Guard Duty is Faire Fun for Fools and Friends
Covered by Courtney Ehrenhofler
Guard Duty is another game I picked up without knowing much. All I know is that it's a point and click adventure with knights involved. I’m pretty easy to hook like that. The freshman offering from Sick Chicken Studios, Guard Duty, tells the tale of mildly inept knight Tondbert as he attempts to avert world-ending disaster and rescue kidnapped princess Theremin. Will he succeed? Will the world explode? Potentially!
Tondbert is a fun protagonist, though initially introduced as being stinking drunk and the one who caused the entire mess and Princess kidnapping in the first place, so it’s a bit of a journey to actually find him likable. Throughout the course of the prologue, he mellows out and shows an off-beat sense of humor that makes him much more endearing. His desperation to help the Princess, even when he’s alone, without a plan or a weapon, really says a lot.
Other than Tondbert, few of the characters get any real in-depth interaction. Still, he lives in a kingdom peppered with classic medieval archetypes and just enough character rounding to make them fun. Guard Duty doesn’t waste time fleshing out unimportant side characters. Instead, it keeps moving the plot right along. Could they be more realistic and three dimensional? Sure, but I’d rather see what happens to Tondbert next.
The plot and writing of Guard Duty are interesting. There's the usual “save the princess! Save the world!” tropes seen in so many medieval and quasi-medieval stories on the surface. However, there's an undeniable layer of modern sensibilities layered on top. Rather than aiming for authentic and historical or opting for fantastical and crazy, Guard Duty is a low-key satire of traditional, “Hollywood” fantasy. There are video cameras, paper is readily available and a library organizational system that actually works. Instead of slipping in constant sly jokes about how out of place everything is, the writing just takes it and runs with it, treating everything as if it’s entirely ordinary. It’s a refreshing take on an often repeated theme.
Gameplay-wise, Guard Duty uses a classic point and click interface system. Nothing fancy or innovative, but it works wonders by sticking with a solid use of tried and true mechanics. My favorite part (aside from the fact that the explanation for Tondbert’s inventory involves an infinity string bag) is that his notes on the plot are all kept on a single sheet of paper and scribbled in pencil. Said notes are depicted in character to hilarious effect. Clearly, knights were not forced to take penmanship classes. Or grammar classes. However, it looks like they mastered Stick Figure 101.
The graphics are clean, bright and purposely imitating ye olde fashioned days of pixel art adventure games. With 320x240 resolution, it gets the point across but can be frustrating when you’re playing on a modern computer with 1920x1080 resolution and can’t see as many details as you like. Classic throwbacks are a nice touch, but there are some changes for the modern era that were definitely for the better, no matter how retro it feels.
Guard Duty is definitely recommended for those looking for a short but sweet distraction game. Anyone looking to scratch that nostalgia itch or to try something a little different in the medieval fantasy genre will find plenty to love. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely fun. Plus, there’s a really cute dog that you do get to pet!
TechRaptor covered Guard Duty on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
Backbone's Hour-Long Prologue Shows Real Spine
Covered by Samuel GuglielmoIt doesn't take much to interest me in a game. Tell me you have a 1940's adventure game set in a dystopic Vancouver where you play as a raccoon private eye? Yep, that's all I need to hear. Toss in some moody lighting and a dark plot and you got Backbone. While the full game won't be out until next year, the first hour of it is available to play for free. So I took a look, and now I have one more reason to check out next year.
You play as Howard, a raccoon who runs his own detective firm. When a pregnant otter comes in asking for Howard to figure out if her husband is cheating on her or not, he takes the case and gets to work. He knows his target is hanging out in a high-class club that mostly caters to canines, but he has to figure out how to get into the club and avoid security. The night that followed involved calling in favors, doing stealth work, and breaking into private buildings. This demo of Backbone manages to perfectly set up the game's tone and give details fleshing out the world.
Most of the demo has you talking with characters to advance. For example, getting into the club is a multi-step process that requires working with several other citizens of Vancouver, and there are several ways inside. For example, you could convince a local drug dealer to do you a solid and let you pass the bouncer. If you talk with a rabbit also attempting to break in, you can learn some of the passcodes to get into the basement. Or maybe you feel like climbing some nearby roofs and going in from an open skylight? It's nice that Backbone provides these options. It meant that if I couldn't figure out one method of moving forward, I had several others to resort to.
There's also some light puzzle solving, though the demo doesn't contain anything too difficult. Figuring a code out for a door requires organizing someone's locker, using a few symbols and papers with holes cut out on them overlapping other pictures. At another point, I had to look through a delivery driver's logs to figure out the right response to a randomized code. None of it is overwhelmingly difficult, but its some fun little detective work. You also occasionally have to be stealthy, but thankfully that's as easy as hitting a crouch button and hiding in any area of the game that is dark.
The real treat, however, is the absolutely fantastic art direction. Vancouver is stunningly beautiful in Backbone thanks to some simply impressive pixel art. Each environment is a real treat to explore, and full of little details that I keep stopping to look over. From movie posters on the wall of a theater to the various shops and offices on the street. Better yet, Howard can comment on many of the things he sees, which is a fantastic way to get even more lore out of the game.
At the end of Backbone's demo, I was absolutely in love with the game. A beautiful world, fun gameplay, and some lovely art to look at along the way. The demo ends on a thrilling cliffhanger that just needs resolving. It may be said that raccoons are trash, but this one is shiny and looking good.
TechRaptor played Backbone: Prologue on PC using a copy freely downloaded by the reviewer. The game will be launching in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.