Guard Duty isn’t backward about being forward with its inspiration. This is a game heavily influenced by the point-and-click adventure games of the 90s. Specifically, those developed by LucasArts and even more specifically; the Monkey Island series.
Guard Duty features a bumbling hero, obscure and obtuse quests/puzzles and an overriding tone of comedy. It also features villains far superior in intelligence and skill to the hero and a world in peril. Actually, two worlds in peril, though they are one and the same.
Interestingly, developer Sick Chicken has crafted a story that spans two time periods; medieval and future. While the preview build I played didn’t include any gameplay set in the 2074 Neo-London time period, it did feature in the opening cutscene.
I was pretty confused when the story shifted to the medieval kingdom of Wrinklewood. There didn’t seem to be any connection to the futuristic opening and I felt a bit lost. I’m assuming in the final game, things will be much clearer. For now, I’m struggling to see how the two time-periods connect with one another.
I’m sure they will, so I’ll give Sick Chicken and Guard Duty the benefit of the doubt. As for Wrinklewood, I was introduced to Tonbert, Guard of Castle Wrinklewood.
Guard Duty Preview
Waking up after his birthday and a night of heavy drinking, Tonbert is missing his clothes and can’t report for duty without them. And thus begins the sequence of puzzles that leads Tonbert all over Wrinklewood and eventually on a quest to save the princess.
It’s fairly standard stuff narratively, but it sets the stage for the gameplay. While it’s a far cry from the tropical setting of Monkey Island it’s really obvious that LucasArts seminal series was a huge influence. Sierra’s Space Quest also appears to be an influence, both in gameplay and tone.
In Guard Duty, you move Tonbert by clicking as you do in adventure games. You can inspect items by right clicking on them or pick them up by left clicking. Those that you’re able to collect are added to your sack. The sack operates as an inventory screen and allows you to inspect the items you’ve acquired.
You’re also able to left click on the items in your inventory to ‘use’ them with something else. For example, in the town square is a beggar whom you can ‘use’ your gold coins with in order to make a donation. If you’ve ever played an adventure game, this system will be pretty familiar to you.
Innovation from the 90s
One innovation featured in Guard Duty is the quest log. Inside your inventory is a scrap of paper that Tonbert scribbles his goals on. Be that finding his clothes, healing some bee stings or finding the princess. It’s pretty handy to have and adds a touch of modernity to this classic style of game. Plus, instead of you having to keep notes, Tonbert does it for you.
As I drew near the end of the preview, I had collected all manner of odds and ends and could see a huge path of puzzles unfurling ahead of me. I’d made my way out of Wrinklewood and had a massive world with branching paths to explore. Best of all I was excited to see what I could see.
But then, the preview was over. I’d barely made it out of Wrinklewood when a message from the developer thanked me for playing. I’d had a really good time and wanted more.
Wonderful Pixel Art
What Guard Duty has going for it most are its impressive pixel-art visuals and interesting, cross timeline, narrative. You really feel like you’re back in the adventure games heyday of the 90s, especially thanks to the 320×240 resolution. There’s an impressive level of detail in Guard Duty’s artwork and the NPCs are brimming with character and life.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the voice acting. I’m not sure if some of it is merely being used as a placeholder but I sure hope it is. The majority of the voice acting in Guard Duty is woeful. Most characters sound as though they’ve been voiced by the same one or two people doing slight variations on the same terrible voice.
And it’s not just that the quality of the acting is bad. The quality of the recording is also pretty poor. I’d honestly prefer Sick Chicken remove the voice acting entirely and stick with text only. It would be a vast improvement over what currently exists.
With that being the only issue I have with Guard Duty at this stage, I’m really looking forward to playing the finished game. Hopefully, the quality of writing and gameplay continues throughout and the voice acting is fixed before release.
Guard Duty is coming to PC.