Supreme League of Patriots (PC)
No Bull Intentions
Phoenix Online Studios
PC, Mac, Linux
January 29, 2015
Don your cape and mask and join the Supreme League of Patriots in this irreverent superhero comedy adventure.
Releasing today on Steam, Supreme League of Patriots is a traditional point-and-click adventure game that aims to blend the trademark humor of comic books with a boisterous right-wing superhero, and the ever-present snark of his liberal British sidekick. Split out over three separate smaller games (or issues as they’re called), just how far can the game stretch its wordplay and snarky humor before it begins to wear thin?
Even without already knowing beforehand, it’s not hard to tell that Supreme League of Patriots is made by a British developer. It’s clear from the onset of the game’s humor that it is taking a very worldly angle with its sharp satire of American politics, way of life, and general understanding of the world around it. America in the game is represented by the bumbling, lazy, yet kind-hearted Kyle. Also along for the journey is Kyle’s snide, illegally immigrated, and just generally grumpy roommate and representation of the UK, Melvin.
If you’ve played a traditional point-and-click adventure game before, you’ve played Supreme League of Patriots. There are however no “find the hidden object” or “assemble these pieces into something” type of puzzles in the game anywhere. Within the first few minutes, Supreme League establishes this fact with its fourth wall-breaking comments mocking other point-and-click games that do such things. Instead, all of the puzzling and problem solving within the game comes from context clues and talking to the various characters scattered around the fictionalized New York City. Sometimes it is a matter of choosing the correct dialogue, and often you need to combine and use items to interact with the city.
The actual environments you run around and interact in are varied and maintain a pretty interesting visual style. I wouldn’t really call it a “comic book style,” which I assume they were going for, but it works regardless. Actually navigating the world and menus couldn’t be easier – everything can be done with the mouse. Dialogue options, and interacting with the environment is simple clicks as you’d expect, and opening the various menus and tool belts is just a matter of moving your mouse to the top or bottom of the screen to make them pop up.
Most of what you complete over the course of the game is seemingly mundane things around the city, especially at the beginning as Kyle is trying to win an “America’s Got Superpowers” competition. This works though, because it keeps everything simple and easy to remember when you’re piecing together a puzzle of interactions you have to complete in order to finish a task. The game’s built-in hint system is also incredibly well done. With options for Mel to spell out exactly what you’re supposed to next to no hints at all, there is a comfort zone available for pretty much everyone no matter your play style or experience with these adventure-type games where missing one thing can doom your entire playthrough.
The strange characters you meet are not much more than paper-thin stereotypes. Given that your tasks you have to complete are mostly a stack of “do this first, then talk to them, then talk to this person” it works to keep everything organized in your head. It’s not hard to remember that the Flamboyant Superhero has some dirt on another character that could help you out later, and anything related to crime goes to the generic policewoman character. That said, though, it does make for some boring conversations. A big chunk of your time playing Supreme League of Patriots will be spent in dialogue boxes, but it’s easy to guess what any given character is going to say based on their stereotypical standing in the world. The gruff Russian superhero is going to mention the KGB and the Cold War, the “spice Latina” receptionist is going to be angry with whatever you do, and the satirical version of Simon Cowell is going to be a massive dick.
The worst character unfortunately, given that he’s with you almost the entire adventure, is Mel. Especially apparent when it’s just Mel and Kyle on screen, the little British fellow constantly adds too many beats to jokes that would otherwise work. When Kyle (or the Purple Patriot as he becomes later on) does something slapstick-y or otherwise humorous that would work on his own, Mel will chime in with a groan-worthy one line joke pointing out the obvious and, in turn, spoiling the joke entirely. And when it’s not just a useless one line quip, it’s a paragraph of dialogue to set up and payoff a lame joke all in one fell swoop. I get what he is supposed to be, but he never adds anything to comedy and it gets grating quick. The type of character that Mel is works best when someone is around and realizing he’s being a snide jerk, but for the majority of time there isn’t. He just makes his comments and the day continues on. Even Kyle, who is meant to the bumbling idiot, is far too smart and quick-witted at times. So, instead of a good straight man/funny man setup it’s just too overly-snarky people commenting back and forth.
