Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass steps into the ring, but feels more like a jobber than a world champion

Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass is the latest adventure of three professional wrestlers from England who have emigrated to the United States to ply their trade in the modern-day coliseum known as the Wrestling Zone. A setup like that sounds almost unavoidably funny, but this point-and-click adventure manages to miss the mark anyway with flat dialog, dull gameplay and a story that’s neither charming nor deep enough to make up for it.

Da New Guys: Day of the Jackassbegins, as all good rasslin’ stories do, with a Battle Royale for the belt won through not-entirely-kosher means by Brain, the lackwit weakling of the trio known as “Da New Guys.” But shortly after his victory he’s kidnapped by forces unknown, and it’s up to his partners, the brawny Simon and stalwart Defender, to rush to his rescue – although “rush” might be putting it a little generously.

As is standard for point-and-click adventures, gameplay in Day of the Jackass is a matter of examining everything, collecting everything and using “this” on “that” as you progress through a series of increasingly improbable scenarios and stumpers. The interface is very simple, with the inventory accessible at the bottom of the screen and the basic menu controls – load, save, quit and so forth – at the top. Conversations are a matter of clicking on the character you wish to speak to and then selecting an image of whatever you want to talk about, and all interactive items in the game have pop-up labels, helping to ensure that nothing of interest is missed.

Technically the game is a rock. Saves, loads and scene transitions are instantaneous and an autosave function ensures that you won’t lose too much progress because of an untimely power outage. The limit of four saved game slots seems a bit restrictive at first glance, but in practical terms it’s more than enough.

There’s nothing terribly clever about any of it, however, and while most of the solutions to the various problems you’ll face are fairly self-evident, Day of the Jackass does occasionally fall prey to the classic adventure game problem of “designer logic,” which is a nice way to saying that you have to figure out not only what the designer of the game wants you to do, but also how he wants you to do it. One such puzzle hung me up for an embarrassing amount of time because I was attempting to give a character an item from my inventory before I took one from his, rather than after. It’s a common failing of the genre, but still infuriating.

 Day of the Jackass

But the real failing is in the story. Day of the Jackass is obviously meant as a comedy game, but it’s just not funny. From start to finish, I smiled once, and only once, and it was only because a character shouted a bad word and I happen to be one of those people who thinks swearing is funny. It’s also not particularly interesting; a few nods to the previous game, Da New Guys, are made when necessary, but otherwise there’s almost no effort to provide even the barest of backgrounds for new players. It’s just three oddly-dressed roommates caught up in some random weirdness, and while that might be enough of a setup when the gags are working, it becomes very thin when they’re not.

There are also a couple of mazes, which are never a good idea. While it’s not particularly difficult to get through them once you figure out how, they add nothing to the game beyond a few minutes of extra padding. A pseudo-stealth bit is a little more fun, as is a water-skiing segment and a brief interlude of fist-fighting. But a pair of other fights, including the grand finale, are far less interesting exercises in trial and error.

 Day of the Jackass

The production side of the coin is similarly lacking. The graphics are flat and blocky, a style presumably meant to hearken back to the classic adventuring days of old, but it comes off looking primitive rather than retro, with none of the artistry that marks other, better games. The soundtrack is muddy and forgettable, and most of the voice acting has a distinctly amateurish ring. It’s all very ugly and rough – until the very end, that is, when it slaps you in the face with one of the most jolting and bizarre transitions I’ve ever seen in any videogame. Out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason, the visuals suddenly become smooth, sharp and as well-animated as anything you’ll see on television (except for the bad guys, who look as terrible as ever when the game cuts to them.) It’s flat-out weird, and while I’m sure there’s a point to it, I can’t for the life of me imagine what it could be.

In wrestling terms, Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass is a botch. It’s only challenging when it’s obtuse, it doesn’t score any laughs and there aren’t even any jabs, affectionate or otherwise, at the world of “real” wrestling. The premise is loaded with potential, but the execution is sadly lacking in excellence.