Prank TV Review

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Publisher: Wild Hare
Developer: Jam-Games

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium III 1.0 GHz, 256 MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible 64 MB video card, 1 GB HD space, Windows XP SP2

When a new family moves into a neighborhood filled with malcontents and socially maladjusted hooligans, they decide to teach everyone in the neighborhood a lesson – in the form of vicious pranks. Fortunately, TV crews are on hand to catch every cruel joke and pernicious prank for the benefit of the audience at home.

Kyle Ackerman

If you think it would be funny to trick a complete stranger into falling into a wood chipper and being ground into a paste, you might enjoy Prank TV – particularly if you can tolerate antiquated adventure game-style graphics and irritating technical failures. You really have to love cruel jokes to enjoy this game, but most gamers who install Prank TV will feel like the cruel joke is on them.

No, The Game Doesn't Include Pinhead

Prank TV is known in other territories as Hell Raisers, and features a family that avenges itself on everyone from bullies to a delinquent plumber. Admittedly, the victims aren't particularly sympathetic characters, but many of the pranks would be fatal, and there's simply not enough background to take pleasure in petty and violent revenge. The premise is that these are all supposed to be bad people who deserve to suffer (and we're supposed to enjoy watching it happen as part of a newscast), but there's not enough background to make me take pleasure in watching a croupier be crushed by a falling slot machine, nor are the graphics cartoonish enough to make the whole process funny.

Each level in Prank TV plays like a mini-adventure game. The player must wander around a small area, collecting objects and using them on other objects to set up pranks. Typically, this requires finding a tool and converting some machine into a deathtrap for the amusement of a live TV audience. The figures are simplistic bobble-heads and the environments aren't particularly detailed. Items are often difficult to locate, with some items only identifiable by a few active pixels, hearkening back to the days of games like King's Quest.

Don't Let Yourself Be Stuffed in a Locker. Or Belched to Death

While wandering around and activating pranks, the player also has to avoid being spotted by the prank victim. Typically, the victim is a bully of some sort, with the perpetrator being a geek (or geek's grandmother). If the prankster is spotted, he loses a life. Get spotted three times, and you'll need to restart the level. Every character in a level shows up on a mini-map, with prank victims showing a "cone of sight." Once you learn the victims' cyclical routine and learn the level's hiding spots, it's really just a matter of finding all the pranks on a given level.

The advantage of this sort of game is that it should be really easy to pick up and play. There are a lot of different victims, each serving as a sort-of mini-, low-grade adventure game. The problem is that you have to complete the prank levels in sequence, and if you accidentally click on new game, you'll just have to start over from the beginning. While most of the levels are extraordinarily simple, you might get stuck on a prank. And if you do, you're stuck for the game. A more generous unlocking mechanism would make things more flexible and fun.

Prepare to Hear the Soundtrack. A Lot.

Technical issues pose a further problem for Prank TV. The game crashes, produces mysterious graphical artifacts and suffers from serious sound issues. Most levels have multiple pranks, and each time I completed a prank, a new instance of the soundtrack would begin to run. After three pranks it was annoying, and after six pranks the sound was painful cacophony. It's very easy to accidentally change between the few, limited fixed camera angles available, ruining your chances of avoiding a victim. It often requires several objects to complete a prank, but characters typically only change reactions when a prank is completed, so it's common for characters to ignore, say, gum in their stereo headphones.

Each time a prank is completed, the victim will suffer some horrible result, funny in the same way that TV show Jackass is funny, in a poorly-animated flurry of activity. If you want, you can replay the same animation, close-up. This marks the only occasion that the game departs from its few, fixed camera angles, but it generally isn't worth it.

The humor in Prank TV is difficult to enjoy, at best. While at first glance, the jokes seem as if they might have a British sensibility (mostly because of the vocabulary and accents), once you spend some time with the game, they feel more like a badly-translated Russian script read by British actors more interested in escaping the sound studio than making sure the dialog sounds native. You'll hear a lot from the BBBN (Blah Blah Blah News) newscaster about things like "rectification of the injustice" that only come from an overly literal translation. And the whole thing passes through slapstick into cruel far too often to be entirely comfortable.

Bow to StarForce

Just in case the camel's back weren't already broken, Prank TV runs a particularly intrusive version of the StarForce copy protection. I'm not about to debate the merits of copy protection – we fully understand the need for publishers to protect their property. But when gameplay is delayed for constant, obtrusive copy protection checks, it detracts from the overall experience.

Ultimately, the only thing that Prank TV has to recommend itself is the near-bargain price. But given that the game carries a price tag of $30 at release, PC gamers would still be better off picking up an older PC title for one third the cost. It would look better, and would probably be more fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 4, 2007 9:25 AM.

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