Take the next Brexit.
Developer: Billy Goat Entertainment Ltd
Publisher: Billy Goat Entertainment Ltd
Format: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Released: December 7, 2016
Making relevant commentary on current affairs is rather difficult for games to pull off. Thanks to the relatively long development cycle, references in a game to current events can be more than 6 months old by the time the game is released. But, thanks in part to the timing of its release, Her Majesty’s SPIFFING, Kickstarted and brought to you by BillyGoat Entertainment, manages to provide a hilarious and topical jab at the Brexit of 2016, as well as be one of the funniest games of that year.
Frustrated at the government after the passing of the Brexit vote, Her Majesty the Queen decided that the government in charge has become unfit to govern the country. As a result, Her Majesty decides to dissolve parliament and return the United Kingdom to an autocracy. Seeing the task of returning Britain to its former glory on earth as near impossible, the Queen turns her attention towards the stars in the hopes of creating a brand spanking new Galactic British Empire. Her tool, the newly-established British space program: Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies, or S.P.I.F.F.I.N.G. for short. Assuming control of Captain Frank Lee English, it’s your job to take command of the half-Mini Cooper, half-harrier jump jet spaceship, the Imperialise 2, and find a far-off world to impale with the union jack.
I have to admit, I went into HMS not expecting very much. After watching the admittedly chuckle-worthy trailer that can only be described as “so British my toast turned into crumpets”, I was anticipating the comedy to consist primarily of British stereotypes that, at best, were the writers’ attempt at elbow nudging the player while saying “aren’t we Brits kooky?”. To my relief, I’m happy to inform you that this isn’t the case. In fact, I think HMS is probably one of the best examples of how to write a modern day, post-Lucas Arts comedic point-and-click.
HMS thankfully doesn’t fall into the trap that many other comedy games do by relying on only one style of humour for its chuckles. Over the course of the story, you’ll see a great mix of fourth-wall breaks, dry British humour, clever references to films and video games, dad-worthy visual puns and even a couple of jokes delivered via game mechanic, such as a charming nod to how the old Resident Evil games used typewriters to save the game. And, although I wasn’t aware of it until writing this review despite the game being conceptualised for Kickstarter back in 2014, the Brexit humour was added last minute, and may be some of the best jokes that HMS has on offer.
While I wouldn’t call a lot of the puzzles in HMS head-scratchers, they are at least nice and straight-forward, almost always having logical solutions that make you feel like a clever cookie for figuring them out. I felt pretty chuffed with myself during one puzzle involving a floppy disk when I remembered that you could lock and unlock them.
That said, however, not every joke was able to stick the landing for me. One of my biggest issues with the writing in HMS is that while it keeps its reliance on references to a healthy minimum, there were quite a lot jokes made about the clichés and mechanics seen in adventure games, especially in its opening minutes. And yet, despite making light of these problems, the game ends up doing almost exactly everything that it points out as issues and limitations on the genre. It’s also worth mentioning that, while most of the voice acting in the game is fantastic, the dialogue delivered by your Welsh companion, Sub-Lieutenant Aled Jones, is bloody awful. His voice actor not only gives a weak delivery of his lines, he seems like he’s trying far too hard to put on a Welsh accent — to the point of making me cringe every time he finished a sentence with the words “boyo” or “butt”.
Really, though, the biggest problem I had with HMS was its incredibly short length. At most, the game will take around two hours to finish, ending on somewhat of an abrupt anticlimax before promising a sequel, provided they manage to sell enough copies of the game. The length is a bit understandable considering the incredibly small budget the studio had after asking for only £30,000 on Kickstarter, even making light of the fact with the end-of-game achievement: “that’s all we could afford”. But it doesn’t mean the incredibly high asking price of around AU$26 isn’t a little insulting when the game makes fun of the studio for wanting even more money to make another game almost after you only just started playing it with the hashtag “#CapitalismInnit”.
That being said, however, the short length does at least ensure that HMS doesn’t wear out its welcome. Even if the current price is a bit steep, you can at least be reassured that you’ll not only be paying for one of the funniest games of 2016, but also funding its future sequel. Hopefully, anyway.
Final Score: 3.5/5
Final Recommendation: If you don’t mind paying a little extra for a short and hilarious experience, grab it now! Otherwise, wait for a sale.