From Lord of the Rings films to the Game of Thrones TV series saga, the fantasy genre has taken a style that borders on the serious and sombre. Before these behemoths, it was all a bit of a laugh with Terry Pratchett and his famously brilliant Discworld novels, and the campy TV series Xena Warrior Princess. In fact, it was all about the fun times and strange medieval worlds. Guard Duty harks back to those days, working with humour and point and click retro-styled gameplay. But does this humour grate, or is it about to fully engage?
Guard Duty works like an old-fashioned point and click adventure that borrows heavily from the canon of games like Monkey Island and Discworld from back in the day. The story involves time travelling from a cyberpunk future, down to the fantasy medieval world of Wrinklewood. You play a guard called Tondbert, who gets stinking drunk when he was meant to be guarding the city gates. A mysterious hooded character enters the fray, causes havoc, partakes in a bit of kidnapping, and works his evil magic deeds. Tondbert wakes up in the morning and the first thing he has to do is to find all his clothes…
The story that is told from then on is the best thing about this game. It’s extremely well-crafted and weaves a great tale of an underdog story, becoming the hero, indulging in some time travel, and being able to overcome all evil. I have been totally invested in the narrative from start to finish and loved all the characters it introduced – from the major players right down to those who just have minor bit parts. It borrows heavily, and is influenced by, Lucas Arts’ 90’s point and click adventures, but also kindly satires games like Metal Gear Solid in a cheeky, rather fun, manner. Humour is key here, and whether you’re into that or not will decide if you like what is found in Guard Duty.
Gameplay-wise it works exactly how a point and clicker should. Your character is controlled and moved by you working a cursor on a point on the screen – click it and Tondbert will go there. As always, this mechanism works much better with a mouse rather than a controller, but there aren’t any major problems with the Xbox One version of the game and you can happily get by with your beloved gamepad in hand. It’s easy enough to pick up items, and there is an inventory where you can use items with certain objects or characters to progress through the game. It’s a simple system and it works fine throughout.
Another major part of any solid point and click experience though is found in the puzzles, and in Guard Duty you’ll find a fun time – there hasn’t been a single test in here that has really stumped me, except for a slightly horrid section involving a maze and a giant spider. But hey, I got through it. The puzzles work in the usual manner – ‘use this item with this’ or ‘go here and get that’. And because of that, there is a lot of backtracking to take in, and after a while that does get a tad annoying. Further, on the theme of negatives, sometimes the accuracy of trying to click on the right thing isn’t as precise as I would have really liked. However in terms of overall gameplay this delivers a pretty solid adventure without breaking any boundaries.
Guard Duty looks exactly like what you would expect from a 90’s retro adventure game. The colours, the pixels, and the backgrounds are spot on and it really did remind me of a happier time. Because of the style imposed though, at times, the pace of the game suffers, but others will argue that it is all part of the retro experience. It’s also great that it utilises different timelines, especially that which provides the tone of the cyberpunk world. The sound of the game is good too, working in time with the humour and style effectively. The voice-over is also top notch, capturing all the characters brilliantly with a range of accents and ‘over the topness’ that any “Horrible Histories” fan will enjoy tremendously.
Guard Duty on Xbox One reminds of a time where you would find your adventure kicks in the point and click world. It is nice to go back in time and be reminded of a gentler pace and some world-building that doesn’t take itself so seriously. The voice-over and writing are very good indeed, delivered with warmth, fun, and dedication. The story itself is pretty nifty too, with some excellent narrative points that knowingly borrow from films, games, and books, and this is all helped by the fact that the puzzles actually make sense, unlike certain games of this genre where even when you are presented with the solution it still doesn’t make sense whatsoever. It has a decent running time of up to four hours yet the amount of backtracking and the overall pace of the game does take some getting used to. But when you do, and you discover the rhythm, it’s a nice and relaxing ride. If you’re after some nicely paced retro adventuring and want to laugh when doing so, then you can’t go wrong with some Guard Duty.