by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
For Queen and country
A unique setting, an interesting comical premise, and beautifully rendered graphics sound like the ingredients of a winning mix, but in a point-and-click adventure game, more is needed to thrill a player. Her Majesty’s SPIFFING is the debut title of Belfast based studio Billy Goat Entertainment and it feels more like a very polished student project than a published title.
Her Majesty’s SPIFFING tells the tale of Captain Frank Lee English and his underling, sub-lieutenant Aled Jones and their brave quest to find and settle new planets on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen as a part of her Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies. Alone aboard the HMSS Imperialise, the duo must make sure the ship makes it to its destination, and once there, plant the flag firmly in the ground for Queen and Country.
Boldly going where no one has gone before
I was very excited about playing this game. A sci-fi comedy with stereotypical English protagonists poking fun at everything from cultural stereotypes to popular science fiction games to retro technology. The main menu features a Star Trek theme, which game me an instant nerd-on, and the first few minutes of gameplay are filled with references to popular science fiction titles of yesteryear and the technology of our youth. At one point you’ll have to copy a file to a floppy disk but the computer won’t write the data. Those of us who grew up with this technology will immediately know that only one of two things can be the cause of such an issue: either you have to pull the metal sheet open and blow on the magnetic film inside or make sure the write-lock tab is off.
Everything about the narrative and puzzle design of this game suggests that its target audience is sci-fi geeks and gamers from twenty to fifty. It is for this reason that I found the lack of difficulty to be somewhat insulting. At every step of the way, I knew exactly what to do next and the game held no surprises. Sub-lieutenant Jones at one point jokes about the fact that the current puzzle is being arbitrarily prolonged to add gameplay time, but I still had to jump through two extra hoops to enact the solution I had already found. Sarcastically making fun of something and then having the player perform that exact thing is not funny. It’s just lazy.
While initially somewhat humorous, the game’s silly comedic style soon wears thin and the simplistic puzzles fail to challenge. Why the developers decided to use WASD or analogue stick controls and a moving camera in an adventure game is beyond me. It is as though they forget what almost killed the genre in the late 90’s. When every game HAD to be 3D, adventure game developers rushed to implement the technology in games whose design was ill-suited for visual depth. The automatic camera made the characters difficult to control as the directional input kept changing as the camera panned and moved. Objects were often hidden by things in the foreground and the games usually felt slow and sluggish compared to other genres enjoying the additional dimension. It is only now with 2.5D and indie developed 2D that the genre is making a comeback, so developing a game with the control scheme that nearly killed the it seems a tad thoughtless. It hasn’t gotten any less annoying.
Worst of all, however, is that the game commits the cardinal sin of adventure games. There is no mystery to solve. You know you are on your way to a far away planet and, once there, you have to claim it for England. That’s about it. The puzzles you solve are simply hindering story progression and all you’re doing is helping the story along. YOU are not the story. This makes the plethora of menial tasks you have to perform that much duller as there’s little excitement about what is to come. That, a playthrough length of about a single evening, ridiculously easy puzzles, and irritating controls and camera make it difficult for me to imagine a single person to whom I would recommend this game. Sure, the animations and the scenery are well made, the game is technically solid, and the voice acting is … bearable, but everything that makes a good graphic adventure an adventure is missing here.
Great graphics and visual aesthetics, occasionally pretty funny.
Annoying control scheme, inane puzzles, meaningless story, and far too short.