I cannot say I’m delighted by sitcoms in general. Even with everyone’s favorites in Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother, not even a little bit. But when it comes to absurd humour like in 12 oz. Mouse or Rick and Morty, well, this certainly puts a different spin on things. And what about making it a playable sitcom based on game development? That’s exactly what is 3 Out of 10 is about, an interactive series developed and published by Terrible Posture Games, the studio behind Mothergunship.
Debuted for free on the Epic Games Store on the 6th of August, each week a new episode was released following the ups and downs of a small indie development studio trying to make their first “decent” hit. The season is complete now and what can I say – Terrible Posture Games have not lost their trademark humour and it shines in all its fabulous absurdity.
3 Out of 10 is available on Epic Games Store for free.
This review will contain general episode spoilers.
THE STORY – A Bit Of Madness Is Key
You play for Midge, a young animator, and you are in the middle of your first day on the job, expecting a proper interview. But first things first, you learn that your predecessor Javier seemed to deal with a burn out. Literally. He exploded right behind his desk.
To make up for such a loss, the studio quickly managed to reach out to you. Then things become completely crazy when you’re told who is who: like in any sitcom, there are a whole bunch of charismatic characters (or simply weirdos) with their own sick things. So welcome to the Shovel Works Studio team: Vyper, a paranoiac artist with major anger issues; Kevin, a completely clueless game designer; a WALL-E like robot Timothy, which always sounds like a broken record; Ben, a whistling cool bro; Francine, an HR with a harsh character; Pylon, an alien-looking tech artist, which says anything that pops into his head; Jeb, a typical big boss and finally Joan, my favorite cute middle-aged office administrator.
The team never made a game higher than 3 out of 10 and there’s even a meter on the wall which keeps track of it. What would happen if the number would come down? I think some things are best left unsaid.
The very beginning
The show starts as the game dev team is announcing its latest game, Surfing with Sharks. The concept is simple and well-known – it is an endless runner. But with a small difference: this time it will have an ending.
Did I say shark? Right, here is the keyword. The whole plot would revolve around it. In the first episode, you face a mob of protesters claiming to replace The Tiger Shark with a more popular Great White Shark. It creates panic in the studio and puts it on lock-down.
In order to fix the situation, here’s your first task – you need to sacrifice a barked intern to the engineers. And the only way that’s possible is to play a mini-game: you have to clear your way through the crowded storage room. The task is not that difficult, but the clock is ticking and it might be stressful. In the worst case, you can always skip the mini-game and continue on with the story.
After that comes the fighting section. Even now I remember those hilarious moments with the protestors, especially when it came to a Souls-like boss fight with a big tough moustached guy. And, for the record, Terrible Postures did a great job depicting a modern cultureless world, where protests don’t deliver any message and are done solely for fun.
Big brother is watching you
The second episode features a great trolling of big corporations. The squad leaves the studio to return a new shipment of interns in dog crates to their so-called university. And it’s because your heart is broken of the thought that these young bright guys were fed to the engineers downstairs. Yes, yes – exactly like this! Once again a perfect sacrifice for senior engineers. As is the custom in Shovel Works Studio.
In keeping with the tradition of the first episode, you must complete a mini-game while heading to the university. With a bunch of interns piled up on the top of your car, you must carefully collect the stars and checkpoints before time’s up. And the most important thing – no intern needs to be hurt.
The university itself is even worse than you thought. After having a nice small talk with the principle, you learn that the school is full of ex-military robots. Your goal is to drop the interns in one of five classes. You can enter each of them and listen to some crazy talk about game development. An excellent parody of modern game development university degrees.
For the good or the worse, you find yourself locked down in a secret area, or, more exactly in a secret warehouse and found out there is actually a whole production of interns.
Of course, the principal’s reaction doesn’t make anyone waiting and those crazy terminators immediately retreat from you. An intern comes to your rescue and once you’re free, you’re packing those poor perspective game developers in your car.
Frankly speaking, this episode doesn’t contribute much to the story and seems more like a spin-off. Until you learn the final plot twist, then it’s pieced together nicely. While it could be confusing at some point, the humour lightens up the moment.
Shovel Works Studio is experiencing bad times: while celebrating the halfway point of the development process, they found out their game was missing some trending features. So Jeb decides to completely change the game concept and turn it into a… battle royale. But here’s the crazy thing: there are are only eight people in the office, which is obviously insufficient for a Fortnite-like game. The team tries to convince their boss, but he sticks to his guns and repeats over and over again about this “new” genre he has no idea about. After realizing they cannot do a game with so few people, they come up with a brilliant idea of turning their office into an action office Scuffle Royale.
The teams are full and the battle begins. I’m not exactly a fan of battle royales, but I know that all begin with diving into the map from the sky. That’s a hard pill to swallow, so Joan takes the task for it. While flying, you are challenged to go through as many shiny rings as possible, though this doesn’t affect the outcome in any way and you can simply ignore this part.
Well, now that our final guest has arrived, the battle can start. Kevin teams up with Viper in the hope that his pal’s eternal anger is going to help. That’s all well and good, but as soon as Viper learns the winner must unreveal his plan to Jeb, he is off the game and makes his own rules to have his own teammate shoot him. Since Kevin is a terrible shot, he’s just getting away. And that’s triggering another mini-game: you have to avoid Joan and Viper’s attacks and don’t forget to collect the stars along your way.
Great, but there a few more players left. So Kevin confronts Midge, which turns out to be a mini-game similar to Hammerhead – the more time you hit the target, the more points you get.
