Switch version tested
Review code provided
Point and click adventure games are a pastime that have had quite the resurrection on the Switch. Sure, nothing beats a mouse, but the odd touchscreen option counters the clumsy movement of the cursor with a joy-con. Well, Guard Duty makes its way on to the Switch – a throwback to the classic 90s adventure, both in spirit and appearance. How does it fair?
Seeing the trailer for Guard Duty was like watching the Thundercats opening theme on a YouTube ‘best of 80s/90s compilation’ – there was an immediate head rush of nostalgia and welcome with open arms, and maybe even a sneaky kiss too. Anyone new to the genre seeing this for the first time may be dismissive as the graphics and 4:3 ratio are dated and hardly a trending art style – where’s the kawaii, the pixel art, blah blah blah. Guard Duty’s visuals and the gameplay is the epitome of 90s point and click adventures. It’s almost as if this is a port from some old abandonware or similar – it’s perfectly constructed when it comes to a sentimental era.
That means that it also has the same flaws from ‘back then’ – character sprites continuing to talk when the voiceover has finished, clunky animation and mostly linear experience. However, that’s the charm of these games – if going for a retrofit – and Guard Duty ticks those boxes. Before going much further with the flaws, let’s introduce you to the initial hero, Tondbert. He’s a classic underdog – having the best intentions to do the right thing, but often bringing forth the apocalypse or not putting the bins out the night before. He’s a bit of a goon, but he’s likeable with his West Country(?) accent.
Tondbert is a royal guard for the Castle of Wrinklewood. In the opening sequence, we see our hero getting half cut at the local tavern, misplacing his uniform and letting an unwanted party into the realm. In this case, the princess is in another castle, and Tondbert has to get his act together to go rescue her. About mid-way through, and no this isn’t a spoiler as it’s in the trailer – they never ruin a film, the story shifts from medieval times to the future. I completely forgot about the trailer, and it came as a bit of a surprise as I did not see it coming. It’s interesting though as the game shifts to a slightly more modern adventure (literally) and the game mechanics resemble a point and click of the late 90s.
Sick Chickens, the developer, know the genre and they’re able to emulate many of the classics, but with their own stamp; The Secret of Monkey Island, Simon the Sorcerer and more specifically Discworld are all referenced or inferred upon. Certainly a high calibre of titles and if Guard Duty were a game that came out around that time, then maybe it would be a bit more memorable. Whether this game is relevant in today’s market is debatable. I’ll be open about it and say I’m biased as I enjoyed it – the genre being one I grew up on and therefore hold in high regard. However, the pace and the sometimes tricky problem solving may put off the average gamer. The humour is also an acquired taste; it’s light-hearted but has a particular British vibe to it – notably the voice talent.
Without consulting the credits, the voice actors seem to be limited, but the majority do a good job and miles better than their predecessors. The dialogue doesn’t feel forced, but there’s the odd gag there that’s desperately trying to get your attention or to show that they’ve worked hard. That’s evident – Guard Duty is a relatively big game with heaps of dialogue, and the scenes and sequences are brilliant. The voice for Tondbert was easily the best, and that makes a difference as there are so many protagonists that are good on paper but are let down with the wrong voice talent. Be aware that there is a lot of dialogue though that is irrelevant to the objectives, but make up for the entertainment. Often Tondbert would quiz NPCs asking for their life story, and despite their reluctance, he’d insist they go through it.
On occasion, you may find yourself pressing the A button to skip through some of this, or if the character says the same thing, you want to move on to the next bit. However, if you press the A button on the last bit of dialogue, Tondbert will interact with whatever the cursor is pointing at. If you have this over the NPC, the conversation will repeat. The solution to the problem? Don’t skip the dialogue – but if it’s the same thing repeated and there are walls of text, you want to move forward, right? It’s quite irritating but won’t ruin your life. The design of the UI is to make the game a bit more accessible too. There are no combining objects with one another from your infinite pouch, but knowing what to use what and where isn’t always intuitive – but that’s the nature of the genre.
In the latter half of the game, it’s even easier when it comes to interacting with your inventory as it’s kind of done for you. The focus is more on the story, and to be honest if you got this far, you’ll likely to be invested to the end as the story is the selling point – despite being somewhat cliche, and being a little smug with Solid Snake references. Guard Duty is one of the easier point and click adventures out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park – there will be moments where you get stumped, but it’s worth it in the end.
If you’re a fan of the point and click adventure, then you may have just skipped down to the rating to see if you should get it, or if you’re a die-hard, probably were going to get it anyway. It deserves the space in your Switch library despite not being a standout title as such, but if you are/were a fan of the 90s adventure games, then you won’t be disappointed.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, Steam, PlayStation
Release Date: 24/04/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, other
Developer: Sick Chicken
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop