whaaaat?” in gameplay, it’s because the game claims there are a small number of “strange” puzzles but that most are logic based. Yes, moon-logic based. At any given time you’ll have items in your inventory that you know are sensible solutions to the current problem, but none of them will work. Instead, as with most moon-logic games, you’ll have to find the most circuitous way to the solution, using items in ways no one has ever even conceived they should be used. Sure, there’s a feeling of elation, accomplishment even when you do solve one, but for the most part you’ll just be frustrated. The comic-book styled inventory doesn’t help, as there are sometimes items you have to combine but they’re on different pages and if the combination is incorrect, you have to get the item, return to the previous pages and try again.
In terms of sound, the music is actually pretty nice, but it could’ve used a bit more variety, especially as you’re constantly revisiting the same places over the course of several days. Voice acting is good, with the best being Anderson and Mewes. Then again, they aren’t playing new characters but ones they’ve been playing for the past 20 years. Randal Hicks IS Randal Graves in everything but the name and they have Jay & Silent Bob in the game.
My favourite part of the game has to be the visuals. The cartoon style is really good, even with the large wobble-like heads and even if they go overboard with the references, they are very well animated, and the comic book store has actual comic book covers. I recognized a few in there and Jay & Silent Bob are spot on from their Clerks counterparts. Despite that, there is some pixel hunting, as some items are very difficult to see.
Randal’s Monday is a game that desperately wants to entertain you and be ‘old-school’ at the same time, but between the absurd puzzles and inventory, the weak writing and the overuse of references it comes off short. Still, for adventure gamers it offers a significant challenge.
TMA Score: Wait for a Sale.