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 		Strictly Come Dancing: Evil Heroes

I know I ranted about this in my Whispered World review, but why must games parody and mock themselves whilst at the same asking you to do exactly what they're mocking? Yes, it's all very funny and clever taking the Mickey out of identikit dungeons and repetitive tasks, but you still ask me to complete them. So when Drake comments "Isn't this exactly the same dungeon as before - didn't we rescue Candy just over there", a smile may dawn across your smooth cheeks. But it'll be wiped clean off your chops as you realise that, yes it is exactly the same dungeon, and yes you are going to have to grind your way through it again. Sigh.

Anyway, how churlish of me to start with such negativity. It's not entirely warranted, after all. Grotesque Tactics is a cross between many styles of RPG - the most evident being JRPGs - and is unashamedly, deliberately stereotyped. After all, the point of this game is to poke fun at pretty much everything in the history of the universe, AND BEYOND.

You play Drake, an emo loser (yes, really - even his bio page calls him this), who's prevented from committing suicide (by throwing himself at a killer mushroom, natch) by the Holy Avatar. See? ‘Holy Avatar'. What an amusing name for a stereotyped character. Anyhow, events unfold in the typical manner and before long you're saving the kingdom of Glory from the evil Dark Church, and rescuing bimbos in skimpy rags called Sandy. Again: yes, really.

So now you see just how deep the mocking runs - it is the game's main, if not only, selling point. To be fair, it's pretty good at it: Mandy & Candy both perform their blonde-bimbo-maiden roles admirably well - both chasing (as he would call himself) the Semi-Divine Holy Avatar, and squealing like, well, girls; Holy Avatar speaks about himself in the third person; the story and quests are suitable contrived and daft. Basically, if you've ever groaned at something in a RPG, you'll groan at that same thing here. But it goes further than that: there are Mario mushrooms; killer bunnies called Monty; Cosplayers dressed as you and Solithaire (a goth vampire chick); Chocobo type creatures called Chocochicks; the parody list is endless. Some of it's amusing, some of it isn't funny at all, but it is absolutely relentless. Sometimes I just wished they'd back off a bit and get out my face. I can see they're trying very hard indeed but a lot of it lacks subtlety. And the claim that it contains the funniest animations in the history of mankind? Complete bollocks.

Oh, hark at me - being negative again. Let us ignore the relentless attempts at humour, and look at the game. How does it play? Not bad actually, even if it is fairly simple. It comes across as a mini-King's Quest - you control your party on an isometric-y map by pointing and clicking (or WASDing if you're mad), and rotating the camera around. You'll encounter many bad guys who you duff up in rounds turn-based combat. This I thoroughly enjoyed; it takes place on the game map - no separate arenas here - and there was plenty of room for tactical positioning of characters. By the end of the game it gets a bit long-winded, but none of the battles are too difficult and most are fun. Easily the highlight of the game for me.

You meet additional characters who may join your party or give you new quests, and you'll find gold and items. All standard fare. Oh, and did I mention levelling up? No, because I didn't have to - you should know what to expect. However, this is where it falls down again I'm afraid. Although you do level up, you don't have any choice in skill or stat distribution. You gain a pre-determined boost to a pre-determined stat and a sometimes you'll unlock a special skill. Which is... wait for it... pre-determined. No choice, or even roleplaying, here. Same goes for the items - there are bugger all unique items, literally only 4 or 5 for each character, and none of them have cool effects or names. I need my Magnanimous Holy Sword of Incorruptible Repentance.

And it looks and sounds crap: bland, messy graphics, being viewed through a demented camera that can't sit still, and never goes where you want it to; horribly twee music ripped straight from a Zelda game; and monstrous, irritatingly repetitive sound effects that neither signify an event, nor add to the atmosphere.

Christ, I'm kicking it, which seems really unfair because... well, I like it. Reading the above, I don't even know why, but it drew me in - I played it through feverishly, always wanting to see what was going to happen next. I ended up overlooking all of the above flaws (except the camera and sound effects - they must die), and just enjoying myself. It's got bags of character, despite the copycat approach, and it can be a fun game - and I really did like the combat.

It's sure as hell not worth its current asking price, but I'd certainly recommend grabbing it if you see it in a sale. And it's called ‘Grotesque Tactics'. That's got to be worth a bonus point.

 

Everyone lives in tiny German villages