I loved Beavis and Butt-Head when it was on, and am provisionally excited that MTV has opted to bring the show back. It got a bad rap for being 30 minutes of moronic, delinquent activity (okay… mostly true), but there was also some real wit, and deserved shots at the “establishment” in there during the best episodes. It wasn’t just a bunch of disjointed scenes of two animated teens acting like jackasses.
Unfortunately, that’s almost exactly what the first game is. Virtual Stupidity takes elements of the show and tries to stretch them out across a full adventure game. “Stretch” is exactly the right word for it, too. Do America wasn’t bad, so I know they can handle longform comedy, but this game definitely suggests that part of the appeal of Beavis and Butt-Head is in their brief, disconnected, five minute episodes. Trying to hold on to one storyline, spread out across a continuous adventure, widens the inherent flaws in their humor. After sitting through the twentieth joke that starts out pretty good, but replaces its punchline with some variant of “shut up, dillhole,” you’ll start wondering if beating your meat actually would be a more productive use of your time.
Virtual Stupidity is a standard point and click adventure game starring the two lifelong pals. The overarching plot is that B&B are trying to join Todd’s (a stereotypical Texas hoodlum) gang, and are going through various initiation tasks to win his favor. The quest takes you to eleven locales around Highland, most of which will be familiar to fans of the show. You’ll have to use standard adventure game logic to break out of school, hang out at the park, hang out at the Food Mart, hang out at Burger World, turn Beavis into Cornholio to solve a puzzle, and occasionally, attempt to impress various chicks with your eloquent mastery of language.
An adventure may seem like an odd choice for a Beavis and Butt-Head game, but it actually works out extremely well in terms of mechanics. Even the show episode “Party” followed standard adventure game logic – B&B want to throw a party so they get money, buy cheap leftover doughnuts, trade the doughnuts to a bum for some “hard stuff,” and so on. Similar trading, and making creative use of free items, are the staples of this title.
It should be pointed out that Virtual Stupidity owes a whole lot to Sam & Max Hit The Road, beyond the obvious use of two main characters. Both games have you controlling one character (Butt-Head in this case) while the other follows you around. Both games use icons to represent conversation topics. Both games have fun, pointless, minigames you can play at any time, that really don’t do much except showcase the characters through their antics. Both games even have their hyperkinetic character playing around against a calmer straight man. It works just as well here, and if you’re going to make a buddy game, this is really the proven way to do it. Still, while the similarities are undeniable; the quality, not so much.
The game involves a lot of wandering around, selecting locations from an overhead map, and seeing what items are available to proceed in your quest. Interactions are performed by right clicking to bring up a menu of icons, selecting the appropriate icon, and passing the cursor around the screen. The icon will change when you’re over something you can interact with – the “use” icon changes from an open hand to one throwing devil horns, for example. Every item will either be picked up, or used in exactly the same way every time you click on it. This can be helpful if you somehow forgot what an immobile object does, but mostly it’s a miserly way to reuse the same animations and dialogue over again. It is a bit of a relief to get away from the old adventure standard of having to click a character repeatedly to hear every single possible line (and thus not miss a single bit of funny), but it does seem disappointingly cheap as well.
The original cast was brought on to fully voice all the characters, which basically means Mike Judge came in for a while. The good news is that, by getting him into the booth, all the recognizable characters are authentically voiced. This obviously includes all the lines for the titular duo. I can’t imagine MTV trying to make a B&B game without Judge’s involvement, but it’s still important to know he’s there – especially considering that most of the lines work only because of their delivery. Beavis’ signature “FIRE!” (though now “Fryer!” as this game is post-incident), “Thank you, drive through” and “Hey, how’s it goin?” aren’t particularly funny on their own. Neither is Butt-Head’s classic “Hey baby.” However, they way they’re said, in the voice they’re said in, make the entire joke.
All those lines are present in the game. Happily, they’re all spoken just like they were in the show, along with some new ones that aren’t too bad either. My favorite:
(after using compressed air to fill a condom like a balloon)
BEAVIS: “WHOA! Air has a really big schlong!”
It’s not all fun and funny though, and some sections are harder than they need to be. For the most part, there aren’t very many obscure puzzles or strange use of items. However, there are plenty of sections where you won’t know what to do next, because the scene hasn’t updated. Events frequently won’t happen until you, with no prompting at all, leave the scene and then come back so that the changes can load or be introduced. If you find yourself stuck, you probably need to start re-visiting every area on the map to see what has changed, or what new dialogue paths are open. There’s also not enough random delinquency, not directly related to the plot, to encourage returning to areas and just clicking around. Clicking on items rarely involve the duo doing something hilariously illegal, they mostly just result in a dick joke that ranges in quality from pretty funny to tiresome.
The game looks quite good, and fairly authentic. The characters are immediately recognizable, but not quite as stylized as the show. Most notably, they don’t even attempt to recreate the sloppy squiggles. This results in characters that look the part, but share the same clean animation as any other adventure character.
There are also video segments that introduce the game and cover key plot points within. These are identical to the show; to the point that I thought they were simply rips and rehashes from previous episodes. They aren’t. They instead appear to have been specially created for the game by the show’s animators, based on the fact that B&B’s shirts in all of these sequences have changed from “AC/DC” and “Metallica” to the non-infringing “Skull” and “Death Metal.” You can even sit down on the boys’ couch, turn on the TV, and watch entire videos from the likes of Gwar and Primus, riffed on by B&B. Fans will certainly get their service here.
I actually did enjoy the game, though I suppose I expected the dialogue and events to be on the level of the best Beavis & Butt-Head episodes. They aren’t. I also think the game is dragged down by the lack of the TV show’s quick pacing. Instead of going from one joke to the next, deeper into trouble, and into a whole new story in ten minutes, you’re hearing the same dialogue over and over as you try to find the item or action required to proceed. Hearing Butt-Head call Beavis a “butt burglar” just isn’t funny the fifth time, when you’re already frustrated and wanting to move on. It’s a good concept, a great recreation of the show, and a solid adventure game. But it gives you too many opportunities and too much downtime to realize how much of a one-act these characters can be.
Great recreation of the show, Mike Judge does the voice work, some pretty funny situations and lines. Probably the only game that has ever used the term “boof.”
A lot of aimless wandering, some of which is forced by the game to trigger event changes. Frequent repetition starts to dull the characters’ humor and edge.