Monsters are out there, hidden from mortals but living among them. Some are good, just trying to make a living but others aren’t so nice. When people have trouble with the supernatural, they come to one man, Dog Mendonça and his intern, Pizza Boy.
Genre(s): Point & Click Adventure
Developer: OKAM Studio
Release Date: March 2016
Played: Full Story
Purchase At: Steam
There’s one narrative “tool” in the world that I dislike more than any other, In Medias Res, where the story starts in the middle, with the exposition needed coming later in flashbacks or memories. That’s how The Interactive Adventures of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy begins, with our duo hanging over a boiling cauldron surrounded by what seem to be vicious monsters. Dog, oblivious to it all, asks Pizza Boy to relate the events that led them to this predicament, interrupting the lanky intern’s tale to demand they start with a car chase instead, because it’s much more fun.
As I said, I’m not a fan of in medias res, it’s been done way too much in the past years on TV. But Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy had me forget about my dislike for the trope with the decision to subvert the real story for some showmanship, adding a bit of action to the story…just because. It’s a wonderful bit of humour that gives you the first of many chuckles you’ll have along the game. The writing is wonderfully humorous and while it deals with its subject matter as seriously as it can, it’s not afraid to poke fun at itself, the tropes of its platform, origin and genre. There are references to other games, to TV, and even to the comic book trilogy that spawned the characters.
What I liked the most about the references in the game is that while there are certainly a good number of them, they don’t drown out the game’s own style and identity. They’re in the background, something nice to look at and make you go, “hey, it’s that!” The most overt reference won’t mean anything to anyone who’s never seen The Gremlins films, but for those of us who have, the place where you meet the reference character makes it all the better. And if you’ve never seen Army of Darkness, then you’ll miss a wonderful moment.
But while the game does give you those reference moments, and even highlights a few of them to interact and get a nice quip on observation, there is a definite lack of ‘observable’ spots. Adventure games often have these additional spots to give you a bit more information about the world the game takes place in, about the characters, culture and even the locations themselves. But in Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy, if it’s not part of a puzzle, then it’s highly likely you won’t be able to even “observe” it. And it’s a shame because the world of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy is great, with monsters and humans living side by side in blissful ignorance. I’m a giant Urban Fantasy fan, I think I’ve made it clear in the past how much I love the genre, and this one has enough going for it to be very interesting, particularly when Dog’s entourage includes an ancient demon possessing the body of a little girl. And beyond the setting, the elements of the environment are beautifully drawn, with tons of intricate details that I would’ve loved to click on.
The world of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy may be interesting but the game’s plot is a mess. Starting from the hanging predicament and the car chase, you move to a short client meet and then you’re off on your big adventure as Pizza Boy to rescue Dog from whatever mess he’s in this time. Sounds good so far, but then you start hitting different locations with the flimsiest of plot threads connecting them, often Pizza boy talking about characters no one’s mentioned, such as a crossdressing Oracle or one of his Geek friends—who shows up dressed in a Moonkin outfit, something I approve of. With the humorous tone, you’re meant to go along with it, but when you’re trying to give me an investigative story, you can’t just keep pushing me around with information you got off-screen. The big ‘revelations’ come out of left field and introduce the main bad guy in the most off-handed way possible, and once again, it’s not something you discover but another character tells you about it mid-cutscene.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s your standard-fare point & click adventure game, something I like. Its puzzle design is of the LucasArts School, with some nonsensical and over-complicated puzzles working just on humour alone. The humour is solid but the puzzles are weak, too simple to deduce, except for one at the amusement park involving hypnosis and a witch. The developers of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy attempted to add another layer to the puzzles with interrogations, but there’s no intuitive way to deduce the right options, so it’s a case of click on everything and see what works.
There are adventure games that add minigames to the experience, and as general rule I despise minigames. But I loved the one they used in Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy: Punch Out! You can dodge and strike, and you need to wait for the opponent’s openings to hit them. It’s made even better by having a Mike Tyson lookalike as the first opponent. It’s just perfect!
The lowest point of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy for me though has to be the voice acting. It’s lifeless. The writing is top-notch but the actors just won’t sell it. The conversation with the client at the start of the game is painful. I will say that Pizza Boy’s actor is the best of the bunch, he at least attempts to sound like he cares. The rest don’t give a damn and sound like they’re reading from a furniture catalogue. It’s rather sad to be honest.
The Interactive Adventures of Dog Mendonça and Pizza Boy’s humour puts it one level above other LucasArts-like adventure games, but the messy plot and drone-like voice acting nearly wreck what the clever writing accomplishes.
3/5 – Alright!