Randal’s Monday – Review

Title   Randal's Monday
Developer  NeXus Games
Publisher  Daedalic Entertainment
Platform  WindowsPC
Genre  Point-and-Click Adventure
Release Date  12th November 2014
Official Site  http://www.randalsmonday.com/

In the fast-paced world that the internet has given us, first impressions are slowly becoming more important than we’d initially give them credit for. With so many things to see, do, and willingly distract ourselves with, finding a way to ensnare someone’s attention long enough to get them to pay attention to you is all-important. Well, it’s either that or leading with some kind of irritatingly vague headline like “Man reviews a videogame on the internet, and you’ll never guess the 26 major points he made! Number 21 will change your life!” in the hopes your curiosity will overtake the realisation that nothing important has ever been communicated in a Buzzfeed listicle. Ever.

With that in mind, I struggled to think of the best way to introduce this review. I contemplated riffing on the game’s central theme by repeating the same line over again but in slightly different ways, I thought about filling it with so many pop-culture references that you couldn’t be sure there was actually any substance there, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I considered sacking the whole thing off entirely before downing a bottle of rum and seeing how many classic episodes of The Simpsons I could get through before I passed out. However, two paragraphs in, I’ve finally figured out my opening gambit: I hated Randal’s Monday from the moment I first saw it.

In the build-up to its release, everything about it made me certain that I was going to hate it. Putting forward its “cynical” arsehole protagonist as a major selling point? Way to differentiate yourself. Bragging about how many pop-culture references they put in? Wouldn’t it be more fun for people to discover them themselves than have it thrown in their face? Getting the guy who played Randal in Clerks to voice a protagonist named Randal Hicks? Oh great, they’re acting like a celebrity casting will instantly make the game good, because everyone knows someone mildly famous automatically makes it better. Billing it as a “Point & Geek Adventure”? My eyes rolled so hard that I’m pretty sure I managed to see my brain.

But why admit all that? Expressing those opinions off the bat was irresponsible at best, and stupid at worst. Plus, I’m pretty sure that doing so means I’m going to attract the ire of people who’ve now decided that they can’t trust my opinion or that this review is automatically going to be negative, as if I’d willingly spend nearly twelve hours playing something I didn’t want to like from start to finish, then spend several additional hours writing about it just to slate it, like that wouldn’t be an insulting, borderline-sociopathic waste of everyone’s time.

No, I did it because deep down, I really wanted to like Randal’s Monday, and I was desperate for it to prove me wrong and provide one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. On the plus side, it was nowhere near as bad as I feared it would be. On the flip-side, it was nowhere near as good as I hoped it would be.

Randal’s Monday begins, as you’d rightly expect it to, on a Sunday night. His best friend Matt is getting married to the girl of his dreams, so they’ve gone to their local watering hole to celebrate. After drinking enough to make George Best blush, Matt goes to throw up in the alley, where he reveals to Randal his latest discovery – a beautiful, almost mysterious ring that seems to emanate a powerful aura, and which, in a remarkably restrained moment considering everything else in the game, somehow eludes extensive comparison to a certain piece of Middle-Earth jewellery. The temptation becomes too much for Randal, who doesn’t hesitate to steal it from his friend and keep it for himself.

The gang get so drunk they can’t remember the rest of their night, and it’s from this moment that everything becomes pear-shaped. Monday arrives, and our protagonist finds himself hungover, confronted by a landlord demanding rent for the three previous months, fired from his job as a delivery boy, and then dragged over to Matt’s apartment just in time to see his mangled corpse hanging out of the oven. Believing that stealing the ring probably wasn’t the best idea, Randal finds his suspicions are confirmed when he wakes up the next day only to find that it’s Monday again, and sets out to find a way to break the curse.

Rather than a strict Groundhog Day scenario, Randal’s Mondays will change depending on the actions taken the day before. You see, while the day itself will repeat perpetually, the events that play out will change based on how you’ve changed the physical world around you. For example, one Monday will require paying a visit to a psychiatrist, who becomes so frustrated that he kicks Randal out and bans him from the practice. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem as since the day loops, the conversation never took place, and you can enter the next day. However, since the psychiatrist put a poster up outside his practice declaring the ban, when Randal returns the next Monday the time loop compensates for this discrepancy by having him be barred for something he did while he was blackout drunk on Sunday night.

It’s quite a refreshing method of keeping the action varied despite having it all take place on the same day repeated ad infinitum, but it’s not one that the premise fully lives up to. It doesn’t take too long to understand how the looping works and what will be affected, but sometimes the rules over what’s affected or not seem to be a bit arbitrary at times, and it’s not without some head-scratching moments that I don’t think the writers fully considered. One particular example of this is a late-stage sequence where a puzzle is solved by waiting forty-eight hours, whereupon a character you need to trick will still remember what you did to them all that time ago despite the game repeatedly going out of its way to remind you moments like that should be impossible.

