This newly released point and click comedy adventure is certainly a mixed bag of tricks. The developers identify its inspiration as the French animated cartoon series, Space Goofs, but they also name other influences including movies and British comedies such as Monty Python. Although I never once caught a glimpse of the latter, these assorted influences probably contributed to my assorted responses. Sometimes I laughed, and sometimes I didn't!
It's all very simple. Returning home from a space picnic five vividly coloured and wildly shaped aliens, Etno, Stereo, Gorgious, Bud and Candy, meet with a space accident and make a forced landing on Earth. They settle into a deserted old house whilst making repairs to their spaceship. All this takes some years and all goes well until the spaceship is finally fixed. Then, just as they are about to take flight again, their hiding place is sprung by Dr Sakarin. Only two feet high, Dr Sakarin definitely isn't cuddly. His specialty is collecting assorted 'little green men', dissecting them, and bottling them in vats of formalin.
It transpires that Dr Sakarin sends his henchman, Bolok, in hot pursuit of the luckless aliens. You meet up with him in this game as he descends on his quarry and you must help them escape. To begin with you take control of Bud as he is the only one who didn't get iced (frozen solid in a block of ice), but as the game progresses you will eventually accompany each character in turn and help them with pressing, and sometimes grubby, tasks.
There are lots of toilets in this game, oodles of them. The characters can sit on one, use it conventionally (accompanied by appropriate sound effects), and even travel on one, or dive into one. If you haven't already guessed, there's a generous serving of toilet humour (encompassing the whole spectrum of unmentionable bodily functions and personal habits) accompanied by a good dollop of double meanings/sexual innuendo.
It isn't subtle, there's a lot of squishy brown stuff and it gets splattered around on a couple of occasions. One character hankers for a sex change, one has the most disgusting appetite, whilst another picks his nose and yet another can't leave his crotch alone. Just in case you miss this latter proclivity he'll assure you of his particular attachment to his 'organ' if you direct him to play a tune on a musical instrument of the same name.
All this is laid on pretty thickly but if it's not to your taste it is accompanied by some inspiring graphics. In fact the cartoon graphics are exceptional, so bright, clear and smooth, and there are some very crazy cut sequences that are pure fun. There's a hairy space ride, a typical cartoon mongrel dog that'll eat everything within reach, and a flock of chicks that will melt your heart (and you as well if you're not careful). Really the graphics are so good, it's just like watching a familiar cartoon. The music and voice acting are also fine so the game looks and sounds very polished.
Stupid Invaders is a third-person point and click adventure. The interface is simple with an automatically changing cursor for doing things: looking, walking, talking and using. Warning here, don't rely on this cursor utterly. On at least one occasion it doesn't display correctly so it fooled me into thinking that I couldn't take a crucial object. If in doubt, right click to test if you can cycle through the options. The navigation also has its quirks due to inconsistencies. When going places in this game most often a text prompt will appear when the cursor hits an active area ... walk here, go back, this way, etc. But this doesn't happen all the time and especially not in 'outside' locations. Hence you need to be persistent and click a few times to find the right spot to get your character moving.
Neither of the above quirks is too daunting but life would have been easier without them. More frustrating for many will be the number of times you die and have to restore, as well as the lack of feedback in the game. Regarding the former, the only advice I can give is to save often. If you do this then it won't be a problem and it's almost acceptable in zany cartoon games like Stupid Invaders to end your earthly existence regularly in all sorts of odd ways. It didn't worry me unduly although as a rule in adventure games it's standard practice to warn players when death is imminent so it can be avoided. This game makes no such concessions.
The lack of feedback is another matter, or is it? Strangely enough Stupid Invaders seems to get away with this transgression also. By lack of feedback I mean that very little information is passed on to the player when, for instance, an action isn't working. You may direct a character to do something and he will go through the starting motions but suddenly stop and leave you in the lurch. Under such circumstances there should ideally be some feedback, character dialogue or text alert to give an inkling of what's going on or why the character opted not to follow your directions.
Gabriel Knight or Tex Murphy or Guybrush Threepwood would never get away with being so secretive but the characters in this game do, primarily because the game is so easy. Really, hints in the form of feedback are redundant because if something isn't working you know that it will do so very soon, and when you find something it's generally pretty obvious what you must do with it. I don't think there is a single problem that should hold up proceedings for very long, even for novice players. If a solution escapes you it's no trouble to try everything on everything because you rarely carry more than three or four inventory items, and the problems are nicely spaced out so as not to cause too much confusion.
But even though they are easy, some of the puzzles in Stupid Invaders are quite fun. Often there's a bit of trudging to do so it would have been useful to have an option to 'run' or to 'jump' the characters to screen exits. On the whole though, the difficulty level of this game certainly won't satisfy adventurers who are looking for a challenge. Really it's more a beginners level, or children's level except for the sexual innuendo, which is fairly innocuous. Like many children's games it even has clickable hotspots that just make funny things happen for their own sake rather than being directly linked to puzzle solving. And I mustn't forget to mention the lengthy Simple Simon Game and the winding maze that turn up near the end of play. I had some fun here but I am well aware that I'm in the minority in this respect.
Stupid Invaders comes with a manual written in English, Italian and Dutch. The dialogue is subtitled and the game consists of four CDs. The full install is recommended and takes up 3GB. I played with the minimum install and, although disk changes sometimes occurred at the most inopportune times, they weren't too frequent. Although I experienced no technical problems I do know that others have had mini nightmares with slow installation and slow transitions. Very likely your particular system will dictate how the game performs.
I'm a long-time fan of humorous graphic adventures but this one hasn't lived up to my high standards. Maybe it excels with its graphics but it tries too hard to be funny and many jokes don't work at all. Although I wouldn't award Stupid Invaders any prizes for the humour or the gameplay you, of course, might feel differently.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2001.
All rights reserved.
Pentium II MMX 266 Mhz (350 recommended), Win 95/98 Millennium Edition, 16 Mb RAM (64 recommended), 12X CD ROM (32 speed recommended), DirectX 7.0 Compatible Sound and Video Card, 400 Mb or 3Gb hard disk space.