Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse Review | Hall Pass to Hell


Despite the fact that they were initially webcomics, I've always known and loved Cyanide & Happiness based on their animated shorts on YouTube. I don't watch them nearly as much as I used to but once a year I return to the channel to catch up on new content and revisit old classics. I even binge every new season of The Cyanide & Happiness Show when they release on VRV. What I'm trying to say is, when I found out that there was a Cyanide & Happiness game that is the first part in a self-titled tragic trilogy and that it was out on the Nintendo Switch, a system I have been looking for a reason to pick up again, I got pretty excited. But the quizzical quintessential question remained, in the spectrum of cartoons to video game adaptations, will Freakpocalypse land at the top near South Park: The Fractured But Whole, or down at the bottom, where Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know! lays with Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers?

Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse tells the story of Coop, an average high school student that goes through average high school shenanigans. You know, getting bullied by classmates, struggling to find a date to Prom, walking in on their teacher in a gimp suit. The usual. If there's one thing Freakpocalypse does right, it's that it recreates the absurdist humor of the source material perfectly. From self-aware dialogue to punny character names, the game has a lot to pick up on. It's unfortunate then that the game isn't all too funny. I'm not saying it's not funny either. I found myself chuckling more than a few times during my time with the game. But at the heart of Cyanide & Happiness, both the comic and cartoon, is brevity. By the time you process the ridiculous joke you've just seen, it's over. The game does not have that luxury and, if anything, has cutscenes and dialogue exchanges that overstay their welcome, leading to jokes feeling forced and awkward. The few jokes that actually stuck with me were ones that came out of left field and were gone before they were drawn out. The same goes for the main quests, or as they are appropriately called in the game, Chores, which are far less entertaining than the side quests and their related side characters. To make matters worse, the quests and their related puzzles are not that engaging or challenging. I don't want to pull my hair out over in-game puzzles but I also don't want to just walk into the next room and find what I need just sitting there.


Next comes the gameplay, which is undoubtedly the weakest part about Freakpocalypse. The game is a point-and-click adventure, similar to games like Full Throttle and The Day of the Tentacle. With your left stick, you control Coop's movement and with the right stick, you can select items with the cursor and touch, stare or talk to items and characters. While I have nothing against point-and-click titles, I actually just recently played Full Throttle Remastered and enjoyed it a lot, the pairing up of Cyanide & Happiness with those mechanics feels odd. An obvious comparison to Freakpocalypse will be the two recent South Park games and a key reason for their success is that along with capturing the show's humor, they also had engaging RPG mechanics. This meant both fans of the show and gamers who were heading into the fictional town in Colorado had an equal chance of enjoying the game. Freakpocalypse will certainly engage fans of the source material that can pick up on its numerous easter eggs, but casual players are getting a game that requires you to just click around on everything until you pick up what you need and return it to the person who wants it to either further the main choreline or unlock a new piece of clothing that says "boob" on it. I do commend the developers for including so many items to stare, touch, and talk to but the ratio of interactable items to funny punchline is so skewed that by the second half of the game I wasn't that motivated to explore everything.


From a visual standpoint, Freakpocalypse nails the now-famous art style of the comics and it's genuinely fun to walk around the map and take in all the details crammed into the environment. For fans of the series, it will be like exploring the very panels of the webcomics. The same can be said for the audio, with much of the voice cast of the YouTube shorts returning for the game. Other than a few characters sounding like their lines weren't recorded in a professional studio, there are not that many problems with the performances. This is a good thing since every item you interact with has an average of three lines of dialogue tied to it. The music that fills most of the game's background track is pleasant and fitting for the setting. In an unusual way, due to the fact that the music and performances were so great in the game, part of me wonders if Freakpocalypse would have been better off as a visual novel, giving the writers more time to hone in on certain jokes and not cast as wide of a net.

In the end, Part 1 of Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse, titled Hall Pass to Hell, manages to capture the visuals and some of the humor that made the webcomics and animated shorts so popular. Unfortunately, as a game, its point-and-click gameplay and lackluster puzzle mechanics make it a rather forgettable four-hour experience. The game does end on a cliffhanger and with two more parts still to come it will be interesting to see how the developers adapt to the feedback of the first part. But as it is now, and with the $20 price tag, I cannot recommend the game to anyone that's not a very big fan of the source material. Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse is out now on PC via Steam and Epic Games Store and the Nintendo Switch. A review code on the Xbox One was provided by the publisher.

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