Nostalgia isn’t always a good goal for a game. In some cases, it’s better to take past ideas and expand on them, innovate on them, rather than simply recreate them. The issue with nostalgia is that it keeps us from seeing faults. In many ways, Randal’s Monday fails to realize how far the point-and-click adventure genre has grown, and instead roots itself in nostalgia, comedy and celebrity appeal.
Randal’s Monday centers around the titular character Randal, voiced by Jason Mewes of Clerks fame. After stealing his best friend’s engagement ring and pawning it for rent money, he sets into motion a series of events that could destroy the universe, and he is forced to repeat that same day (Monday) over and over again until he fixes everything.
The story is reminiscent of Majora’s Mask, in that you constantly go back in time to correct problems, but certain changes take hold and alter your path through the multiple Mondays. It’s interesting, and leads to a lot of different encounters; while on day one you just visit a pawn shop, later on you encounter con goers, psychiatrists and even Death himself.
The multitude of characters and locales is nice, but the disconnect is Randal himself. He’s just not a likeable protagonist. It’s clear the narrative tries to set him up as the lovable failure, always trying hard to be himself and not conform, sarcastically joking on everything happening around him.
That’s all there is to Randal, though; every miniscule amount of character development is layered in sarcasm and crude jokes. The jokes get tired as well, at least when they’re coming from Randal. I couldn’t help but feel as frustrated as every character in the game was when dealing with Randal, and I was sympathizing with the landlord and boss who were tired of Randal’s antics. I was tired of them too, and that was only after a few hours of playing a game. It really seems like a waste of Mewes, whose voice acting itself is superb; the humor and writing is just too crass and repetitive to really make me care about the character.
Luckily, the humor that doesn’t directly involve the protagonist is still pretty good. There’s plenty of references to gaming and pop culture, though it can range from genuine humor to just pointing out that “Hey, the game has a Grim Fandango head in one area, that’s funny.” The references are a nice touch, and show that the team had some genuine intentions with their target market, but fail to stand out as more than background nods to the audience.
The game is portrayed in a scrolling 2D comic-book-style format, which looks fantastic. The art is well-done, even if the aesthetic isn’t my taste. The general design is similar to something you’d expect Adult Swim to produce, and fans of that animation style and humor may find more here for them than I did. The characters are animated very well, and the general look of the game keeps it all in perspective, even when you start adding in random pop culture references and absurd characters.
As for the mechanics of the game, it’s a standard point-and-click in every way possible. It’s reminiscent of games that would have convoluted puzzle solutions and lots of travelling between static maps, because it does exactly that. Even at the beginning, the puzzles’ solutions start out as slightly confusing and only get more exasperating.
There is a hints section of your inventory, where the team has written a walkthrough of the game, but you have to press a button that says it kills a kitten for every hint you receive. A funny joke about playing games the way they’re meant to be played the first time, but in a game with so many weird requirements for puzzle solutions and unclear direction as to what to do next, it’s annoying to open the hints section and have to spam that button every time you need a reminder of where you were in the game.
It genuinely feels like Randal’s Monday was made to appeal to a niche of gamers who pine for sophomoric humor and outdated adventure mechanics. After seeing so much development in the adventure game genre in the past few years, it’s a shame to be returned to peering at environments for miniscule items to pick up, and combining everything in your inventory and using it on everything in the environment, looking for that one solution to progress. It may be for some, but I think there’s more to adventure games than that.