Randal’s Monday (Video Game Review)



If you’re craving another dose of entertainment from Kevin Smith’s Clerks characters, then Randal’s Monday will probably be the closest thing you’ll get until the next movie sequel finally surfaces. Sure, Randal’s Monday isn’t officially a game in Smith’s shared ‘View Askewniverse’ series, but it’s certainly trading heavily on that brand recognition – Clerks’ Jeff Anderson returns to voice another sardonic slacker named Randal and it’s not long before Jay and Silent Bob make an appearance. But while it’s a solid and occasionally hilarious point-and-click adventure romp, its one bogged down by a desperately unfunny and unrelenting stream of pop culture gags.

In the first of its endless string of movie references, self-centered slacker Randal finds himself stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop, forced to keep reliving the same Monday after pawning a ring stolen from his best friend. Along with the time-related shenanigans, Randal’s thievery has a knock-on effect that sees his best friend killing himself every day in increasingly outlandish ways. In order to end the time-loopy curse and save his pal, Randal will have to embark on a quest to get back the cursed ring and undo all the chaos left in his wake.
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The biggest point of contention for gamers playing through Randal’s Monday is sure to be its sense of humour. Comedy is tough, especially in games, but there’s a reason so many of the funniest games happen to be point-and-click adventures like the Monkey Island series, Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle. The genre’s dialogue-driven, environment-exploring focus provides the perfect foundation for wit-laced humour, visual jokes and left-field incidental gags, but Randal’s Monday rarely wants to capitalize on that for its comedy. Instead, it’s all too eager to cram its script full of borrowed dialogue and pop culture references that don’t so much come with a sly, subtle nudge and a wink as they do shove you off your chair and aggressively poke you while you’re down.

Nexus Game Studios are keen to point out that they’re big fans of classic LucasArts adventure games and that those genre hallmarks are the point of inspiration for Randal’s Monday. That’s great, and seeing that Randal lives on Threepwood street might get a ‘Ha, that’s cute’ reaction. Then you’ll see that every street, building and character is named after someone or something related to Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion and the walls are littered with images from those games and more. For a generation of gamers who can find a Simpsons quote to suit any occasion, the nods to copious ’80s movies, animated shows and classic games might raise a giggle or two in the first few minutes, but Randal’s Monday’s dialogue soon reveals itself to be about 40% recycled pop culture quotes, at least. It’s something akin to finding out you have the same favourite movie as someone you just met, but instead of them just saying, “Hey, you love Ghostbusters? Me too! That’s cool!”, they wrap you up in posters from the movie and loudly recite the entire script to you while beating you with a pillowcase full of copies of the film on DVD – Randal’s Monday is blunt, relentless and excessive in its in-jokey references.
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That wouldn’t be quite so bad if the game’s writing actually went the extra mile to spoof those properties or add another clever layer to those jokey references, but it never does. With a sub-Family Guy level of reference-laden humour, it’s content to just lazily recite and recycle out-of-context lines, brands and logos from other well-known pop culture staples and have that be the punchline-free joke. Kevin Smith’s movies certainly trade in a similar movie-referencing currency, but they at least play deeper and sharper with their riffs on Star Wars and the like, adding measured flavour to already smart and funny dialogue from its Gen X stars. Randal’s Monday doesn’t have anything resembling that restraint or level of comedy and the barrage of references is non-stop and not restricted to characters to whom it might be fitting; old or young, every single character speaks in borrowed quotes or has geek-friendly posters adorning their wall.

That’s especially annoying because the game often inspires genuine laughs when it’s not being hampered by its excessive, one-note references. The voice acting across the board is incredibly good, but Jeff Anderson especially is fantastic, bringing the same brand of funny, snarky slacker wit to Randal as he did his Clerks character. It’s clearly a role he loves playing – even if this is the less effective, off-brand Randal – and his performance elevates the game to no end. Jason Mewes does an equally great job with a small cameo as fan-favourite character Jay, and between him and Anderson, it’s hard not to wish you were playing an official game based on the criminally underrated Clerks: The Animated Series. Funny as it often is, Randal’s Monday struggles to find that great balance of clever, witty banter, left-field absurd silliness and sharp pop culture humour and many of its hilarious moments are quickly forgotten amongst the barrage of clunky, abrasive references.
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The gameplay itself has a far more favourable ratio of good to bad, at least and, naturally, it follows the classic LucasArts brand of point-and-click template. You’ll explore a wide variety of different environments, talking to everyone, picking up everything that’s not nailed down, examining everything to get a potentially funny comment or observation. Your ever-expanding inventory will all come in handy at some point, whether you’re using a hammer to smash an inconvenient object or combining brooms and hangers stashed in your bottomless pockets to create an extendable grabbing device. Through the surprisingly lengthy game, most puzzles are clever, logical ones that are well put together and satisfying to complete.

But as with a lot of point-and-click adventures, Randal’s Monday often ditches logic and throws in the occasional puzzle that’s overly convoluted and obtuse (if you need some potent alcohol to add some kick to a drink, for some reason the mug of extremely strong alcohol you spotted during your travels won’t be the solution.) There is a handy hint system in place to help you along when you’re thoroughly stuck, but I did encounter one awkward dialogue-based puzzle in a psychiatrist’s office that blocks use of hints and removes access to the game’s menu and save options entirely. The one major upside of classic adventure games has always been that if you’re stumped by a puzzle, you can save, have a think and come back later. Locking you into an endless gameplay loop without the option to save or even turn off the game without brute forcing it closed and losing a tonne of progress is just bad design. Thankfully that was the only puzzle I encountered that was so punishing in its wonky design, but there are a few too many logic-defying puzzles throughout the story.

Randal’s Monday is an enjoyable game that showcases some great, funny voice acting and you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck through its lengthy story. It’s just a shame that those positives are often outweighed by an uneven, strained level of pop culture humour and some awkwardly-designed puzzles.

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Randal’s Monday is available now on PC.