When it comes to the story, it’s very much the case that it’s great in concept, but less so in its actual application. The way time-loop shenanigans are treated is great in theory, but the game seems perfectly content to just plod along from one moment to another without really knowing what to do with itself half the time. The overall plot feels like it should be dense and intelligent yet somehow easy enough to explain, but instead it meanders around and doesn’t really go anywhere. The ending should have been tense and reliant on everything you’d learned up to that point, but the most impressive thing about it is the spectacular fashion in which it fizzles out into limp disappointment.

That pervading sense that not everything was quite thought through or planned is also true for the characters. Randal finds himself being cosmically punished and cursed for being a consistently terrible person, yet you’re supposed to want to help and occasionally empathise with him because he’s the main character and he sometimes feels bad for the stuff he does before doing it all over again; I’m not even sure he has an arc or how it’s resolved by the end, if it is at all.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast suffer just as heavily from these problems. The story revolves around Randal trying to get the ring back to save Matt and Sally’s relationship, and you’re supposed to want this to happen as well, despite the fact that they only have one scene together for the majority of the game and it’s one that makes you question why they’re even a couple, let alone one worth saving. Sergeant Kramer consistently insults and degrades Randal and is clearly set up as the main antagonist, then suddenly disappears from the rest of the story with nary an explanation. Seriously. The character the game seems most conflicted about is Officer Murray, as it can never seem to decide whether he’s a man trying to do his job despite the denigration of those around him, someone who’ll go to the ends of the earth for what he believes in (justice), a well-meaning but overly incompetent mess, or just an opportunity for a bunch of gay jokes because he’s a bit into eating sausage weiners.

I suppose that one of the bigger issues at hand is that fact that, considering that you meet the same characters day in and day out, there’s surprisingly little to them. When you find yourself having to interact with the same five or so people over and over again then you can’t help but think that it couldn’t have hurt to give their personalities a bit of padding out. Having some stronger, more defined presences throughout could also have provided plenty of extra opportunities for some good laughs, which unfortunately, Randal’s Monday is sorely lacking.

Although I wasn’t expecting the game to be a laugh riot, I found myself more than a bit disappointed that, if pushed, I can only remember about three moments throughout the entire eleven-or-so-hour experience that managed to elicit at least a chuckle, and none of them were any of the seemingly thousands of references scattered throughout. Instead, all of the funniest jokes came when the writers managed to wean themselves off of pop-culture for more than a few sentences and actually let the premise and its absurd, dark humour take over. Sadly, those moments seemed all too rare, as whenever the game seemed to have the self-confidence to tell its own jokes, it’d run back into the corner and throw out some references until it was safe to come out again.

This is a (shudder with me now) “Point & Geek” adventure after all, so some knowing winks to things you’d like were always to be expected, but Randal’s Monday is constantly trying to make you aware of its “geek cred” with all the flailing desperation of an undercover cop who can’t be arsed waiting anymore and just wants to make his bust before tonight’s X-Factor results. Instead of well-thought-out and subtle quotes that almost take a few seconds to register, it’s fired at you with such constant machine-gun intensity that were there any particularly great references, they’d be all-too-immediately lost in the crossfire. It’s so cloying and needy that the moment it thinks it’s found one you’ll like it’ll latch onto it for all its worth and keep bringing it up. For that alone, Randal’s Monday is unique in that I think it’s the only game I’ve played that has running references instead of running jokes.

Did you like that bit in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson double-dares someone to say “What?” again? Man, you’re going to love it when three different characters all say it with none of the gravitas, skill, or impact within five minutes! Did you like 2001: A Space Odyssey? Wait until you have to spend several puzzle sequences with a robot called HAL who sings “Daisy Duke“! Did you like Portal? Did you remember when the lady voice told you that the cake was a lie? I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but Randal’s Monday takes about five opportunities to let you know that they really loved that joke too.

This is the type of game where Jay and Silent Bob inexplicably show up about three times and the punchline to every appearance is that they shouldn’t even be there but are for some reason, and one that’ll dedicate over an hour of gameplay to reminding you that Morgan Freeman did a voice-over narration in The Shawshank Redemption, which I’m pretty sure isn’t even a geek-cred moment, but just a thing that happened. Twenty years ago. The problem with all this is that, considering about eighty-five percent of the script seems to be nothing but them, just blindly referencing things isn’t a substitute for actual jokes.

Unfortunately, the puzzles can be just as bad, and if they’re not then they’re hardly going to set your world alight any time soon. In theory, obstacles thrown Randal’s way are easy enough to get through if you apply basic logic, but it doesn’t take long for this to stop being the case and for all civility to start going out of the window, and unfortunately it only starts getting worse from there. One such example involves a log, buttons, and a bookcase, and soon turns into a classic case of Developer’s Logic; a clue to how inane and frustrating it can be comes when you check the in-game hint system and realise that the given explanation of how to solve the puzzle doesn’t sound even remotely sane. There’s an achievement for solving it the first time as well, but unless you give the aforementioned hint system a gloss over there’s absolutely no way to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it or why.

