“In the future, reality TV will feature gladiatorial combat between politicians, and the Hunger Games will look like a PBS documentary”
– Margaret Atwood
I’m a sucker for games that have art styles they can call their own, or art styles they’ve adapted from older media that they can breathe life back into. I love watching old cartoons and anime repeatedly, as they help me destress and pull myself out of the ocean of stress that the present has gotten me into. One of the few cartoons that still lives rent-free in my head is Happy Tree Friends, not because it defined my childhood or anything, but because of the unfiltered yet cartoonish violence it showed. I understand that it’s a pretty shallow reason, but a kid like me can’t think of a better reason than to be addicted to a show that could be so primal and yet so silly with its violence.
However, when I was allowed to review The Crackpet Show, I immediately shot up from my semi-watchful state and started writing this review. So, before we get into the meat of this review, I would like to commend the people behind this game, as they are an amazing team in how they manage to encapsulate the violent cartoon aesthetic that the early 2000s animation scene had planted itself as. Vixa Games, the developers of The Crackpet Show, have other games such as Edge of Sanity, a Lovecraftian survival horror game, and Love Colors, a relaxing paint-by-numbers pixel art game. They have a diverse library of games to choose from, and if The Crackpet Show isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you might find their other games more to your liking.
The story isn’t too complicated, and it’s explained briefly on the game’s Steam page:
“Are you ready to get famous? If so, grab your gun and join the most violent TV show in the history of violent TV shows! Participants will have to shoot, smash and rip through hundreds of enemies on their way to victory!”
You don’t have anything to go on from the story other than the quick information dump at the start of the game, where you’re on a post-apocalyptic Earth and are a mutated animal-human hybrid who’s been coerced into playing this game for fame and fortune by a mutated chicken game show host.
The Crackpet Show is a randomly generated action roguelike linear progression dungeon crawler where your goal is to reach the final stage of the dungeon and defeat the boss at the end. I think it does that well because it seamlessly blends its action elements with its dungeon-crawler aspects.
You play as a CRACKPET, an odd-looking anthropomorphized little creature whose goal is to complete every episode of every season alive. Each dungeon is called an episode, and there are 6 episodes per season, with the episodes getting harder and longer to test your real-time strategy, stamina and adaptability to whatever the game throws at you.
Before you start an episode, you are given a choice of four classes and are given your class weapon and class item, which you can carry until the end of the episode. Weapons are what you use to deal damage, while items are the consumables you use to either give you an edge in a particularly tough fight or to heal yourself after taking a lot of damage in a room or something in between. Your weapons have cooldowns after they’ve been fired, and your items have cooldowns after they’ve been used, but the items are limited in what you can do with them, as you’re expected to be able to complete the rooms using only your weapons.
When you start an episode, you will be given a random perk, upgrade, or addition to yourself or your weapon, such as being able to move faster or leaving a poisonous puddle where your bullet lands/hits. After that, when you enter the exit door, you will be taken to a movement screen, think Kaycee’s mod in Inscryption, where you can choose between different paths to give yourself an advantage, you can take the path that gives you the most efficient route, or you can take the path that gives you the most perks to take down the boss as quickly as possible.
With each episode completed, either with you dying or killing the boss at the end, you gain some gold coins and trophies, the gold coins are permanent currency that you can use to upgrade your weapon or items with said coin while the trophies are used in a skill tree-esque system in where sponsors will give you permanent buffs or give the episodes permanent debuffs to help take some weight off your shoulders as past season 1, it is much harder than you might expect.
Audio and Graphics
To say a lot about the game’s audio and graphics would mean that I had to have studied music or animation, right? Not really, but I still have a lot to say. The OST isn’t that memorable in my opinion, as it more or less becomes white noise in my mind as the action becomes my main focus, however, listening to the menu and lobby theme in retrospect is a nice pace changer, nothing to add to my playlist, but I wouldn’t skip these songs if they ever came into my shuffle. The sound effects and ambiance are a different story though, as they are incorporated into the feel of the game quite nicely, reminiscent of the late ’90s and early 2000s cartoon SFX, The Crackpet Show fits in perfectly with the fast-paced action that the episodes nestle in.
The art style, meanwhile, is fairly faithful to how the light-hearted, violent cartoons of the later 2000s were designed, think Happy Tree Friends again, while the animations are fairly simple in how they execute the movements, there’s no elaborate animation sequence to how everything moves, just simple walking. The same goes for the enemies, where they attack, defend and react to our characters in the same way, but their death animations are simplified to turning into a pile of guts and bones, like Limbus Company, the only exceptions being the bosses, where they have a completely different death animation and pose but never straying from the simple animation philosophy that the game has.
The controls are quite nice with a keyboard and mouse, but it is much better to use a controller when playing the game. The game is fairly easy to learn, but hard to master, as all roulette games are, as most of the difficulty is slowly imposed on you as you complete more and more episodes and collect more and more permanent perks using the trophy system I mentioned earlier.
In terms of multiplayer, although I never had people to play it with, the game supports 4 player LAN connected multiplayer where the 4 players can choose all 4 classes individually or just dogpile on the medic class as it has the best survivability out of all the classes in the game in my opinion.
Do I love this game? Not really… I rather liked how it took me back to a simpler and happier time in my life, the game is infinitely replayable with its endless mode after completing the first season, but I think it would be more fun with friends, so I would recommend this more as a party game rather than a single player experience, though if you are someone who likes action rougelites, then this game might still be for you, as I had fun playing for hours even though I was alone when I did.