Humor is a tough sell in the gaming medium. Comedy relies so much on timing, tone, and sensibility that it rarely works in the adventure genre, which continues to try to make us laugh in everything from the Leisure Suit Larry series and Space Bar to the Zork epics and Monty Python rehashes. Most of these titles employ some combination of crude satire and/or campy bad jokes. But the sheer repetitiveness of puzzle solving and the adolescent writing that afflicts most game scripts pretty much undermine even minor chuckles during gameplay. The latest attempt, Armed & Delirious, doesn't go for laughs so much as absurdist chaos. The result is a fine, nonsensical treat for the eyes and ears that also suffers the tedium of overdone wackiness and some tedious gameplay.
The story and characters in A&D are only vaguely understandable - which is about right for the tone of the game. The Crotony family is a clan of animal torturers who are "disappeared" by the Great Rabbit, a mastermind who has built a series of odd worlds and an undisclosed scheme to wreak revenge for all of his abused furry friends. Granny, our heroine, comes downstairs to find her Crotony family gone and her own prized cookbook stolen. Once all the necessary oddball objects have been collected in her brassiere (the "braventory"), she zooms off in her flying washing machine.
Granny chugs her way through six insane worlds that float in the ether, each of which has a number of predictably nonsensical rooms and situations, much like Alice's pursuit of the white rabbit. En route to face off with the Great Rabbit, Granny encounters a plant-based resistance force, fey receptionists and hairdressers, a dominatrix, and more. Alas, none of them is developed into anything funny, but the artwork and the soundtrack are quite enjoyable and may just be enough to motivate some gamers onward. The animation throughout recalls some of Terry Gilliam's airbrushed montages for the Monty Python productions, with perhaps a touch of Salvador Dali. Granny takes improbable bounces along cloudscapes, around toilet bowl rims, and within a pinball machine, among others. All of them pretty in their absurdity. Brassy, light jazz tracks shift with the scenes and provide an unusually pleasant background jingle to the puzzle solving. The comic highlight of the game is Granny herself, whose voice work delivers lines like "That Rabbit bastard stole my cookbook" with the gusto they deserve. Everybody loves to hear the elderly swear, I guess.
The real frustration in A&D comes both in an absurdist storyline that never really delivers and a madcap approach to puzzles that is more frustrating than entertaining. Frequent cutscenes show us the Rabbit tracking Granny's progress from his HQ, and we know that he remains mum about his real intentions and motives. But the story is too overburdened with unfunny nonsense to let anyone other than Granny provide genuine humor, and it doesn't pique your curiosity about how all of this absurdity will resolve itself. In short, neither the story nor the mystery is compelling enough to warrant the puzzle solving.
And in this case, the silly solutions to many puzzles are just too obscure and never especially rewarding. Several obstacles require coordinating Granny's movements with another animated event in the scene, such as knowing to press her down into a chair continuously in order to get a hairdresser to back up into just the right position. Or, getting a passing kangaroo to hit a makeshift seesaw to send her up to an out-of-reach button. Offbeat? Yes. Ingenious? No.
Even with the walk-through that Sir-Tech has (wisely) placed on its site, I found the interface unresponsive and some conundrums nigh unfair. As is standard in a point-and-click adventure, A&D's cursor is designed to change over item hotspots and exits. But in more than a few cases it was difficult to distinguish among various exit locations, items, and critical buttons. A tape recorder in the braventory is supposed to give clues, but most often it is mute and it tended to lock up the game for me anyway. The five CDs in this twisted epic, as usual, require too-frequent disc-swapping.
In style and conception, Armed & Delirious is a breath of fresh air, a surreal and light-hearted bit of gaming that will keep you befuddled for many long hours. Lovers of Pythonesque silliness or anyone looking for something completely different may overlook the amateurish execution of design and puzzle mechanics here. Generally, however, A&D is blander than it thinks it is and certainly less clever and entertaining than it should have been.