If you grew up on the internet anytime after 2006, there’s a pretty big chance that you’ve read a Cyanide and Happiness comic strip, or watched one of their numerous and ongoing YouTube videos. I was one of those kids who watched videos like Hungertube and Waiting for the Bus, and although it’s been a long time since I actively watched their content, I always smile when one of their comics comes up on my feed.
The easiest comparison off the top of my head for those who haven’t seen Cyanide and Happiness is South Park but with less of a political leaning and a bigger focus on “stupid” humour. It’s so surrealist that I was very curious to see how it would translate to a point-and-click adventure game.
Although it’s not a perfect landing thanks to its short length and simplistic puzzles, Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse is a fun little adventure game that provides some good laughs whilst paying tribute to the series as a whole.
Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse stars Cooper, a bullied high-school student looking for a date to the prom before he graduates as a nobody. The story follows him on a normal school day, before slowly progressing to a wider plot that will presumably play out in later entries. Right now, it’s more of an introduction to the characters and world than it is a fleshed-out plot.
One thing you’ll notice right off the bat is how well the Cyanide and Happiness art-style has been replicated here. In both the gameplay sequences and cutscenes everything looks like it’s been taken straight from the YouTube videos. There’s a lot of little references hidden throughout as well, so on a base level, this is a real treat for even the most casual fans of the series.
As a game and series focused on humour, let’s talk about that before we dive into the gameplay. As someone who’s used to the comics and videos, I wasn’t surprised at how cruel and mocking Cyanide and Happiness can be, especially in regards to its main character. It’s cruel across the board too, mocking pretty much everyone and everything with no regard, although it’s all done in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. There are some smart jokes and commentaries too, but it’s most frequent source of humour is at the expense of the main character. Generally, I enjoyed the jokes, but I can definitely see some people finding it too blunt and cruel for their liking, and it can seem a little overboard at times.
This overboard cruelty is especially jarring as you get to know Cooper and see him as a genuinely likeable protagonist, which can make it difficult to watch the whole world go against him. Once again, it’s all in the name of building up the story, but I couldn’t help but feel a little soured.
When it’s not cruel, Cyanide and Happiness is likely being stupid, and that’s something that fans will definitely be expecting from the game. Anyone who isn’t a fan might find it a little lacking in laughs, but for those who know and love Shark Dad, I’d say it’s sticking to its source material very well.
Similarly to other games in the genre, most of Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse’s gameplay relies on exploring the environment and interacting with items to solve puzzles. Logic puzzles make up most of the gameplay on offer here and they’re surprisingly grounded. I figured the game would run on cartoon logic and be difficult to work out, but there were only a handful of times where things seemed counterintuitive, like giving a homeless man a pizza box to live in. There are hints in the menu if you get stuck, but I generally didn’t think they helped all that much.
Overall though, these puzzles are actually quite fun to figure out, even if they end up being a bit too simplistic. They’re mostly about collecting random items from rooms and trying to make sense of them, but they’re satisfying to figure out and make you feel smart even if you’re just knocking a wasp’s nest down.
One thing I will absolutely praise Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse for is its density of things to interact with. There are hundreds of items dotted around every environment, and almost all of them have multiple reactions from Cooper. It doesn’t distract from the puzzles either, and instead just adds more flavour to the world. I’ve played a fair few point-and-click games in my time but I’d argue this has the most things to interact with and that’s certainly commendable.
Beyond solving puzzles, you can also interact with pretty much any character you see to have some funny exchanges or collect costume pieces. It’s usually worth talking to people to listen to what they have to say, but I do wish there were a few more things to do.
The biggest thing that disappointed me with Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse is its length. Click-and-point games are generally pretty short, but the experience lasted about 3 and a half hours for me and ended on a cliffhanger. Worse than that is the fact that the apocalypse setting isn’t a part of the game at all currently and is seemingly coming in the other episodes. That’s fine, but the fact it’s advertised in the trailers and art felt a bit misleading.
There are a range of side quests you can complete and achievements and costumes to unlock, but I didn’t really feel too compelled to do them after completing the main story. Even then, there aren’t that many to do and it feels like if you’re going for 100%, you’d still only get to about 6 or 7 hours of gameplay. That’s not a lot, so it’s really relying on players being fans of the series and getting as much of a kick as possible out of the humour.
Thankfully, as an old fan of the series I actually did get quite a kick out of Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse. Its short length is disappointing, but the fact that I found myself wanting more from the game is probably a good sign of things to come.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Serenity Forge