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Excruciating Guitar Voyage (PC) artwork

Excruciating Guitar Voyage (PC) review

"Excruciating Guitar Voyage is obviously trying to lampoon, [but] it's too far over that line to be funny anymore. Ultimately, it tries too hard and ends up becoming the kind of amateurish and unpolished game it sets out to make fun of."

If Big Brother had been a music snob, then 1984 might have resembled the world of Excruciating Guitar Voyage. It's a world where metal is outlawed, and the few brave souls who still riff on guitars have been driven underground (it's not entirely clear what dominates the airwaves in this setting, but I only hope it's not pop). The general populace, having been stripped of their rockin' tunes, are ruled by an oppressive totalitarian state, going about their daily lives under the disapproving gaze of armed policemen and the unblinking eyes of thousands of security cameras.

So except for the metal bit, it's not unlike present-day England. /rimshot

As the game's protagonist, a metal fan whose parents inexplicably decided to christen him "PX", your mission is to find your mate Craig and have a look at the new underground metal magazine he's got his greasy mitts on. This deceptively simple task soon balloons into an adventure of epic proportions, complete with giant grasshoppers and flying fortresses. Like any self-respecting platformer hero, PX has the uncanny ability to pick up objects and keep them in his pockets (this is referred to as his "inventory"). He can also flip switches, press buttons, and talk to other characters, all of which are used to overcome various obstacles between PX and his metal magazine. Said obstacles are mostly simple inventory or switch-based puzzles, things like flipping every switch you come across, or traversing linear paths to find a key and then inserting it into the door at the end of the path. One of the very first puzzles you encounter is how to get from the town center to the prison where Craig is supposedly held. Helpfully, an insect enthusiast informs you that his giant grasshopper's cage also leads to the prison yard, but he can't open the cage because the grasshopper hasn't been fed yet. Luckily, a restaurant nearby is still open and will gladly sell a single taco with which to feed the beast. If this sounds incredibly simple, that's because it is, and it doesn't get much more difficult.

If there is a difficult element to EGV, it's the platforming. PX can jump well enough, but while in the air he behaves more like a balloon than a yellow-clad metal-head, floating almost serenely down to the ground as though he were filled with helium. He's no less sluggish on the ground, and coupled with level design that can be described as "claustrophobic" and collision detection described as "unclear", this makes it rather difficult to aim jumps and land properly, often sending PX drifting gently back down to the bottom of whatever you were trying to climb up. If the levels were clever and challenging, such setbacks could be taken in stride, but when the level design is uninspired at best and downright dull at worst, having to attempt a set of "challenges" again from the beginning is nothing short of frustrating.

But there's a diamond in the rough here, a single element of gameplay that I would qualify as "clever". Some obstacles, like electrical switches or torches, need to be turned on or lit up in order to clear an objective or progress onward. And PX is, for all intents and purposes, nearly invincible. Said switches are powered on by electrocuting him and then touching the switch, all the while dealing with periodic electrical shocks that paralyze PX and can send him plummeting out of a jump. Torches are lit by, you guessed it, setting PX on fire, prompting the poor sod to run screaming in whatever direction he was pointing while your only control over him is when to press Jump. These little handicaps provide a bit of challenge to otherwise tedious platforming, just enough to make it interesting.

Between self-immolation and giant insects with a taste for Mexican cuisine, EGV's strongest asset is its wacky, off-the-wall sense of humour. Its art style is no exception, deliberately amateurish complete with photographs of (presumably) the creator and his comrades stapled on to haphazard Adobe Illustrator cartoon bodies. Voice acting ranges from amusingly phoned-in to, in the case of a certain game show host, hilariously and wonderfully overdone. EGV makes liberal use of lamp-shading, with even PX often confused by the plot's frequent leaps of logic.

But satire walks a very fine line, and while Excruciating Guitar Voyage is obviously trying to lampoon, it's too far over that line to be funny anymore. Ultimately, it tries too hard and ends up becoming the kind of amateurish and unpolished game it sets out to make fun of. And that's disappointing, because it's so close to being something more.

WilltheGreat's avatar
Freelance review by Will Roy (November 28, 2010)

Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.

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CoarseDragon posted December 02, 2010:

PX might stand for Phase eXchange. As in sound waves being delayed.

Very good review. I liked the humor you tossed in there.
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WilltheGreat posted December 02, 2010:


PX might stand for that, but it seems out of place. Then again that's par for the course.

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