It’s been awhile since I last went to the theatre. Actually, thinking about it now you could say it’s been far too long since I last saw the curtain raise – but if I could guarantee that future visits would be as enjoyable as the theatrical waves founds in Talent Not Included, then I’d be back there in an instant.
But what is Talent Not Included and how does a game about three bored monsters have anything to do with the theatre? Well, when Zordok, Derp and Kevin decide to create a play, a play about videogames, all hell begins to break loose in the fantasy land of Notthatmuchfurther, with the events taking place all thought up by the moronic minds of the three. But whilst you may expect a bit of simplicity in anything a brain dead monster can create, you’ll actually discover that these three have at least one brain cell between them, allowing for cleverly delivered tales of slaughter, bloodbaths and Shakespeare – all told through the medium of an action combat platformer.
Sounds strange eh? Well, yeah, that’s because it is. But it’s strange in a good way – a way which brings some very positive, very humourous vibes.
Set changing is a way of life in the theatre world, and that’s exactly what we have here in Talent Not Included – a number of static screens that play host to an ever-evolving, and ever-revolving, set, delivering solid platform mechanics and just enough slash and dodge moments to warrant worrying about.
The aim is simple. Head off onto set as one of three mediocre actors – Cecile the heroic knight, Bonnie the rogue assassin, or Gundelf the magical mage – collecting as many points as you can, navigating your way across the ever moving set and hoping and praying that you’ll have enough life force left to drop the set curtains. Depending on how quickly and efficiently you complete each stage, you’ll find yourself rewarded with either a bronze, silver or gold theatrical mask and eventually the chance to take down the big boss who oversees the wicked world you find yourself in.
As you would expect, each of the three actors have slightly different skillsets, which in turn allow for a fair bit of variety in what Frima Studios have been able to shoehorn in. Cecile for example comes with a larger health stash and melee attack for destroying the robotic soldiers and dogs that come your way, Bonnie is a quicker, more rounded individual who will happily roll through a spike nest in order to reach the other side, whilst Gundelf can sit back, with his low health, and pick off enemies from a distance via his mystical shooting staff. Oh, and he can ‘blink’ and glide his way to safety too – two mechanics which make life a whole load easier.
With 15 stages for each actor to partake in, and then one big boss battle at the very end – against the demonic critic who has been watching your every move – you’ll find plenty of joy in Talent Not Included and a decent amount of replayability should you then wish to head on back to better your scores, pick up shinier masks or thrash a mate on the global leaderboards.
The platforming mechanics are great and whether you’re jumping, double jumping, bouncing off a trampoline, gliding through the air or dodging hundreds of wicked bullets that have been sent your way, Talent Not Included works wonderfully well. On occasion there are a few little oddities – think levels that continue on after death has occurred – but with relatively short stages, there is nothing that a quick reset cannot fix. You will however need to have lightning quick reactions, as many of the stages revolve into view at a moments notice, giving you little time to rest on your laurels. But as an ever changing platformer, that is something which should be expected.
It is due to the revolving nature in which Talent Not Included occasionally frustrates though, and there is nothing worse than reaching the end of one set of events, before plummeting to the ground to find the stage falling from beneath your feet. There is little you can do to escape this issue and it does sometimes feel unfair and unjust, but again, much like the odd glitch, is never really too much of a deal breaker.
But that’s not all there is to Talent Not Included and should you find yourself getting stuck at any point, unable to reach those magical level exit points, then you’ll be glad to know that everything available in game can also be played through in a cooperative manner, with a friend alongside you helping your completion ratio.
And you know what? It works really really well as two heads are nearly always better than one. Yes, it may be a bit confusing at times, and the difference between the two characters on screen at the same time could, and possibly should, have been a bit more noticeable. But with the opportunity to teleport to each other’s positions, revive yourself by utilising one of your companions spare hearts and basically cheat the devil with some tricks that I’m not completely sure are meant to be in place, and you’ll find your run through the halls of Talent Not Included a much easier one.
Taking down the end of area bosses – and even the final big guy in Zot the critic himself – as a duo is also a hell of a lot easier, as double the attack power most definitely comes in handy. Should you be on a quest for overall gold mask completion, and therefore the cool 1000 gamerscore that Frima Studios have included, you’ll still find it a tough old cookie to crack. It would however have been lovely to see an online component in place, as not everyone can embrace the local scene, and it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on the joyful cooperation that two players at the theatre brings.
With just enough replayability to suit all, a delightful visual representation, a soundtrack which delivers the goods and some very clever, funny, ideas in place, Frima have nearly brought the house down with Talent Not Included. Yes there are the odd issues, but nothing that is anywhere near game-breaking, and even the occasional unexpected ramping up in difficulty will see you and a friend having a great time.
Break a leg and get involved in Talent Not Included now.