In nearly every game there is a boss fight and 3 Out of 10 is not the exception. At this time Jeb brings up two huge machine-guns out of his office and tries to confront the team with real… acorns bullets. Well, that still hurts, you know. Using Pylon as a shield, Midge manages to stop her crazy boss. But the winner of this battle is Joan, since she used the stealth tactic and acquired a laser gun.
The humour in this episode was incredible. Using a Battle Royale as a metaphor in order to show how things are messed up in the game industry is simply genius. No matter the size and the quality of the studio itself. And well, there is always room for simple trolling of games as popular as Overwatch, Fortnite and PUBG.
They’re going after you
As you can understand by now, each new episode is tied to a specific game genre. In the fourth episode, some big investors are planning to visit the office in two days, so the entire office needs to be retouched. So with 48 hours on hands and a nearly zero budget, the mission is impossible. And then again, everybody is busy. Viper is working and cursing hard to replace the shark in the game with a much better 3D model and Midge went downstairs to sacrifice some chai lattes on an engineer’s altar in order to find out who messed up with the art.
So there’s only Francine left and she manages to find a brand-new discount store. Ugly yellow couch with flecks, a life size T. Rex, gigantic alien shaped lava lamps and a couple of other astonishing thingies – she has very good taste, you got to give her that. But not everybody agrees with that. Especially Ben. So he accompanies Francine on her trips to the store trying to keep it under control.
Unfortunately, despite all of Ben’s efforts, all the crazy stuff is already inside the truck and all you have to do is to move things inside the office. Here comes the mini-game: you need to move boxes in the truck to unleash all the crap Francine bought back in the store.
The plot twist comes with a bunch of pseudo-engineers robots, which Francine bought at a very special discount. And that’s for a reason, because those things are dangerous as hell and take control of the office, locking down nearly all of the team in the closet. And guess what? Here comes another mini-game: a true beat ’em up with those white androids, where you can use your fists or anything you could get your hands on. Thanks to Francine’s efforts, the office is full of sharp and highly flammable objects.
Meanwhile Midge is desperately trying to deliver the chai lattes to the lead engineer and her entire world hangs in the balance. Engineers turn out to be terrifying dudes back from Amnesia: The Dark Descent or The Observer. The mini-game consists of avoiding those creepy guys like the plague in order to achieve your goal. The whole gameplay, all the dodging, dipping and diving reminded me of The Evil Within. For the full picture, all you lacked was a weapon.
And speaking of fire. Like a truly badass ’90s action movie main hero, Viper is burning down the office to free the team and get rid of the crazy robots. While trying to gently target the fake engineers, he still destroys everything in his way. Surprisingly, Jeb doesn’t seem that bad off, since the investors postponed their arrival until further notice.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
Episode 5 is end of the first season of 3 Out of 10 and I want to highlight so far the characters’ development. In the beginning, they appear to be just a bunch of weirdos, but as the story progresses, I realised that I got attached to them, and that is saying a lot.
So it starts off with Pylon waking up and realising that his face is gone, with only floating eyeballs and mouth remaining. Well, we’ve all been there in some way. His plan is simple: grab his insurance card in the office and quickly get to the nearest hospital to fix the issue. But the thing is, on this very day there is a team meeting and Pylon cannot get into it unnoticed. He has his ski mask on but many related questions arise. The net result is that everybody suspects him to be a corporate spy. This leads to a mini-game, where Viper tries to knock you out and all you have to do is to avoid his attacks.
With Midge’s help, Pylon finally jumps out of the window and Kevin drives him to the doctors in order to fix his face. Alas, the American health system can’t help so the duo heads up to Canada. Everybody is aware about the magical Canadian health care – it’s free and can fix anything in the world. There is even a mini-game dedicated to finding a golden key to open a sesame door to Canada’s heaven.
Things are becoming really funny here: a typical Canadian hospital is depicted as a futuristic building, with super intelligent robots and other attributes of a typical sci-fi setting. Unfortunately, Pylon gets violently kicked out for being an American.
The last attempt to fix his face relies on the hands of a shady Dr. Mengele-like guy. The mini-game in which you try to piece together Pylon’s face turns out to be pinball and that’s bloody awesome.
While I cannot reveal the huge plot twist that occurred near the end of the final episode, trust me that the story here is bold and very well-structured. And every single minute of the game has its own meaning and sense in the end.
GAMEPLAY – All In One
The gameplay is a super game changer here and comes in the form of various mini-games. Jumping from arcade games to turn-based strategy ones. From survival horror to throwing missile projectiles. Some of them are pretty tough, but you can always skip them. Or try to beat the best score by hitting as many stars as you can and reaching the best time. Most of them were described above, because they are an inseparable part of the story itself and are meaningless untied from the plot. I had the feeling I played a ton of games in one turn and in parallel visited Disneyland and Europa-Park along the way. Every single mini-game here is engagable and most importantly has a high replayability value.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – An Explosion Of Colours
3 Out of 10 was completely been developed on Unreal Engine 4 and used its possibilities to the maximum. No additional software was used, even with the animations. Though it’s not the first show created with Unreal Engine – it was already used on TV for The Mandalorian. But here we see something completely different and unique: a blend of cartoon and game. This was never done before. And that’s what picked Epic Games’ interest I suppose and made 3 Out of 10 free to play.
Another nice thing to mention is the marvelous voice acting. Each character’s unique features and weirdness is reflected in their speech, each mini-game is provided by a pleasant soundtrack and every little sound effect from steps to hitting something is well-polished. I don’t know if Terrible Posture Games used binaural sound, but it seems like it is. I mean, even if it’s not the case, that’s even cooler.
3 Out of 10 was reviewed for PC via Epic Games Store.