By Marty Mulrooney
Dude, Where Is My Beer? is a satirical point-and-click adventure game created by Arik Zurabian (based in Norway) and Edo Brenes (based in Costa Rica). Players take control of a nameless, moustached, middle-aged protagonist who is desperately trying to find a pilsner in Oslo, Norway. However, every bar he enters is crammed full of craft beer-loving hipsters…
There is very little exposition in Dude, Where Is My Beer?; after a long journey, the game’s protagonist simply arrives at the bus station and starts looking for a pilsner. The first thing that will strike fans of the genre is the distinctive graphical style, which uses a muted colour pallet of greys, reds, pinks and blues to striking effect. It’s almost as if the game is a graphic novel brought to life, printed on cheap paper (not a criticism!); there is real texture to the visuals.
Sadly there is no voice acting but, despite being slightly stilted at times (which admittedly adds to the whole Norwegian vibe), the dialogue is well-written and full of character. The music – which apparently draws inspiration from old time gypsy string swing and Balkan ompa – is also highly unique and imbues the game with a nice warm tone.
The game’s old-school point-and-click adventure game aspirations are readily apparent from the outset. The interface is highly reminiscent of the earlier LucasArts SCUMM games such as The Secret of Monkey Island, with a variety of verbs located at the bottom of the screen. However, this is where the comparisons with LucasArts must unfortunately end.
The difficulty of Dude, Where Is My Beer? instead harks back to the old Sierra adventure games and their often frustrating difficulty. There are no dead ends (thank goodness), but there is a lack of clear direction. When the game begins, players are pretty much given access to every location the game has to offer along with a multitude of hotspots. Combined with the verb-based interface, this can make the level of interactivity feel pretty overwhelming.
Adding to the difficulty is the linear nature of the puzzles. For the most part, one puzzle must be completed before moving on to the next, rather than the player being able to juggle several different brainteasers at once. This becomes more of an issue as the game progresses, as it’s never particularly clear what the player should actually be doing next. It’s a shame, as some of the puzzles are quite clever and fun to figure out.
Others – such as making an ‘artisanal alarm clock’ with a rubber band, a bell and a clock sign – clash with the mostly realistic setting and are challenging for all the wrong reasons. There is even a puzzle that requires the player to minimise the game and run a Google search for a particular year, which is a bit too meta even for a game about pretentious hippies effectively ruining the beer industry.
Is isn’t clear what the three difficulty levels actually change – if anything at all – and the in-game hint system comes in the form of an easily missed cat, who isn’t very helpful at all. Adding an extra layer of complexity, there is a ‘beer-o-meter’ that measures the current level of the protagonist’s inebriation.
The protagonist can only talk to people after a few drinks as he’s socially awkward (a nice touch), but he can never progress beyond ‘tipsy’ and the system soon becomes a chore as the player must continually head to the nearest bar for another drink so they can perform basic tasks such as talking or picking up an item.
Full disclosure: I only managed to complete Dude, Where Is My Beer? with the use of the official PDF walkthrough (supplied by the developers) and I consider myself a bit of an adventure game connoisseur. The walkthrough is split into two halves, with the first half giving hints and the second half giving outright solutions. This PDF walkthrough can currently be bought on Steam as DLC for £1.69 and is highly recommended, but the additional cost stings a bit; I would have much preferred for the developers to have taken this document – which is very well written – and incorporated it into the game as a proper hint system.
Despite its shortcomings (and a moment where the protagonist recklessly leaves a baby unattended), Dude, Where Is My Beer? is undoubtedly a pleasant enough way to while away a few hours for fans of the genre, provided the PDF walkthrough is kept close to hand (along with a few ice-cold beers). Its short length and cliffhanger ending strongly hint at more pilsner-seeking adventures to come; I just hope the developers don’t make the difficulty so punishing next time.
6 OUT OF 10