The Supreme League of Patriots might sound like the name of an odd superhero comic book. In truth it’s a point & click adventure game, developed by indie developer No Bull Intentions, and set in a fictional version of New York city filled with real life superheroes.
Developer: No Bull Intentions
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Release Date: 29 January 2015
Played: Full Season (3 Eps)
Supreme League of Patriots (SLP) opens with main characters Mel and Kyle getting ready for Kyle’s big audition to America’s Got Superpowers, the bran new superhero reality show. If he pulls it off, he’ll be off to the superhero boot camp and main competition. Sadly (and predictably), things don’t exactly work for him and after several accidents during the audition his personality shifts to his superhero persona, a Hardcore 1950s Republican: Chauvinist, Sexist, Racist, Homophobic and Xenophobic.
The identity inversion concept at the core of SLP I found extremely appealing. Kyle is mild-mannered, lazy and kind of a moron but accepting and tolerant. His alter-ego, however, is his exact opposite (while still being a moron), extremely politically incorrect by our modern standards. Even more, the Purple Patriot is so self-absorbed in his belief that he actually develops superpowers, in a unique twist to “Mind over matter.”
It’s clear the writer’s intention was to satirise those outdated points of view as well as our modern reality TV culture, and I wished they had pulled it off. The problem is, Satire is very hard to execute correctly but very easy to do badly, and SLP slips and misses the satirical mark completely. The result is bland humour and terribly written characters. It also made the mistake of making both Kyle and his alter ego generally unpleasant. If the Purple Patriot were a decent person despite his horrible points of view, they might have been able to explore that dichotomy and possibly get some nice humour out of it, but that’s not the case. The character is an atrocious human being and you have no choice but to go along with his constant cruelty towards others. Worse still is that while other characters comment on it, never do they do anything to counter him, tacitly accepting his actions and turning them all into hypocrites. It’s common for adventure games protagonists to sometimes trick or cause problems to others, but in SLP there is a malice in the Purple Patriot’s actions that leave a bad taste in my mouth.
The rest of the cast is a collection of stereotypes, from the super flirty and effeminate gay superhero to the Russian ex-KGB supervillain and the hot-blooded vindictive Latina, there just to offer Purple Patriot with opportunities to display his political incorrectness, making the entire affair even more awkward. The only character to have some merit is Mel, the snarky British sidekick. While still being a complete stereotype, at least his humour hits the mark sometimes.
I won’t say I didn’t chuckle a few times. I did, but it wasn’t from the clumsy parodies of TV, Gaming and American culture, but from the more juvenile comments, what Clerks director Kevin Smith often refers to a “Dick & Fart Jokes.” In this regard, the writers show a greater degree of proficiency.
Beyond the writing itself, there is a second reason why the protagonists can become grating as the episodes go and it’s tied to the point & click observation mechanic. Each time you click to examine an item, you won’t get a simple explanation but a full conversation between Kyle and Mel, who has a snarky comment for each of them, to the point where even those start to lose effectiveness.
In terms of the mechanics themselves, I grew increasingly frustrated with the uneven design. For starters, there’s never uniformity in the interaction. Some items and locations you click and get multiple options while others default to observation, and it even happens with inventory items. At one point in the game I could click on an inventory item and it would display the action wheel (which looks like a purple Captain America shield, a nice little superhero-y touch), but then click on another and get the default description conversation.
Inventory management is cumbersome, forcing you to use two inventories when one would’ve done quite well. You can examine and combine all your items in the ‘upper’ inventory, but you can’t drag them out and use them on the environment or characters. Instead, you need to scroll through the ‘lower’ inventory, shaped like the character’s utility belt. But you can’t drag and use items from there either. Instead, if you pick the right tool, the next time you click on the hotspot, the item will show in the center of the action shield, between all the other actions. It’s possibly the most counter-intuitive inventory system I’ve ever encountered in an adventure game and will have you losing time cycling, one by one, through the belt items. It made me wish for mouse-scroll support.
