Feature: We’ve been spoiled by a stream of actually decent adventure games recently. It doesn’t feel right. So let’s comfort ourselves by taking a look at one of the most shambolic point-and-clickers ever made.
People keep saying the adventure game is dead, which is a bit weird really, as people keep saying that in reviews of awesome adventure games. Every time a new Walking Dead or Resonance or Deponia emerges, we ramble like pre-programmed cliché bots about how the 1990s were so full of fantastic pointing and clicking and how these days a good adventure game is so rare. Guys? It’s not true. The ’90s had Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, but it also had Myst, and the million games that tried inexplicably to rip it off for the next ten bloody years. The ’90s just had a lot of adventure games, and by extension there were some good ones.
The genre might be more niche today, but it’s never shown any serious threat of dying. In fact, in recent years, not only have we seen new creative directions the genre can head in (Amnesia, Heavy Rain, Professor Layton), we’ve also seen an increasing number of really good classic-style point-and-clickers. Telltale revived a bunch of nostalgic favourites, Amanita Design made the utterly wonderful Machinarium, and in the past week we’ve reviewed two absolutely brilliant takes on the genre – one came out last Tuesday, and the other will be released this coming Friday.
So, adventure games are awesome again. Which is why I feel I can comfortably rip the piss out of this one without fear of damaging an already frail genre.
Everyone, meet Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge.
The sequel to some apparently popular adventure games I’d not previously heard of, Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge is quite possibly the funniest game I’ve ever played. I don’t remember finding myself creased double with laughter while playing Sam & Max, but Revenge had me gasping for air. As you might have guessed, this wasn’t for the right reasons.
OH MY GOD THAT IS SOOOO FUNNY
The game does dub itself as a “humouristic” adventure, which is a good start. I don’t think they meant “humouristic” – I think they meant “humourous” – but hey, at least we know the game’s trying its best to be funny. And it is.
For example, have a listen to what is laughably attempting to be voice acting;
Sorry, bear with me a second. My ears appear to have fallen off.
I’m not sure what happened there. Presumably all the actors recorded with different equipment at different locations. And presumably no one though it sensible to normalise the volumes, meaning some characters speak in near-silent whispers while others shout into the depths of your brain. Sometimes, one character starts out talking in a barely audible murmur, then SWITCHES TO TALKING VERY LOUDLY half-way through a sentence. And sometimes the voice acting audio stops working completely.
Those are the best bits, though, because oh my goodness the acting. Now, Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge is a German game, and I’ve only played the English version. So it could very well be that the original German voiceovers are perfectly excellent, and that somewhere along the way, someone realised that if they were going to release the game in the UK or North America, it might be a good idea to get some dubs in. “Budget? Oh…” someone may have said, which is why it sounds like the release manager just got his mates to do impersonations of Southern state accents, and only gave them one take each so they kept stumbling over their words, fumbling with basic intonation.
But at least the puzzles are okay… right?
Actually, they wouldn’t be too bad. If the game bothered to offer any feedback whatsoever, or managed to code its logic correctly.
Hey kids, settle down – it’s example time. There’s a puzzle in which, for reasons that were never especially clear at the time, you must dilute a bottle of whisky with water, drink it down, then shoot at a glass – to prove your drunken handgun prowess, or something. I got some water from a nearby river, mixed it with the whisky, then tried to drink it. But no! “It’s too strong,” my insufferable character insisted.
I spent a good while working out what the silly bollocks the game was on about. Just put more water in, then! But no, not allowed to do that either. Actually, it turned out I’d done everything right. But Mr. Fillmore decided he was going to tell me the whisky was too strong because the sun was in his eyes.
Yes, the sun was in his eyes. Maybe he got heatstroke and went a bit delusional.
And so, it emerged that I needed to sort out this problem before my ridiculous character would drink the bloody whisky and shoot the bloody glass. Oh, thanks, game. Thanks for bothering to tell me that. And I really appreciate the added difficulty you provided there, when you told me I hadn’t solved a puzzle that I had solved, in order to prod me in the direction of one I hadn’t.
At least it doesn’t try to shoehorn in action sequences
Occasionally, the game becomes a third-person shooter in which you consistently have to click just to the side of your target, otherwise you miss.
And did I mention that some of these sequences are timed? You battle against the clock to take out your targets, with a gun whose manufacturers clearly didn’t fit the sight properly. Or maybe it’s just really windy and the world will end in 30 seconds if you can’t hit those targets. Yeah, that’s probably it.
What a kicker
If Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge were built properly, it’d be that worst of beasts: a dreary, uninteresting and frustrating point-and-click adventure with a dismal story, rubbish characters and dismal scenery. It’s enlivened by its stubborn refusal to work correctly in any conceivable way, boasting an array of bugs and user-interface quirks that sometimes stop you in your tracks, and sometimes make things tolerable for one brief moment.
For example, here’s a picture of Rhiannon, one of the game’s lead characters, kicking a man through the balls:
That’s going to take some explaining. And while you’re at it, darlin’, could you explain why you appear to have a horse’s hoof where your foot should be?
This is a game that was released in a box, in shops, for £18 a copy. And to put that price into perspective, one of the most ludicrous things of all – which is also Fillmore’s saving grace – is that the game is over within two hours. That’s including all the time you spend trying to decipher the game’s broken logic, or wrestle with its shooting controls. It’s including the minutes on end you’ll spend laughing at preposterous cutscenes. I gave up on Fenimore Fillmore’s revenge terribly quickly, assuming I was nearing the end of the intro to one of the worst games ever made. Turns out, I was nearing its end completely.
These days it’ll cost you about four quid to pick up a copy, which is probably about right for two solid hours of stitch-inducing comedy. I’d hurry up if I were you, though. Play.com seems to be the only place in the UK that’ll have anything to do with the game any more – and they’ve only got a few copies left.
Perhaps most baffling is that Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge only reviewed quite badly. Heck, some people even liked the game. Here’s a review that refers to the dialogue as “exceptional” and the production values as “very good” – which won’t exactly serve us critics well, given our regular arguments with people who like to think we don’t actually play the games we write about.
Either way, you can wipe that smug look off your face, sunshine.