Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon Review

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Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon Publisher: 345 Games
Developer: Backbone Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Reviewed on Xbox 360

In a world where Man-Bird hybrids befoul statuary while shouting with what little English they learned from a New York cabbie, and where zombies take sexual fetishism to an advanced state that only prolonged undeath could allow, would anyone even notice the End of Days? There's at least one social worker at the Department of Integration who thinks that it's worth saving a few lost immigrants, Manhattan, the world and even possibly a few demon babies along the way.

Kyle Ackerman

Believe it or not, there's actually a good scrolling-shooter underneath all the Ugly Americans trappings, but in many ways, that's not the point. The point of playing Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is for all the Ugly Americans trappings. The fact that there's a decent arcade-style shooter here is simply a bonus.

Apocalypsegeddon isn't a game anyone should pick up if they haven't watched the show. You're not going to play the game at a friend's house and shout to the heavens, "This is brilliant! I must henceforth watch this "Ugly Americans" television show of which you speak!" Ugly Americans really is what the title advertises. It's some brilliant, insightful humor, packed so tightly with crass gross-out jokes that if crass-gross-out humor could keep food cold the world would no longer need refrigerators. It's so unbelievably specific that there's probably only one natty apartment (or possibly writer's room) where the denizens find everything in Ugly Americans funny. There's highbrow references mixed with crude sex and barf jokes. There are so many niche genre references, it's hard to keep track. The art style is very specific, and so many of the jokes are New York City specific (like "Grey [Matter] Papaya") that I'd think the show even more alienating than it already is to anyone who hasn't spent at least a little time in Manhattan.

If you've enjoyed the show, or at least been able to sit through two episodes, Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is great precisely because it is so faithful to the show. The game is an additional episode that has to be unlocked through play, packed to the were-gills with inside jokes and references. If you haven't seen the show, you just won't care that some of the health power-ups are egg-dogs. Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is for folks who know what they're getting into. If you already know how the Man-Birds are going to attack you, and could shout their battle cries before turning on the game (and know the backstory that makes that remotely funny), then you should be playing Apocalypsegeddon. If that sentence was meaningless, the shock value of Apocalypsegeddon will cripple you before you begin.

The actual play is in the style of a side-scrolling brawler, but with Robotron-style dual-stick shooting rather than punches and kicks. The game features Mark, Callie, Leonard and Grimes, each with their own talents and voiced by the voice actors from the show. Each character is surprisingly and marvelously deep, and customizable. All four are armed with the BSU-2000 ("It's the Blow-Shit-Up 2,000 – it has the power to turn anything into a murderous projectile!"). The landscape is filled with stuff that can be picked up and swapped in as a weapon, each with different flight paths, damage profiles and even character affinities. There are right and wrong ways to be equipped for boss battles.

The customization doesn't end there. Each character has a unique set of attributes, and can level up to max out those attributes. Early decisions are very important, but as a character reaches maximum level, point allocation doesn't matter so much anymore. Even then, each of the four characters is still very different. Beyond the customization the characters and weapons allow, after the first few levels it's possible to adopt demon babies and carry them into battle with you in Demon Baby Bjorn-style carriers. Those babies also augment your abilities, changing your power and profile. There are a lot of decisions to make, and they are meaningful while remaining fast and fun.

The problem with the play is that it can get repetitive. The initial difficulty curve is steep, and if you don't have more powerful players rushing you through, it's possible to replay the early levels a lot. It's also hard if you're tied into a specific character. Quite often I'd try to jump into a four-player game online (so much more fun than solo play), and at least one player always quit when they couldn't pick the character they'd been leveling up. I never got to play for more than a few seconds with more than three players. Besides, the shooting is initially fun, but the levels don't change, so when I had to replay early ones, it quickly became monotonous.

Apocalypsegeddon does a superb job of capturing the feel of Ugly Americans. It may be a vile and bizarre world, but it's also a rich world that often drags me kicking and screaming into a belly laugh. The plot and art match that of the series, and the voice actors are the same. I'm disappointed that the story in the game isn't fully animated. It's a series of rapidly changing stills, so it's as if the game could only afford storyboarding rather than full animation, but went to town on everything else. I found that distracting. Even so, the game so captures the feel of the show that I expected to hear "Cu–cumber" after watching every cinematic.

The decision to purchase Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is very simple. If you've willingly watched at least three episodes of Ugly Americans, play the game. Blow shit up with snow globes, eat egg-dogs and adopt a demon baby. If your eyes bleed when the promos for Ugly Americans interrupt another Comedy Central show, save your $10.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 2, 2011 9:42 AM.

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