The puzzles themselves are pretty straightforward inventory puzzles, so if you’re looking for pattern or number based ones, this isn’t the game for you. Most of the puzzles are multi-step, requiring you to use an item, go through a few conversations and then use another. My greatest issue with the puzzle design ties not to the puzzle themselves but to the exploration, the pointing and clicking itself, as you won’t be able to even interact with certain items until their puzzle comes along. If you’ve spent 2/3 of the game thinking that an item is part of the background, you won’t think to look for it, in other words, there is no way for you to make the logic leap required. A sequence in particular had me searching for a way to change back from the Purple Patriot to Kyle and the answer was a previously un-clickable item. Other items you won’t be able to collect until you’ve made futile attempts at performing an action without them, the last puzzle in the game being the most egregious example of this. It’s not clever puzzle design but a lazy one, adding complexity where there is none. A complex puzzle is supposed to lead to the “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment, where you put the solution together, and never should it lead you to “Really?” or “Are you kidding me?” moments. Personally, I found the Bank Heist sequence the worst in terms of puzzles, as even their setup made little sense, even in this superhero-filled world.
There is a hint system. Asking Mel what you need to do will prompt hints from the character, and for some reason, even your objective will sometimes tell you what you need to do. It works rather well. The problem is how many puzzle advancement ‘triggers’ involve talking to Mel and asking him explicitly “What am I supposed to do?” And while in those cases that question is a separate conversation topic from the hint system, it still made me feel as if asking Mel for hints was the point of the game. Countless times I knew the solution to the puzzle but the game wouldn’t recognize it until I spoke to the characters and asked them specifically for what I should do, and they would tell me things I had figured out very early on.
On a final note with SLP’s gameplay, it does something that is possibly my greatest annoyance with modern adventure games on steam: it hands hundreds of hollow achievements. There is an achievement in this game not only for every episode completed but also for every puzzle or conversation. The first time I saw this in a game it felt patronising, now it’s just annoying. Achievements should be for fun or difficult things, something that feels like its namesake, not something handed out for simply playing the game.
I did enjoy the visual style. It’s bright and colourful and it works wonderfully with the larger than life setting and characters, as much like superhero comic books, you will often see exaggerated proportions, such as big bodies with small heads. Having said so, character models are stiff when they move and talk. I would also have preferred cleaner transitions between locations, without so many loading times. There is even a loading screen between setting up a puzzle and its solution triggering at one point, which struck me as extremely odd.
I have mixed feelings with the music. On the one hand, the music is quite good, the main title reminiscent of 60s-70s superhero TV shows, such as the Adam West Batman. The True Believers club has some funky disco music going for it and the protagonists’ apartment’s song I can only describe as ‘mellow stoner music’ which goes really well with the characters themselves. On the other hand, the game has personal themes for each character and will suddenly switch from the location’s background song to the character’s personal tune, which will go from jarring to simply annoying. It’s especially bad in True Believers where you go from nightclub music to basically a Barry White song when talking to proprietor. These personal songs match the stereotypical portrayal of the characters. For example, Consuela is Latina and as such, her theme has castanets and/or maracas. Voice acting is generally good, and despite my dislike for the character I have to admit the Purple Patriot’s voice acting is the best. He really sounds like an old-school cartoon superhero.
As an episodic game, I knew I would have to deal with constant cliffhangers and unresolved plot points, but SLP takes it a new unbearable level. The plot is completely predictable, takes ages to start going forward and ultimately goes nowhere. They couldn’t even come up with a season finale climax, which is a SIN in this format. The season finale lacks punch, direction and tries to make light of leaving things open for a potential second season, without even coming remotely close to character or story development. In fact, the way the story unfolds, you could have put it all into a single episode and use the rest to properly develop the characters and build the world around them.
Supreme League of Patriots aims high and tries to make its unique and rather intriguing concept work, but fails the mark in almost every way, resulting in an experience few would want to go through let alone repeat. It’s a real shame considering how much potential the concept had.
2/5 – Mediocre