This week continues Danopian December, in which I will review only games that were gifted to me by that fowl punster of fowl punsters: Danopian The Manopian.
On the block for this week is Summer Sale.
Time Shopped: 32 Minutes
Sponsored By: Danopian
How far will you go for a joke? Summer Sale will go very, very far. I can respect that.
You know when you’re watching a comedy television show and a joke goes on too long? You know when it goes on for so long that it stops being funny? You know how it goes on long enough to punch through the unfunny wall on the opposite side and becomes funny again? There’s an art to making that work. Monty Python was a show that mastered that. To a lesser extent, Saturday Night Live, when it’s at its best (which is to say: thirty years ago), could occasionally pull it off, too.
Summer Sale is kind of like that.
The premise of Summer Sale is so obvious that I wonder how nobody else had already done it: You have a simulated Steam storefront with a handful of terrible games that are deeply discounted, and one or two decent games that are not as deeply discounted. You have money in your wallet. You know what to do.
There are layers and layers to the parody here. I’m kind of in awe of it, to be honest. You start with thirty dollars. Which is enough to either buy the most expensive game in the store (“Cinematic Bat”) or a bunch of other games with names like “Potty Train With Your Mom Simulator” and “Corrosion” and “Awesome Rats.” Naturally, the first thing I added to my cart was Awesome Rats. The rest fell into place neatly after that: I loaded my cart up to my dollar limit, and then checked out.
And if the parody had ended there, I probably wouldn’t have enough material to write this review. But here’s the next layer: You can actually play all of the games you buy! They’re all terrible and not one of them has more than ten seconds of gameplay. But isn’t that just like the games you buy during Steam Sales?
Once you run out of money, the game isn’t over. Summer Sale offers a trio of games that allow you to earn coins that translate into wallet cash. I’ll be honest here, this feels like a missed opportunity. There should have been an economy minigame where you sell bizarre inventory items like stickers or trade simulated goats. They could have even made you have to wait two weeks for each transaction to go through. Instead we get a clicker game, an endless runner, and not-very-good version of Missile Command. None of them are exactly bad (except the clicker game, but since “bad clicker game” is kind of a tautological recursion, it doesn’t count), but they’re only as interesting as they need to be in order to get you to earn more money. I will say that they’re much more fleshed out than the games you buy in the store part of the game, but that is not exactly an epic statement of epicness.
There are a few other perks and easter eggs thrown in along the way. At one point the game pretended to update my operating system, and I got a big blue screen saying “Updating Doors 10” (I GET IT!), with a circle of dots spinning and a percentage counter ticking upward. It went right on past 100% and was merrily chugging it’s way north of 200% when I realized I’d been waiting five minutes for the game to be done with this joke and hit Alt-F4 because that was the only way to exit the game from the faux-update screen. You get bonus points for commitment to the joke, but all those points get deducted for being annoying.
In the end, Summer Sale is a game with one joke that it tells in a lot of different ways. I can’t, with any honesty, say that it’s well executed, but it largely succeeds where it puts the effort into trying. That’s more than you can say for some games.
Will I keep shopping?
I would be almost inclined to say yes, but for one problem: Once you’ve acquired all of the games in the library, there doesn’t seem to be any way to reset your progress from within the game. I suppose I could go in and delete my save data manually, but who has time for that?
No, this game is kind of a Legacy Series board game. You know the ones: You can play it once, but after that you have to buy a new one to play it again from the beginning. The game is fun … -ish, but not fun enough to buy again.
Is it the Devil Daggers of shopping simulators?
No. This game isn’t difficult in the slightest. You click things, play games that have no gameplay or otherwise don’t work, and the only gratification you get is from owning all of it.
Oooh, there’s a Uplay joke in there somewhere. I can feel it.