I don’t try to go against the grain or upset the apple cart or any other such metaphors for not following along with the status quo but I feel as though I may be standing on an island with this one.
Cherry Poke Prison, developed by Freelance Games, is a spinoff (perhaps one off) of their series Trailer Park King, a series known for it’s crude humor, sexual overtones (without any nudity), and general offbeat low brow attitudes. The premise of Cherry Poke Prison is that Clyde (protagonist) is sentenced to prison after an incident involving a hot tub, truck, and a poor brokenhearted girl. After his cousin, King, interjects, Clyde is sent to Skankatraz for his crimes. Once at Skankatraz, the game begins it’s point and click adventure.
I don’t have a problem with point and click as a style, but I do find it has a tendency to severely handicap a game and sets it’s entertainment bar rather low. Games often have to compensate for this slow pace with various things like in depth story, humor, interesting characters, puzzles, secrets to uncover etc. Well, Cherry Poke has none of these. At least, none of these are done well. Some people will certainly say, “are you kidding? It was hilarious!” Humor is subjective and from this subject’s point of view, it’s down right awful. Take the worst National Lampoons flicks you’ve ever seen, dumb them down, hit them with an ugly stick, push them in poopie diapers, and set it on fire…then you might be around the humor level of Cherry Poke. Farts, breasts, alcohol… if this is the range of your humor then by all means, buy into this series and don’t look back. You’ll get all you can handle. The innuendo in the game is about as subtle as a plane crash and I think the plane crash might have at least given me more of a chuckle.
Much like almost all point and click games, players must walk around Skankatraz and collect various items to be given or used with the other characters in the game. Problem is, these items are at times so completely illogical and random that players have to remember they’re in a game where stupid is correct. One such instance is having to put tweezers into an electrical socket while holding a TV’s power chord so it will turn on. Of course the game won’t advance until you do this and I spent a good 15 minutes figuring out just what the hell I was supposed to do. Only after a stroke of idiocy do I think, “hey, maybe I can stick those tweezers in there and kill myself”. Well, I didn’t kill myself but I did advance the game. Oh, what a lucky girl I am. (I’m not a girl, FYI) If the items aren’t illogical, they’re simply vague. This causes players to have to pull out every item they find and dangle it in front of characters in hopes of being the correct item for that correct individual. Had there been more characters or a bigger game area I think I would have just quit the game and not even bothered. Too much back and forth, inventory select, trial and error, finally get it, then have to do it all over with the other 9 or 10 characters.
To break up this tedium (and it really is tedium) players are tasked with a few mini games. Before explaining them, one has to ask the question. What have I described thus far that indicated a main game? The main game is nothing more than walking, clicking, and walking again. I can’t justify calling them mini games when after playing, they’re the only thing I remember. To me, they WERE the game.
That being said, these “mini games” consist of a slider puzzle where Clyde is asked to fix a high tech toaster that was made to keep panties warm, There is a “shooter” where Clyde must lift two kegs as though they were weights, Clyde is also asked to play a Simon says game to retrieve a hidden journal and finally, Clyde must solve a lock box based that hidden journal.
The slider puzzle is simply that, a slider puzzle. There’s absolutely nothing special or funny about it. Just as dull as those 5 cent pieces of plastic that you always find somewhere deep in a glove box for some reason, play with for a minute, then toss back in because it’s such junk. What a lazy effort at entertainment. You realize those were invented in 1880? I’m supposed to enjoy a modern video game (I don’t care if it’s indie or not) that relies on a form of entertainment that predates 2 blade fans, the implementation of electricity, and the first automobile?
As for the shooter, I hardly count it as a real shooter. It’s not like Clyde has a gun and is firing at targets. No, Clyde is trying to balance kegs on his shoulders, his goal is to drink beer out in an even way as to not cause an imbalance, which would cause him to fail. So, players must shoot floating numbers in an effort to balance the two sides (Red and Green). Shooting too many reds will make it uneven and it goes for green as well. Credit where credit is due, this particular game is decent in concept. However, shooting a few numbers feels a bit like Math Blasters and that thought even entering my mind for a moment instantly puts me off to it. The Simon says segment is exactly that and the lock box is taxingly simple. If you can read, then you can solve it within about 30 seconds. I’ve rarely felt so fed up with a game as I have during Cherry Poke.
Now, when it comes to other aspects of the game such as visuals and such, well, they’re all fine; Nothing special, overly creative, or interesting to say the least. I find the game is clean looking, the sound and voice acting is fine (cheesy dialogue is expected in such a game). The controls are as basic as a point and click game can be and therefore to ask about responsiveness is a bit silly. The game is technically fine and that will reflect in final grading.
What baffles me is the love affair with this franchise. I get that some people enjoy the quirky and campy humor or love seeing basic cable caliber nudity (none or implied). I will occasionally seek out other writer’s reviews to find out what they thought of particular games and was shocked to see most had not only been positive on Cherry Poke Prison, but even gushed about it being some sort of high quality piece of work. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus and they are certainly entitled to their opinions, but to call this a “polished” game or “a hilarious romp” is really head scratching. Promoting this game for it’s quality is something I will not do. When your game centers around the most boring type of game play, coupled with mini games played by people who thought James Garfield was a real up and comer in American politics and humor that a 10 year old even thinks is juvenile, well you’ve made a crap game. After all, who’s the audience? I truly don’t understand who is supposed to enjoy the game. It’s not for people who enjoy puzzles since it’s too easy. It’s not for people who like crude humor as this game hovers around that PG-13 mark. It’s not for people who like action since it’s a point and click. It’s not for people who like seeing nudity (who doesn’t in one form or another) when there is no nudity. But, as I said before, I seem to stand-alone on this one. I seem to be missing something that apparently is the funniest damn thing in the world because this redeeming aspect is completely lost on me. As is, I have a hard time recommending Cherry Poke Prison even though it’s 80 MS ($1) on XBLIG.
This grade is really a tough one because while I despised the game for so many reasons and can’t say enough how much I don’t recommend it, the game is technically sound. This is more than I can say for a lot of other XBLIG titles as well as delivering on what it promised.