Preview - the point-and-click genre hasn't looked this good since Grim Fandango, and it's never been this risque!
To the hills! Sire, they're coming from the hills
In-keeping with the Lucasarts School of point-and-clickery, Stupid Invaders is a sublime mix of ingenuity and hilarity. While it's almost certainly going to be branded with an "18" age classification in this country, the developers simply treat that as an invitation to intensify the gore, filthy language and chauvinistic flair of our visiting space alien buddies. But lets back track a little. What the heck is Stupid Invaders? Obviously it's a point-and-click adventure game, but this is no ordinary adventure title. It involves the plight of four aliens whose spaceship has crash-landed on Earth. Sadly for them their options for escape are narrowed significantly when three of them are kidnapped, leaving just our hero, an orange alien who looks rather like a disproportionate jellybean. Also rather unfortunately for them (and as the game's name infers), they're a teensy bit dim. Apparently the application process for space travel isn't quite as rigorous elsewhere in the universe as it is here. Ho-hum. Because our friend is somewhat daunted by his surroundings (and of course the wrong side of smart) your guidance is very useful, and by making use of the objects and creatures around you, you must rescue your crew and flee the planet back to safety, avoiding the many bounty hunters on your trail as you do.
A world of horror
The game is visually stunning, with beautifully rendered three-dimensional locations and carefully implemented cutscene segments. The latter are full motion video but occur within the game world, and the transition between elements is truly seamless. As you can see from the screenshots dotted around these pages, Stupid Invaders is quite cute, rather like Ren & Stimpy with 3D renderlicious graphics. That's not where the charm ends though, not by a long shot. For starters each of the characters has reams and reams of scripted conversation with voice direction from the same chap who did the aforementioned American cartoon series. It's pretty quirky and reminiscent of those two characters' exchanges, but if anything that's complimentary. God knows I've wanted a decently derivative R&S game for years. Sadly the demo we played was a mite short, but despite ending after only one puzzle (and quite a simple one at that) it did a good job of demonstrating not only how the inventory system works but also how certain items are intended to interact with one another. You open a door and find yourself in a bathroom, complete with (usable) toilet and a few brands of toilet paper. In order to get out and get your bearings (having only just crashed, natch), you spy a window, high up above the ground, and reason it's your only way out. A rope of some sort would be useful, but all you have is toilet paper. So you grab a roll of cute soft-on-the-cheeks paper and tie one end to a nearby plunger, before hurling it up like a makeshift climbing implement.
Unfortunately the paper isn't strong enough to support you and it tears immediately you put pressure on it (the jolt forces the plunger to fall back to earth), so you have another hunt around and discover another brand of toilet paper, which just so happens to be army issue GI Asshole reinforced titanium paper (for combat situations). And what do you know? It does the trick. While simple the puzzle demonstrated a few things. First off, the inventory system. A simple tap of the space bar brings up a small bar along the bottom with several circular areas, each of which can hold one inventory item. When you first pick something up, you can either employ it immediately (for instance plunge the toilet, not for any reason mind, but just because you can), or right-click and put it in your inventory. If an item can be used with another item, dragging it to the other item reveals a new graphic (in this case toilet paper tied to the plunger) and from there you can use it as you wish. Another interesting aspect of the game picked up upon by the demo is the alien's posture. Not only is he a bit dim and rather disproportionate, but he also tends to mope. When I say that I don't mean he looks glum, rather that when he walks it's as though he has a two-tonne weight on his shoulders, and when he throws it's with the minimum of effort. While an alien, he certainly draws parallels with the slob in all of us.
Slideshow of things to come
That's presumably where Stupid Invaders is aimed at any rate; at the slobbish, casual (or hardcore) gamer who doesn't mind a bit of foul language and enjoys crude and at times lewd humour. After the interactive element of the demo was completed we were treated to a few rolling cutscenes from later segments of the game, including comical moments such as the bounty hunter sitting in the closet with a freeze ray. One bitten, twice scared, you attempt to oust him from his closet, and eventually reason to do so by attaching a rope to the closet and to the high-powered lawnmover outside the window on the ground below. Of course once that's been set off your bounty hunter's closet clatters to the ground exposing him, and much to his disgust the lawnmover turns and flies up into the air off the back of an arched hill threatening to land right on top of him. Well, it might have missed him, but by freezing it with his zapper the extra weight forces it to plummet like a stone, splattering him everywhere.
Threatening to make a big splash for mature gamers, Stupid Invaders is (from what we've played and seen at ECTS), the biggest and most entertaining thing to happen to point-and-clickers since Grim Fandango. With strong characters and an entertaining plot, if the rest of the game is as good as the press demo, we really will be laughing come Christmas morn.