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Cyanide & Happiness – Freakpocalypse Review

5
Edgy, not cutting

Chances are, you’ve come across Cyanide & Happiness in some capacity previously. Launched back in 2005, this webcomic series became notable for its surrealist black comedy, which led to an animated web series, two board games, and a less successful battle royale venture called Rapture Rejects. Stepping up next is the lengthily named Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse Part 1 – Hall Pass to Hell, a point-and-click adventure kicking off this “trilogy of tragedy”. Taking inspiration from South Park: The Stick of Truth, Freakpocalypse implements C&H’s signature humour well, but falls flat in crucial areas.

Playing as Cooper “Coop” McCarthy, it opens with a superhero segment, before quickly dragging us back to cold reality within Netherton High School, a rundown school left completely neglected by the city. Freakpocalypse wastes no time detailing your awful situation, where Coop is considered an outcast loser, bullied by fellow students and faculty alike. Making matters worse, he’s also dateless for the upcoming Prom. Anyone familiar with Cyanide & Happiness’ over-the-top approach will immediately know what to expect.

Freakpocalypse does an excellent job translating C&H’s humour into a game, never missing a beat. That’s backed by an appealing presentation, which emulates their famous art style, and it feels like an interactive comic. C&H fans will appreciate the writing and, arguably, that source material dedication is the game’s biggest strength. But it’s also incredibly juvenile. If you aren’t a C&H fan already, this game won’t bring you around, and a lot of the jokes are painfully in your face, no room for subtext here. For better or worse, this was designed for the fans.

Gameplay opens once your teacher sends you to the principal’s office, having committed that heinous offence of daydreaming in class. Coop can move around freely – once you’ve obtained a hall pass, at least – starting with Netherton High, before moving onto additional locations. Freakpocalypse works on a quest system, easing you in with some flyer posting, before getting into more lengthy matters. One quest has you finding a rope and pulley, rescuing a book from under a table, all to stop the Librarian breaking your knees. For extra credit, morally dubious side quests are also available, like finding industrial-strength marker pens for a classmate. Because… well, anyway.

Point at those clicks, or something

Like most point-and-click games, solving quests requires carefully combing through environments to find the necessary item, presenting it to the relevant person/object. Some items are combinable, which isn’t always obvious. When interacting with people or items, Coop has three main abilities. He can look at them, touch them, or start a conversation. Thankfully, Freakpocalypse has enough self-awareness to respect character boundaries, and talking to inanimate objects sees Coop wisecrack about your attempt. Adding to this, thorough investigation of the school will unlock new costume options, letting you choose different shirts and hats.

Unfortunately, gameplay is what truly lets down this experience. By modern standards, point-and-click just feels dated, and the game falls into a lot of those old cliches. Progress was often achieved through trial and error, randomly searching classroom to classroom, or choosing every dialogue option in the hope of succeeding. That back-and-forth exploration prolongs it more than necessary, and you can spend ages looking before “figuring” it out. Some items blend well with the scenery too, which only frustrates this further.

Ultimately, I cannot recommend Freakpocalypse to anyone who isn’t an established Cyanide & Happiness fan. This isn’t the sort of point-and-click adventure that bridges gameplay issues with an engaging story, since it relies on crude humour to see it through. If you enjoy C&H, this will be right up your street, but it does nothing to court players that aren’t part of the existing fanbase. I wouldn’t call this a bad game; it’s just a very average one, and there are much better alternatives out there for point-and-click fans.

[Editors note: this review was initially published with an incorrect score and has since been updated]