That being said, if you’re that desperate for achievements it’s all too easy to save before a big puzzle or something that’s stumping you, read through the hint system (which insults you for using it, by the way), then reload the save file so the game never registered that you “cheated”. Tactics like this may become more prevalent as you proceed throughout the game, as for the most part the way that difficulty is increased is by making everything slightly less logical or providing less context to be able to solve it through your own volition.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, and indeed the greatest highlight of Randal’s Monday is the voice performance from Jeff Anderson. In the video where they revealed he’d been cast he couldn’t have looked less like he wanted to even be in the building, let alone the game, but it’s fair to say that he carries the experience far more than any of the mechanics or constant references manage to. He’s a joy to listen to, delivers his lines with gusto, and it could well be one of the most underrated voice-acting performances of the year. The rest of the characters are well-cast for the most part with maybe a couple of exceptions, but Jeff Anderson really goes above and beyond what you’d expect when taking into account gaming’s usual track record with celebrity voices. Conversely, they also hired Jason Mewes to reprise his role of half of Jay and Silent Bob, and it’s every bit as bad as you expected it to be.

Meanwhile, the graphics are nothing to write home about, the lack of animation can be slightly jarring at times, and the music is pretty forgettable. The proof-reading in the script is quite lacklustre as well, and it was clear that nobody on the staff knew the difference between “you’re” and “your”, because I’m pretty sure nearly every single usage of either was incorrect.

There are some other weird mistakes and design decisions that pervade the experience too. I found myself having to reboot the game a couple of times because it would suddenly stop letting you activate the hotspot to leave an area, and I had at least one moment where the characters conversing would find their voice coming out of someone else’s mouth. Finally, I found myself getting bored of the long loading times that occurred when using the subway between locations, then discovered by accident that I could click the mouse to move to the next location instantly, thus rendering the transition sequence entirely pointless.

At around eleven hours of play, Randal’s Monday feels a bit longer than other games of its ilk, but while there’s arguably plenty of bang for your buck it can start to drag during the later stages. Admittedly, there are just enough new locations introduced in the second half to keep things feeling fresh, but there’s every possibility you’ll start running out of steam before the game does.

The ending is more than a little disappointing, but what makes it so much worse is that the developers seemed to know that and decided to have characters talk over the credits pointing out how bad the ending was and how little sense it made instead of, you know, actually making a better ending. It’s a massive pet peeve when games point out their own flaws and do nothing about it, and it particularly stings here because some of the things they mention are ones that probably would have escaped your notice entirely if they hadn’t gone out of their way to point it out. In much the same way as references aren’t a substitute for actual jokes, pointing out how terrible and flawed your own ending is actually makes it worse, because you’re acknowledging that you could have made a better product and just decided not to.

When it comes to first impressions, Randal’s Monday made a terrible one, but it was one that it almost could have made up for were its myriad flaws and issues not so prevalent. In concept, it had a great story, a litany of references, and a well-established genre to build from. However, in application, it’s a game that doesn’t make the most of its premise, thinks constant references is a decent replacement for jokes, and consistently undermines both itself and its potential. It’s by no means terrible, but some half-baked ideas, average puzzling and a severe lack of great laughs mean that this is one you’re best off avoiding, no matter how good a performance Jeff Anderson puts in.

  • Has a few funny moments when it's not trying to cram pop-culture down your throat.
  • The story has some good potential, even if it doesn't live up to all of it.
  • Jeff Anderson puts in what might be one of the most underrated voice-acting performances of the year.
  • Infuriatingly points out its own flaws and does nothing to address them.
  • Thinks constant pop-culture references are a worthy substitute for actual jokes.
  • Will often overdo specific references just in case you didn't get it the first three times.
  • Some weird, illogical puzzles can halt the flow pretty badly.
  • Forgettable music and art style.
  • Can start to drag in the latter stages.

Randal's Monday bills itself as the first "Point and Geek" Adventure, and if the quality of the final result is any indication, it wouldn't be an entirely bad thing if it was the last, either. This game had plenty of potential in terms of story, humour and puzzling, but neatly manages to squander all three. The puzzles eventually veer into the illogical and inane, there are only a few solid laughs hidden amongst the relentless onslaught of pop-culture references, and the plot meanders about to an ending so bad that the developers even saw fit to tell you everything wrong with it during the end credits. Although it contains a surprisingly stellar performance from Clerks' Jeff Anderson, the rest of the production is sub-par at best. In its desperation to reference every iconic film under the sun, Randal's Monday forgot to make itself a memorable experience.

Our review policy

Last five articles by Edward


There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment