Despite what you might think from the name, Ugly Americans isn’t a slight on the gene pool of the USA. Instead it’s the title of the Comedy Central animated series which, if you live outside of the US, still might not mean very much to you at all.
If you’re one of those people, then it warrants explaining that Ugly Americans is a criminally overlooked, off-the-wall comedy based on the workers at the Department of Integration. The series follows the exploits of Mark Lilly, a Social Worker of sorts; the twist being it’s based in an alternative version of New York where demons, zombies, robots, lizard-men (and all manner of other improbable creatures) can be found roaming about and are quite common place.
It’s this which brings about most of the laughs and surreal humour, fitting the very definition of a cult title. And now it’s been given a videogame tie on PSN and XBLA, subtitled Apocalypsegeddon. At first glance it looks like a side scrolling fighter, but there’s no kicking and punching involved. Instead the player `shoots` the oncoming enemies by aiming with the right analogue stick. And by shoot we mean throw buckets of paint, hammers, baseballs and a whole host of other weird items. Which still makes it a shooter… of sorts.
There’s also a smart bomb style super attack to clear the screen, but essentially the player must keep moving and shooting enemies to avoid having their energy bar drained, which of course results in Game Over. Ugly Americans doesn’t pull any punches in this regard – you only get one life and if you’re playing solo, with no one around to revive you, then being careless will result in it being over all too soon. There’s also an absence of checkpoints within a level, meaning it doesn’t matter if you fail near the start or near the end, you’ll be doing it all over again.
If imitation is classed as the sincerest form of flattery, then right about now Castle Crashers must be blushing hard enough to bust some capillaries. Ugly Americans features the same style of leveling up system, multiple characters to select from based on the cast of the series and online / offline multiplayer participation required to get through the levels.
In truth there’s doesn’t really feel like much difference between the characters, even though they start out with different skill quotas. However it still feels like a game that demands to be played with at least more than one person. Alongside the revive mechanic being missing for solo players, it also feels a lot more balanced and approachable when you’re teamed up with someone else.
While the mechanics behind the game are pretty sound, where Ugly Americans starts to tip towards falling down is in the presentation stakes. The cutscenes naturally mimic the style of the cartoon series, but it seems as if it’s been rushed. Unlike the show, here they don’t feature any lip movement and it feels slightly lazy as a result. Visually the in-game action doesn’t match these storyboards exactly, but it does still capture the general feel.
Although the biggest problem is with the repetitive sound work. No matter what enemy you’re fighting, be it zombies, Manbirds or demons, you’ll find them spouting the same lines of dialogue at you over and over and over (and over and over….) until it starts to drive you a bit mental. And while it might be in-keeping with the theme of the cartoon, being repeatedly told by wave after wave of Manbirds to “Gobble my Knob” goes from being crude to less than amusing in record time, running the risk of making you want to punch yourself in the ears repeatedly with the controller to induce deafness.
If you can get enough people to play it regularly, and turn the sound down to shoot the breeze, Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon will probably provide you with a few hours of mindless entertainment.
However, if you don’t satisfy those criteria, or aren’t a real die hard fan of the animation, then you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere for something to occupy your time.