*DISCLAIMER: ALL VIEWS IN THIS REVIEW ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT COME FROM THE COMPANY THAT HAS KINDLY PROVIDED THE GAME*
Oh Sir! The Insult Simulator and it's standalone expansion The Hollywood Roast are, "Hilarious Insult-‘em ups where players must verbally take-out their friends and family in different game modes. Assemble witty insults using different word strings, and employ combos, criticals, continuations and more to battle your opponents both offline and online across multiple devices using crossplay." - Steam Page
I first discovered this game series when browsing through "recently released" on Steam back in mid 2016. After looking through the relevant media presented on the Steam Page, it looked quite interesting. Unfortunately with life being life and kind of getting in the way of purchasing games from Steam, I didn't pick it up and I kind of forgot about it for a long while; That was until it was announced that it would be coming to the Switch. It was discovered on the eShop that there was a listing for the 2 games in the series with a release date of the 18th January 2018; I actually featured them in my Switch 101 Daily News series over on Reddit. This was when the game reignited my interest and so after having a lovely quick chat with the publishers, I managed to get my hands on the 2 games and so here we are now. In case you are all wondering, on Steam, Oh...Sir! The Insult Simulator has an average rating of 92% from 2110 different users resulting in a rating of, "Mostly Positive". In comparison, the sequel/standalone expansion received an average rating of 93% from 118 reviewers since it's release on the 31st May 2017 (Just over 6 months after the original).
The general gameplay of both games is easy enough to understand, there is a tutorial, which although good in it's delivery, could have been told in a single screen that can be skipped by the player. In each game, after selecting your character, you must insult the opposing character by selecting out of a hand of words that your opponent also selects out of. You take turns choosing one at a time to compile an insult and when you are both finished, you execute the insult. If the insult makes sense, and cuts deep, it will damage your opponent and the game ends when one of you succumbs to humiliation and embarrassment (when you deplete all of your "embarrassment/health bar"). When first playing this game, it reminded me a lot of Cards Against Humanity. Although that example is a card game, I find the premise and tone to be exactly what this game is trying to present to the player.
Along with the general gameplay, there are also a few interesting mechanics that help to create a more rounded experience and make a round last longer than 5 minutes. Although both players are picking out of the same hand of choices, there is also a lovely cup of tea that you can drink. If you do decide to drink your cup of tea (once per insult), you will be presented by 2 extra choices of words that you can choose from that are yours and yours alone; The other player won't know what they are unless you select them. This can save a failing insult when there isn't anymore objects or other words to finish your "if" statement, and so you take a lucky drink of your tea and quite a lot of the time, it ends up helping you out. However if you can't finish your insult properly, it will cancel it's current rating and you will deal 0 "embarrassment" points to your opponent. If you can't finish an insult, the ellipsis option could be used as this allows you to store your unfinished insult until the next round. However, if your opponent's insult that round is especially rude, it will distract you and you will forget your stored and unfinished insult making you start from scratch next round.
Grammar is quite a key mechanic in both of these games. You can't simply string a bunch of random 'nasty' sounding words together and hope it deals enough points to knock out your opponent. If you do try and string together words that do not make grammatical sense, the games penalise you with a "embarrassment bar" deduction. This makes you think more about your choice and is something that can be a little buggy at times, or at least not work properly as the game doesn't know every possible grammatical solution as sometimes the game will say it's a grammatical error, even though the sentence clearly makes sense.
Faults are a mechanic individual to the character that you select. In the huge lore section of your character, which I will cover in the quality section of this review, you will discover that your character has an underlying fault. A good way to cut deeply into the opposing player is to try and discover their fault by experimenting with different word combinations. For example, "Mrs Maggie", who is incredibly old and frail has the 'fault' that she is scared of weakness and death in any circumstance and situation. If this was my opponent and I discovered this out, I would try and always find that kind of insult to inflict on her and the game would reward me with a damage boost. Another way to boost your damage is to combo your words through multiple rounds. This is done by hoping to come across the same word or specific insult twice or more. If you, for instance, insult your opponents "Mother" and then in the next round, insult his/her "Mother" again, you will receive a x2 combo for the word "Mother". This can continue, but it is completely reliant on the luck of your hand or the RNG of your tea drinking ability.
In the expansion/sequel, "The Hollywood Roast", there is also another feature that is exclusive to this entry in the series. This is the "comeback" bar that will allow you to finish of your insult with a final push. This bar will only fill up if you get hit and I think they did added this feature to tackle the problem in the first game, where you can't come back from a fight if you lose a couple of rounds.
