Randal’s Monday Review (PC)

To say that Randal’s a bit of a jerk would be an understatement, and though his sardonic nature has a degree of charm, his encounters with pretty much all of the other characters in the game show you that he doesn’t really get along with anyone but his best friend, Matt, with whom he gets up to most of his ludicrous escapades. Except that his kleptomaniac tendencies manage to ruin that friendship, as Randal steals the ring that Matt was going to give to his soon to be fiancée when they’re out on a Sunday night bender. Waking up the next day with a cracking hangover, Randal doesn’t exactly have the best day ahead of him: his landlord wants 3 months of overdue rent, his boss is apoplectic at his persistent tardiness and, worst of all, he discovers that losing the ring sent Matt suicidal.

It wasn’t exactly the best day, then, but on the plus side, he gets to repeat itwhen he wakes up the next morning. It’s Monday all over again, and he has the opportunity to right his wrongs, a little like Groundhog Day. Unlike Groundhog day, however, his actions do have consequences which ripple through time, and every change you make to the world around you remains as the next Monday begins. It’s a quite fascinating conceit, which means that the locations in the game do evolve over time and open up new possibilities for the game’s puzzles. Scribble out “Wednesday” on a Sci-Fi Convention poster and change it to read “Monday”, and the next time Randal wakes up, that convention will just be opening its doors.

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Of course, the only real way to solve this is to get the ring back into Matt’s wallet. It’s just a shame that Randal sold the ring and now has to figure out how to get it back, as those persistent changes twist and transform the world around him. For something to still be true from one Monday night to the next Monday morning, the ring’s magical powers have to also alter the past in some rather drastic ways.

Outside of a couple of notable exceptions, the other characters in the game don’t see what’s going on and what’s changed around them, but the events of Sunday night and time up until this point might be quite different, so that Randal wakes up in a rather different situation than before.It has a noticeable affect on the Point & Click gameplay too, as an item that you pick up (or don’t pick up) on one Monday might only come to be useful a few days later.

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This is your classically styled Point & Click adventure, with a bulging inventory of items and twisted puzzles which will require you to pick up and use anything and everything that you can find. The problems here are twofold, as each day brings puzzles for which you have no idea whether or not you have the right items, meaning that you’ll often end up revisiting all of the areas beyond the usual backtracking, just to see if there’s something that you missed, but many of the puzzles feel like they have far, far too many stages for such an inconsequential end result. I often lost track of what my end goal really was.

For example, I found myself needing to create an actual lightsaber out of several items, in order to get back a radio which had been fixed using several items that I’d had to collect, so that I could use this to distract a guy flipping a coin, to steal the coin from a distance using a magnet – which also required several logical leaps to acquire in and of itself – just so I could buy a sweet from a machine, to use that roll of chewing gum to replace a workman’s measuring tape while he wasn’t looking. That’s actually just half of the convoluted and particularly obtuse puzzle on my path to swiping a policeman’s badge, and a particularly overwrought example of what had me losing patience and dipping into the game’s hints system.

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Dripping from every pore of the game’s chunky cartoon art style and character dialogue are references to popular and geek culture, most notably the “View Askewniverse” of Kevin Smith’s films. For one thing, Randal is played by Jeff Anderson, who is best known as Randal Graves from the film Clerks, and comes across as a very similar style of character – that’s the point, really – strolling through life without many cares in the world and a snarky and snide comment for every situation. However, as you play the game, you can’t help but notice that there’s everything from Star Wars references to The Simpsons, to classic Lucasarts Point & Click adventures, Mystery Science Theater 3000, film posters, film memorabilia, and on and on.

The developers have quite literally stuffed the game with as much referential and reverential material as they possibly could, right from the Twilight Zone inspired opening. It’s nice to be able to enter a new location and start spotting all of the nods to other games or notice a little quote from a film that gets brought up, but while the developer’s enthusiasm for these things is clear to see, it’s all a bit over the top. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that they were simply throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks, because if you reference enough films and games, everyone’s bound to spot something, right?

It’s quite safe to say that some of the reality altering ramifications will really take you aback, though. On a number of occasions, it seems as if you’re on the cusp of getting the ring back and saving Matt’s life in the process, only for the game to pull the rug out from under you and send you even further down the rabbit hole with major shifts in setting and tone later in the game. You really won’t see some of the bizarre twists and turns coming.

What’s Good:

  • A challenging, classically styled Point & Click adventure.
  • Randal straddles that line between being a jerk and a likeable jerk.
  • Tons of references to pop and geek culture, but…

What’s Bad:

  • Referencing other works constantly gets a bit much.
  • Too many ludicrously convoluted, multi-stage puzzles.
  • Revisiting each area each Monday to check for new items.
  • Character voices sometime drop to below the background music in the audio mix.

The premise behind Randal’s Monday certainly had promise, blending Groundhog Day with a shameless protagonist whose actions only send him deeper down the rabbit hole, but it only really shows glimmers of that potential. More classically styled Point & Click adventures are always welcome, but this is a game that’s sadly mired in overindulgent references and contrived puzzles. This one’s only for die hard fans of the genre, who’ll happily sit, scratching their head for hours on end.

Score: 5/10

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