Now that’s a game title!
In the early nineties, CD-ROMs began to emerge as the future of gaming. The early adaptors of the CD format didn’t really know how to use them effectively for gaming. A slew of titles began to appear on the market that were nothing more than simple ‘games’ with full motion video (FMV) clips to forward the story, and thus the sub-genre of the FMV games were born. Titles like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Myst and the infamous Night Trap were actually pretty good games… except for Night Trap, but they were hardly groundbreaking in terms of gameplay. They just looked great (at the time) due to the addition of FMV. Anyway, it took a while for developers to really use CD technology for more than just grainy-looking movies. Those early FMV titles all shared a few things in common, they were cheesy, full of wooden acting, below par special effects and very low quality movies. Eventually, the FMV games died out as developers got to grips with telling Hollywood quality stories using the in-game graphics. No need to build expensive sets when you can do it all digitally.
From publisher/developers Studio spektar and Porcupine Parkour comes General Horse And The Package of Doom, a new FMV game that’s as stupid as the title suggests. Well to get this one started, I guess I’d better go over the story first.
You play as the very red haired and titular General Horse who has to deliver the also titular package of doom. General Horse is the last surviving military postman in the galaxy. After the great war with the Chaotics, pretty much everyone else was dead. There was nothing left for him, but to take the highest position left in the military.
On his journey to deliver the mail, he meets scavengers who try to steal his package. His duty, as a Postmaster General, is to protect what he considers to be sacred; and that is a package with an official post stamp. It needs to be delivered wherever it needs to be delivered!
Join him on a dangerous voyage throughout his home solar system. He will fight, explore, barter, scavenge, and beg, just to deliver a package he knows nothing about!
As already explained, this is an FMV game and it plays just like those titles from the early nineties too. The main game screen has you (General Horse) in his spaceship travelling from planet to planet to deliver the package of doom. Buttons such as ‘storage’, ‘status’ and ‘map’ do pretty much what you’d expect. Then there’s your food, fuel, battery power and health you need to manage on your journey. The ‘time warp’ button moves you forward on your galactic trip. Each time you do move forward, closer to delivering the package, you’ll use some of your resources. But with every press of the time warp button, you’ll be presented with a random encounter. You will usually come across an object floating around in space, which you can beam aboard. That object could be extra food, fuel or it could be something more sinister that does you harm. You have to roll the dice and take a chance on what it could be to keep moving forward.
You might find a space station, which you can chose to dock with (using fuel) and explore, meet new characters that can help and hinder you on your quest or just keep on your journey to deliver the package. Maybe you’ll stumble upon space pirates, do you try to communicate or open fire? Land on planets and explore via a simple arrow click interface. That’s basically the whole game, you press buttons, get involved in random encounters and make basic decisions… you know, like an early nineties FMV game. Yes, the gameplay is minimal and yes it is stupid… but it’s also genius at the same time.
All these button clicks and decisions you make are inter-cut with FMV sequences. Badly acted FMV that look like they are mostly filmed in someone’s back garden, a disused building site and feature some really bad green screen work. But it is all this badness that just adds to the enjoyment, I don’t know if that was intentional or the guys behind this are genuinely this bad, but it works. There are terrible props, shoddy effects and acting that’s worse than a daytime TV soap, but it’s all very charming. There’s a genuine sense of humour here too, some jokes had me smiling from ear to ear, others where a bit more of a miss to be honest.
General Horse and the Package of Doom is either a wonderful satire of FMV games or just a horrible mess. Either way, I enjoyed it and have to applaud those who made the game. They’re either geniuses who have made the perfect spoof of FMV games, or just a few mates messing around and having fun and to be honest, I enjoy both of those scenarios too much to hate this. I was actually gearing myself up to really rip into this and lambaste it for it’s badness, but I just can’t. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s rough and yes it’s a bit crappy but that’s exactly what those early FMV games were like.
General Horse and the Package of Doom is currently priced at £6.99 on Steam, which I feel is a tad too much for what you get. If you can get it in a sale, then I say grab it and enjoy some early nineties cheese made today.
Thanks to Badger over at Stoffel Presents for the review code.