You can just quick play matches, but for a more single player experience, there is the "tournament" mode. This mode pits you against 5 different characters back to back that you have to beat to win. If you beat them all, you win the tournament for that character and this can unlock more characters or scenes to choose from in future games. However, there doesn't seem to be much of a punishment for losing a round in the tournament as you can simply retry as many times as you want no matter how many rounds forward you are. You could fail the last encounter 20 times, but you could still keep retrying from that last encounter, instead of starting from the beginning. Although I understand that this is to combat the repetitive nature of the game and to try and not punish players too much, I think that a "hardcore insult" mode, that gives you a higher chance of unlocking new content should be made available to those wanting a little extra challenge.
In, "The Hollywood Roast", the tournament system works a little differently. Instead of 5 games back to back, your goal in the "Careers" section is to beat a single character. However this time you have objectives to complete, like insult someone with a score of 40+, which is surprisingly difficult. Each character has there own set of objectives to complete and you have to kill each character with every other character which can lead you to playing the game for quite a long time before you complete it. This is mainly because both the tournament and career mode can take 25-35 minutes each to complete and there are around 15-20+ instances that you have to do this.
Unlockables and Characters:
There is only 1 way to unlock all of the content in both games and that is by playing the "tournament" mode. The 2 different unlockables that you can achieve by playing the tournaments, are different scenes that you can experience in freeplay mode, or different characters which have their own individual personalities and lore, and of course there own flaw/fault/weakness.
The range of scenes that you can pick from is quite extensive with 13 scenarios that I currently know of, although there could be more secret ones that I haven't discovered yet. This large selection of different scenes is quite good and offers a change of gameplay with the words generated being picked specifically to suit the scene that you are in. For example, you will only get the option, "Hiding in the shrubbery", in the "Walk in the Park" scene and this happens with every other scene also. This is a feature that I love and tends to make each scene feel unique and will allow the player to experiment with different insults depending on the scenario.
As you would expect from a game of this type, there is multiplayer. There is local co-op and also "over the line" multiplayer. As I received both of these titles around a week ago, before they were even released, I couldn't test out the online mode, but I assume it would feel exactly like versing an AI, but a little more complex.
Anyway, the reason I have this section in the review is to talk about the local co-op in both games. There isn't a tournament mode that you can play with your friends so you are limited to single game matches. However, because of the overall gameplay that this game presents, going back to how I compared it to Cards Against Humanity, the local co-op is only really fun in small doses. The crude and wonderfully British insults are perfect for my group of friends, but like I said, only in small doses.
The reason why I mention this is because of the kind of game that it is. I feel like the jokes and humor can become old, incredibly quickly. A lot like Cards Against Humanity, once you get used to the kind of insults that you can perform, it isn't as fun to execute them. This can be solved in the card game because there are a lot of expansions, but with a game series like this, there doesn't seem to be any. I feel both titles would be so much better if they allowed you to create your own options for selection as the insults could be made more personal, and you could select which "user pack" you would like to play with, depending on the people that you are with.
For a British humoured game of this style, the writing and art work, basically the entire presentation of the piece, has to be "top notch". This is exactly what this piece has done or has at least tried to do in every section. There are flaws, but that is rectified by the wonderful writing and character design as I discuss below.
Character Design and Lore
This is the part of the game that surprised me the most. Every single character has there own lore that is so unnecessarily detailed that it shouldn't be a thing, but it actual is a thing. When you go to select a character, before you confirm that character, it shows you the entire life story and motives for the character in a huge piece that is both clever in it's writing and quite funny in certain sections. As I tend to write quite a lot, I understand how difficult it is to write so much detail about every little thing and for the developers to actually do this with every single character, is incredibly appreciated and something you should take the time to read, should you choose to pick up these games.
The overall design for each character is also pretty good. In the original game, each character is just a huge stereotype and that is also represented in the art work and the animation. In the expansion/sequel, each character is a spin on famous movie personalities/actors. This is also done incredibly well, with the equivalent lore and design that is present in the first title. However, although the animations are at the same level, in terms of tone and comedy, I feel like they could have done more with them, as you soon find that the animations start looping incredibly quickly.
A surprising detail that I wasn't expecting was some of the choices in level design for the different scenes that you play in. Both of these games are littered with beautiful British crude humour, and this is reflected in the design choices. For example, during the scene "By the Lake", the action takes place above a dead body that is holding the 2 cups of tea that are used in the gameplay. Other little details at the centre of the levels are also pretty unnecessary, but much appreciated. However even with these little details, that are great for the tone, some of the detail around the rest of the scene can be a little bare. This can lead to boring looking scenes everywhere other than the centre.
