Billing itself as a game “about love, loss, and the end of the world,” Guard Duty is a point-and-click comedy adventure developed by the two-person team Sick Chicken Studios. Started as a hobby project in 2014, Nathan Hamley and Andy Saunders-White developed what would become Guard Duty even further thanks to Kickstarter success in 2017.
Sidequest was provided with a copy of Guard Duty for PC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Sick Chicken Studios
PC, Mac, Linux
May 2, 2019
Drawing heavily from graphic adventure titles from the late 1980s to 90s, Guard Duty has a dark underbelly behind its bright, cartoonish surface. In fact, Guard Duty features two radically different narratives. Similar to other point-and-click titles like Broken Age, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and Day of the Tentacle, playing through these multiple narratives is necessary to piece together what initially appears to be unrelated stories.
In one of these narratives, you take control of Tondbert, a loyal but often undermined Guard to the Castle of Wrinklewood. The princess is kidnapped by a mysterious hooded figure, and Tondbert takes it upon himself to save her and the kingdom from apocalyptic disaster to finally prove himself as someone worthy of respect.
Meanwhile, in the year 2074, you take control of Agent Starborn, who seems to be humanity’s last hope. As Earth is on the brink of destruction, it is up to Starborn to fight against all odds in order to overcome a foreboding, destructive force of evil.
Between these two worlds lies the threat of the end of the world, and the recurring presence of darkly-dressed, eldritch-like figures haunts the protagonists on their respective journeys to change fate.
As per standard in most graphic adventure games, players must make their way through dialogue and use logic to get the items they need to progress. You point and click through the game, navigating your character through dialogue and puzzles. The puzzles typically involve players having to collect the right items to combine and use to move forward.
Guard Duty takes cues from games like the King’s Quest series and Gabriel Knight by Sierra On-Line, as well as the Monkey Island series by LucasArts. By incorporating old-school elements through both humor and aesthetics, Guard Duty is a modern homage to the adventure genre that can both entice old fans and draw in new players.
Between the dirty, cobbled streets of medieval Wrinklewood and the vast emptiness and ruin of dystopian Neo London, the game is riddled with cheekiness that can be considered “Monty Python-esque” and likened to the writings of Terry Pratchett. Behind the game’s surface absurdity is a darkness that will surely keep players intrigued.
It is unapologetic in taking jabs at fantasy titles and series like The Kingkiller Chronicles or making passing references to other games. Starborn’s time period is also clearly parodying both the aesthetic and exaggerated tropes of retrowave, the cyberpunk genre. By pushing the narrative through its wit, the game succeeds in parodying fantasy and sci-fi titles that at times, can be all too serious.
At times, the humor can miss the mark and sometimes falls all too much on cheesiness. For instance, much of one incidental character’s role is to be a blatant reference to Solid Snake of the Metal Gear franchise. When he is eventually coerced into talking, he speaks remorsefully of his past and the disbanding of the ‘Sons of Liberty.’ Tondbert reveals he dons an eyepatch because a garden snake attacked him. The reference felt dated: although Metal Gear has established itself as timeless, the last major title of the series published under Kojima Productions was back in 2015.
However, it is clear Guard Duty was developed for a specific playership that would be appreciative of this writing style, especially when it does hit all the right punchlines. With the sinister and otherworldly plot devices added to the mix, the contrasting elements create a juxtaposition that surely would keep players hooked and yearning to know what connects the two worlds of Tondbert and Starborn.
Guard Duty offers something that is both nostalgic and intriguing to the graphic adventure genre. For players who may not jive that well with the deadpan humor of British surreal comedy and fantasy parody, Guard Duty may honestly not be their game. However, for others, Guard Duty that can certainly garner a chuckle and disturb at the same time.
Elvie is an animator by day and tries too hard to be everything else by nightfall. Feel free to join her in screaming about anime and animals as she puts off what she should be really doing at @lvmaeparian.