Cyanide & Happiness – Freakpocalypse is the first video game adaptation of the popular web comic and cartoon. The game is developed by Explosm and Skeleton Crew Studios and published by Serenity Forge. Inspired by classic point and click adventures like King’s Quest and Monkey Island, we step into the shoes of Coop as he tries to survive high school.
Typical of the Cyanide & Happiness brand, the game is rated M, and takes full advantage of the freedom it gives them to include foul language and adult comedy. It’s also worth mentioning that there are a few jokes at the expense of different cultures. While not unexpected from the humor C&H is known for, some may find those moments offensive. The series has fared well in cartoons and comics, but how well does it adapt into gaming? There’s a ton to cover here, so strap in, because this is one wild ride.
Cyanide & Happiness – Freakpocalypse is available on PC via Steam and on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
Story: A Delightfully Disastrous Tale
Our story starts off strong, showing a typical day at school for our main character, Coop. While exploring the halls and picking up quests to help other students, we learn about his world. The faculty is hard on him and his peers bully him. The whole school treats him like a punching bag. His life kind of sucks.
The worst problem though is that prom is on the horizon, and Coop is still without a date. The school portion of the story is incredibly strong, offering main quests that introduce us to the typical life of our main character. There are also plenty of side quests allowing for more interactions. This section of the game really helps players empathize with Coop while also introducing them to the nature of the problems he’ll encounter.
When the school day ends though, the story takes a while to find its footing again. Quests stop serving to further the narrative and start to feel more like busywork. We trade in quests like helping Coop’s crush so she’ll go to prom with him for ones about going to get pizza and doing household chores. These objectives give us a good opportunity to explore the town, but just don’t offer the same feeling of accomplishment as the previous ones. The comedy that comes from interactions saves this portion of the game. It may not add to the story, but it does offer a ton of meta humor giving commentary on itself.
The cutscenes could use a bit of work though. They often took me by surprise and forced me into areas I wasn’t ready to visit yet. On one occasion, the advancement of the story locked me out of an area where I still had side quests, leaving me with unfinishable business. But the final cutscene does a great job of enticing players to continue the story by ending on a strong cliffhanger. Developers describe the game as “the first in a ‘tragilogy’ (trilogy of tragedy) filled with dark comedy, drama, and weirdness.” So this game is only chapter one, and as such, is a bit shorter than I’d have preferred.
Gameplay: No Changes Needed
Freakpocalypse’s controls don’t stray far from the point and click games that inspired it. Where it differs is that in addition to the typical mouse only control scheme, there are also keyboard inputs. You can even use them in tandem, as I did, to better fit your preferred method of play. The tutorial does an excellent job of explaining this feature, as well as all the others. It’s very straightforward and easy to follow, but it is a little hard to slog through. Rather than wait until you need to know something, the game tells you everything up front. It was nice to have all the information, but I did find myself wishing I could just jump in and play already.
Once I was able to play though, I had no issues. The quests are pretty straightforward, but do require some thought. I got stuck a couple of times, but not in a way that was overly frustrating. This is in part because of the hint option available for each task. While I usually don’t like to rely on hints, these offer just enough of a clue without divulging too much information. Hints are available for every quest. The main narrative is supported by a number of side quest options. These help give a break from the story if needed, and offer a comedy avenue for characters other than Coop. They also pad the game time. If only the main story were present, it would be far too short.
Another way to pad the runtime is the collectible costume options. It may not sound like a big deal, but I had a wonderful time trying to unlock every outfit. I spent more time that I’d like to admit just playing dress up. Many unlockable costumes are tied to side quests, while others are left hidden around the map. Going for all of them provided me with an extra goal that was completely optional, but just as entertaining.
Graphics and Audio: Easy to Fix
The game greeted me with some small graphical issues. The menu screen booted up in a full screen window with a banner. But when I started the actual game it reduced itself to a small window with horrendous quality. I was forced to watch the opening cutscene this way. However, once I was able to get to the options section, it was easy to remedy the problem. I was able to choose my window style and visual quality there.
I had no such adventures with the audio. It was easy to hear from start to finish. A few areas in the game have a repetitive track though. It’s not a bad track, but by the tenth loop, I was ready for it to end. Otherwise, the audio was fine. There were even a few sound references to classic video games, which I appreciated.
This game was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Serenity Forge.