The end of days is once again upon a digital representation of our world. This time however, we’re not asked to fight it as a gruff marine, body armoured super soldier or anything of the sort. No, this new threat is occurring in an interactive version of the zany world found in Comedy Central‘s animated television show, Ugly Americans.
It’s a show filled with offbeat humour and some strange subject matter, following a social worker and his unique set of friends, which happens to include a zombie, a demon, a wizard and a couple of office-based professionals. Needless to say, the group isn’t what you’d normally expect to use in order to fight the end of the world. Then again, that’s part of the fun and whimsy found in Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon – a downloadable title for both the PlayStation Network and XBOX Live Arcade.
Our journey inside this offbeat world picks up as an unusual amount of strange case files has begun to flutter into New York City’s social services department. Files full of violent man bird attacks, zombie outbreaks and demons causing havoc. Certainly, these are all signs that something is amuck, right? Due to this great increase in problematic reports, the group decides to join together to investigate, in order to find out exactly who is behind the outbursts. What is seen in the following set of fifteen missions is not only strange and a bit perverse, but happens to also be somewhat shocking and crude. Of course, as per the usual with this type of animated series, there’s some relatively humorous content sprinkled in.
When I first heard about Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon, I immediately thought it would be some sort of a side-scrolling beat ’em-up. Those early thoughts were only partially correct however, as the game is actually a twin-stick shooter, which is built around the structure found in classic 90’s titles like Double Dragon.
Up to four players can band together to form a projectile shooting bunch of globe savers, using weapons which have the ability to fire a great amount of unique inanimate objects. Ammo includes but is not limited to baseballs, snow globes, harpoons, rubber chickens and propane tanks, with each one having its own damage statistics. Role-playing game strategy is involved in choosing the right weapon for the right moment. Projectiles can be chosen before each mission, though breaking objects in the game world can uncover new types of damage-dealing objectified weaponry.
Gamers must use their thumbs to survive, with most of the gameplay mechanics devoted to the controller’s two joysticks. You move with the left one and shoot with the right, as per the usual. All four characters’ unique special moves come into play when a meter is built up, giving the option to unleash an extra-powerful attack when needed.
For the most part, this set-up works quite well. However, I found that the directionally-based shot commands weren’t as precise as they could have been. This wasn’t a huge issue, but did happen to be noticeable and a tad cumbersome at times. It became a bit more problematic during boss fights, where added precision could have helped with long-range shots. Those aforementioned demonic boss fights are pretty uninspired, unfortunately relying on retro mechanics, with attack effects that can hamper the player’s vision.
What surprised me is how much of an underlying role-playing game base Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon actually employs. In addition to the aforementioned weaponry statistics, the game also allows players to level-up each individual character. As with your typical role-playing game, in-game progress awards numerical level increases, with a limited amount of upgrade points per each new plateau.
Statistical categories such as power, luck and health are amongst the several available for improvement. This allows each unique player to form their character’s statistics based on their individual personal preferences and play style. It works quite well, though I must say that the game was hard as heck regardless of how powered-up my in-game avatar became.
New case files are unlocked after previous ones are solved. Whether this is done as a group or as a solo renegade doesn’t matter. Friends can be summoned at any time, though a trip back to the menu screen is required to create a co-operative session. Your solo progress is never affected and the game continues on according to what you’ve accomplished as host.
The only problem with this structure is how only one person can use any given character. Although it makes complete sense, it tends to prevent people from using their high level characters, forcing them to assume the identity of one who is level 0 instead. Usually, there’s a quick scramble to select characters, with each user gunning for his or her own favourite. Many times, those favourites happen to be repeated within the group, causing a bit of an issue. What this does is create a bit of interest in going back to level-up some additional avatars, though that does take a while.
One would normally expect a game like this to become easier with added digital manpower. That’s what I thought, too. After battling my way through a large portion of the campaign as a solo operative, I decided to venture online to find some new friends. What I had played was surprisingly challenging, so the thought came into my mind to see if it was a game that required co-op for optimal enjoyment and progression.
What I discovered by doing this experiment was that the game actually became even more difficult (and much more chaotic) as more players entered the fold. What would normally be a group of twenty enemies attacking at once during single player attempts, became a pack of many more during multiplayer sessions. Some will enjoy the challenge, but others may not. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of a difficulty selection option, so your challenge preference becomes more important when deciding whether to purchase this Apocalypsegeddon.
My time spent inside this zany world, full of monstrous behemoth transvestite demons and muttering zombies, was relatively entertaining. Backbone Entertainment did a respectable job of bringing the television series to life with game mechanics that suit it. Though, control imprecisions, uninspired boss fights, some repetitive gameplay elements and a surprisingly high difficulty level hamper the experience.
Generally speaking however, it’s a half-decent game, which fans of the show will probably enjoy. It’s not for everyone and has issues, but happens to be a relatively enjoyable experience. One thing to keep in mind is that the game’s structure and design is very reminiscent of an elongated Flash game – something which will interest some, while possibly deterring others.
Fans of the series will know what to expect from Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon‘s visual offerings. The development team did their best to make its interactive stages as close to their source material as possible. A goal in which I must say that they succeeded in accomplishing, delivering something which looks quite close to its big brother television series.
Exaggerated, crude looking characters are drawn with a decent amount of detail, resembling an older cartoon from the 80s or 90s. It’s not the type of game that will blow people away with great high-definition fidelity or amazing particle effects, but that’s not what the show is about. The game’s art style is very reminiscent to something we normally see in bigger budget Flash-based titles.
One of the more noteworthy aspects of the game is its comical script, which includes some relatively funny one-liners. I enjoyed hearing the zombies complain about feeling different and found some of the offbeat jokes to be entertaining as well. The show’s voice cast does a good job delivering the lines, though there’s an obvious bit of discrepancy between the audio quality found within the cutscenes and the loud in-game audible effects. The latter portion is filled with the dull sound of weapons firing, explosions and a relatively basic score.
Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is certainly an interesting experience. It delivers an entertaining storyline filled with some strange content, though the game’s core mechanics have some control and design issues. Those who love the television show will enjoy the ability to jump into this utterly strange world, utilizing relatively entertaining gameplay. Normally, this isn’t the type of game that would last for very long, but its challenging difficulty forces quite a few level retries and requires players to level up through putting time in. Overall, it’s a mixed bag; appealing to some while not being for everyone.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we were supplied for review purposes.
Though it does a good job of bringing its source material to the interactive format, with visuals that happen to be almost identical, Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is somewhat repetitive and very challenging, which will likely deter gamers.