As this is a Switch release and the games on this system can be played in 2 different formats, I guess I should talk about how it performs on the platform. Well I'm happy to say that both the handheld version and the docked version run perfectly with it looking like a smooth 60 FPS consistently. As this isn't a graphically demanding game, with it's simple looking art style, it can look a little bland when in docked mode, but as it's local co-op, I have tended to use it handheld and prop the kickstand out when wanting to play with some of my mates. Other than that, the Switch port for both games are pretty perfect compared to there other platform counterparts.
In summary, the unnecessary detail with the lore and the character design are pretty spectacular. However as I mentioned above, the level design can be a little bland at times. But for only £5/$5 for both games, I don't think a lack of detail in the many levels should be too much of a problem for players.
I was quite surprised about the music in this game. I was expecting a couple of tracks that would be played on a loop for the entire game, or until a special "event" happened which triggers another music track, or something of that nature. However, what I did find was a unique soundtrack that changed it's style depending on the location that you are playing in. This means that for the 13 different maps/scenes in both the games, there are 13 different music tracks available; plus a few more for secret scenes etc. These music tracks are unique to the scene and therefore reflect the scene that you're playing in, for example, in the heaven scene you are greeted by a rendition of 'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel's Messiah. This attention to detail within the scenes is also reflected in the sound effects that are also relevant to the scene that you are in. They could have simply left the game with a constant loop of around 3 tracks and a bunch of sound effects based on the gameplay. However, although I'm praising the unnecessary addition of the OST, there are a lot of tracks in both games that can be quite bland and not memorable whatsoever. You could say that it's good enough that they actually have an extensive OST, but I would have preferred them to have used less tracks with a more unique style than have more with less as they have done here.
Another huge sound feature to point out is the excellent use of the voice acting. All of the characters portrayed are huge comedic stereotypes and that how I believe it was supposed to be. The problem with some comedic games relying on stereotypes is that they can sometimes take the voice acting too seriously even though they are portraying a stereotype in a comedic game. However, this can also be bad for other games that take this approach in the complete opposite direction, with performing the comedy too much. Anyway, in both titles the voice acting reflects the rest of the tone perfectly. As a nice example, the older woman, "Mrs Maggie", is clearly a man putting on an older woman's stereotypical tone. I can understand that a lot of people won't find this style amusing, but the game is wonderfully British in it's nature and that is reflected in the voice acting.
First, I would like to address the fact that both of these games come to a grand total price of £5/$5. Two FULL games that are funny, humorous, and remind me a lot of the time when I first started playing Cards Against Humanity.
The idea is simple enough, insult people by using words from a hand that both players pick from. After you have compiled your insult, it will be scored and will respectfully take some health of your opponent until someone loses. And for this simple idea, it's quite funny. The local co-op creates a fun little game that you can play when you have a spare 10 minutes, and the result can be quite amusing to those who haven't played the game before. However as most games of this type, including Cards Against Humanity, the format becomes stale pretty quickly, especially when you have a comprehensive review to write and so play the game for 5 hours by yourself...against AI. Don't get me wrong the single-player can be fun at times, as you player through tournaments resulting in more characters and locations being unlocked for you to use in the multiplayer or free-play.
This is when I must remind you of the price, everything is relative, and when your spending 5 dollars/pounds on TWO games that you can get at least 3-4 hours out of by yourself, and many more hours when you are playing online or co-op, I think that the value and therefore the positives of the game, remain intact despite the inevitable stale nature of a game of this type.
|Gameplay||Funny and concise with it's execution, and enough content to accompany the very small price of entry.||The humour can fall flat pretty regularly and the good jokes get repetitive and boring after a couple of hours of playing.|
|Quality||Beautifully designed characters that mimmick modern societies sterotypes in a highly comedic way, the lore behind each character is also beautifully written.||Sometimes the level design can become old with a lack of visual charm in some scenes that is present in others.|
|Music/Sound||A different sound scape for each indivdual environment, making the game feel more dynamic. Voice acting is humorous and appropriate to this style of the game.||The soundtrack can feel a little bare and even though there are unique tracks for every environment, they feel a little empty at times.|
Review by Sam Elliott
Oh...Sir! The Insult Simulator and The Hollywood Roast are available now for PC and the Switch. For Insult Simulator, the price is, £1.99/$1.99 and for the standalone expansion, Hollywood Roast, the price is, £2.99/$2.99. Thank you to Indigo Pearl, Gambitious, and Vile Monarch for supplying the game and assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.