Published Feb 03, 2015You know that old chestnut that drama is easy, comedy is hard? Well, shooters are even easier and funny games are nigh impossible.
At least it seems that way, since only Tim Schafer's Double Fine studio and the Traveller's Tales team behind the Lego titles seem capable of combining jokes and gaming in recent years. So Citizens of Earth deserves consideration for even daring to make a game that mixes political comedy and a retro-RPG satire.
Structured as a spoof of 1994 Nintendo cult classic EarthBound —hence the titular hat-tip — Citizens of Earth has you controlling the planet's newly elected but long dimwitted Vice President of the World. As the game begins, the stereotypically self-absorbed Veep has returned to his protest-riddled hometown, where the residents are falling under the spell of oh-so-subtly named coffee shop Moonbucks' new mind-controlling "Special Blend."
You soon start recruiting everyone from bakers and baristas to conspiracy nuts and various family members to help save the world while you safely stand off to the side, ordering them about. After all, what politician would ever do their own fighting? There are 40 recruitable residents, all told, whom you train via a system inspired by the Pokémon franchise. Each NPC offers a specific skill set and rep an admirably diverse and predominantly absurd cross-section of the population.
The 2D top-down game design is straight out of the '90s, with all the nostalgia and wonder that implies, but the art is HD and the world is open. But the clever if light-hearted political jabs, endless bad puns (your bother works for FedUPs, for example), one-liners and visual gags are timelessly terrible.
The combat is classic turn-based strategy with more depth than one might expect. They've thankfully ditched the random encounters, and you can often side-step enemies to avoid a fight you don't want due to time, health or disinterest.
But honestly, the best part of the old-school game is how upbeat it is. Maybe it's because I was playing it between soul-crushing Bloodborne bouts, but Citizen's bright colours, cartoonish design and cheerfully goofy charm won me over right off the bat. (Eden Industries/Atlus)