Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass Review (PC)

Among headlines dominated with feel-good soundbites about kickstarter projects to revive classic old-school adventure games, it’s worth noting that - for some at least - the genre never really went away to begin with. Telltale has been furiously producing top-level point-and-click content for the past couple of years, and various indie-led projects have sprung up in the interim to fulfill the demands of a rabidly-attentive audience. A niche it may well be, but nobody can argue that adventure fans aren’t catered for.

Developer Wadjet Eye Games is one of the smaller production studios still fanning those flames, and on the basis of Da New Guys and previous hit Gemini Rue, they have every reason to continue to do so. These are titles that act as a homage to the early days of classic Lucasarts, right down to the hand-drawn look of the graphics and relatively simplistic audio production. Pretend it came on a CD in a foot-long cardboard box and you can practically smell the nostalgia.

The art is hit-and-miss retro-themed

It controls in a pleasingly similar fashion too, albeit with a few nods to modernity. Interface options that may be confusing to a youthful audience are jettisoned in favour of a quick context-sensitive two-button interaction system, allowing the player to simply concentrate on which items they need to combine or which actions they need to perform in order to move a scene forward. Pixel hunts and basic puzzles are still the order of the day though, with a quick inventory management system hidden at the bottom of the screen. There are no video resolution or audio options to contend with, and everything about the experience is refreshingly straightforward.

The setup will be familiar to those of you that watched the original series back around 2005, and it revolves around ‘Da New Guys’: a semi-professional wrestling team consisting of three varyingly-inept members. Leading egomaniac and awful grappler ‘Brain’ is kidnapped following his dubious title win that involved hurling a table at fellow protagonists, and it’s down to surviving members ‘The Defender’ and ‘Simon’ to figure out what happened. As half the wrestling world is in uproar that Brain managed to grab the belt in the first place, you’re not short of evil masterminds or nefarious subplots to investigate.

You’ll visit every corner

To do so, you follow the staples of the genre down to the letter. Puzzles are strewn around locations that can be perused and travelled to from a town map, and it’s down to you to explore dialogue trees, combine items and search your grey matter for solutions to conundrums. There are plenty of characters that’ll need distraction before you can remove them from a particular doorway to gain access to another location (as an example), plenty of items to be swapped out when nobody is looking, and subplots to be triggered when requesting information about a specific character or event.

Most of those puzzles are decently implemented too, with just the right amount of obfuscation to keep you scratching your head. Solutions are logical for the most part, and although I was reduced to combining everything in my inventory with on-screen items on more than a few occasions, the final result was usually something I should have guessed a heck of a lot earlier. Indeed there are only a few sporadic mechanical problems that impact negatively, as the game occasionally fails to prompt you that there are off-screen areas that can be explored, or items that can only be triggered from specific areas of the screen or after hitting a mark in a given conversation.

As those underpinnings are decently functional and essentially boil down to a classic point-and-click adventure template then, Da New Guys was always going to live or die on the strength of its premise and dialogue. Fortunately those are also mostly a success, and the relatively short running time is decent entertainment while it lasts.

It all begins with this moment

Dialogue is sharp and witty when it needs to be (but generally flat elsewhere), and the voice-acting is delivered with varying degrees of believability and flair. This is a low-budget affair however, make no mistake, but as long as your brain can get over the sound of three British blokes hamming up their lines with conviction, then you’ll uncover a decent amount of charm within Da New Guys script. Artwork and animation follow suit, with crudely-implemented sprites and locations that’ll either ooze charm or remind you of an early flash game depending on your persuasion. The art is neither as stylish or defined in inspiration as the likes of Gemini Rue however, and that may well put a few of you off.

Try as it might, however, neither the story or characters really manage to hit the heights of their competition, and Da New Guys ultimately comes across as a pleasant distraction rather than anything to trouble the best. It’s true that you might not want any more when you’ve finished, but it’s also not a game that you’ll be thinking about for any length of time either. It is however, compelling whilst it lasts, and that’s no small victory for a project that essentially boils down to quality of writing and puzzle design. Something great may well be coming from Wadjet Eye, and it’s a pleasure to see that building here.

Best Game Moment: Point, click, scratch head... point, click, result!