Mel becomes slightly more tolerable when there is a third character involved, since his comments are more than just restating whatever stupid thing Kyle just did, but it never gets quite to the point that you’ll ever be glad he’s around. There is one point near the end of the first episode when I thought the writing was finally picking up, and Kyle (now the racist, homophobic, right-wing Puple Patriot) would be the ying to Mel’s yang, but it quickly died back down. For the duration of the other two chapters, when it’s almost entirely the Purple Patriot and Mel adventuring around, there are at least pockets of genuinely funny moments.
Almost all of the humorous moments, for me, come from when the Purple Patriot was at his right-wingiest, making remarks that were absurd and probably offensive to some – especially his interacting with the aforementioned Flamboyant Superhero. It’s these borderline hate-speech areas where Mel comes in handy. Early on the first issue, Mel and Kyle are both established to be generally accepting and down-to-earth people. When Kyle has his accident and becomes The Purple Patriot, he is entirely the opposite person, but having Mel in the background constantly being shocked by the stuff pouring from his mouth helps remind you that the game is not endorsing the hateful speech, or glorifying the people who say such things. It’s all a joke about how absurd it is.
How Supreme League of Patriots toes the line between offensive/tasteless and not flat-out derogatory is where the writing shines. It will yank you into the realm of being offended one minute, then remind you the next that you’re laughing at the hyper-personified America character that is the Purple Patriot, not laughing with him.
When it comes to the actual satire of the game, it’s on point if a little too obvious. It never satirizes anything that doesn’t obviously deserve it, such as the aforementioned racism, homophobia, and the general lifestyle of some overzealous right-wing Americans as well as the more annoying points in the world of video games. There are also several shots at reality television, primarily America’s Got Talent, which just feel dated. It may be part of the worldview of America that I’m not getting being ‘murican and all, but making fun of reality shows such as America’s Got Talent seems like something that stopped being relevant or particularly funny years ago. A lot of the other satire of general pop-culture or New York City in particular is effective enough, but doesn’t bite very hard.
I can forgive some of my issues with the humor – if only because I realize what is funny about a lot of it, even if it doesn’t all do it for me – but my biggest issue with Supreme League of Patriots is the voice acting. Every single character talks in such a slow, painful drawl that I eventually just found myself reading as fast as possible and clicking to the next dialogue window so I don’t need to hear them anymore. They all sound clear at the very least, save for the bartender at the club you frequent during the game. His audio sounds like it was recorded for a game in the late-90s/early-2000s, and it sounds like it is digitally lowered to a distracting level*. Every character’s line is slow and deliberate, and not at all natural. In any other game where characters are developed through their actions or some other form this may not be a big deal, but given how much emphasis is placed on dialogue in Supreme League of Patriots (hint: all of the emphasis), it’s a mighty big drawback.
Music, on the other hand, is really great. Every character and location has a unique jaunty tune that helps gets the player in right mindset. The default music level is way too high, but that’s a simple fix and may have just been personal preference.
My recommendation for Supreme League of Patriots is simple. If you have even a minor interest, go ahead and pick up the first issue for $5. If that style of humor – including Mel’s snide remarks, the constant word play, and the eventual insane Purple Patriot appeals to you, then I say go for it. The other two chapters get even better in terms of the context puzzles you’ll be solving and the story you’ll be unfolding, and if the humor clicks for you all the way through, that’s icing on the cake. If that first issue doesn’t appeal to you at all, don’t bother. There is a solid enough story and point-and-click adventure game in Supreme League of Patriots, but it’s built entirely around its characters and humor, which may or not may appeal to everywhere.
As for me personally, while the majority of the Puprle Patriot’s satire and slapstick moments were more than enough to get chuckles out of me throughout the three issues, Mel constantly dragging down the jokes and a group of paper thin characters didn’t hit the mark all the time, even if I did enjoy the adventuring and puzzle solving aspects of it.
*The developer contacted me to let me know that this is actually not the case. The voice actor, Rick, just has an insanely deep voice.