Her Majesty’s Spiffing might not sound like a great title, but when I first saw the game appear in the Xbox store listing the trailer made me want to play it, so that I did, and in a very British way, I was bloody impressed.
Due to events in the summer of 2016 (cough, Brexit), Her Majesty the Queen has had enough of the government and decided it’s time to take back control, and on her agenda is to expand the British empire and take to space. In this quaint point and click adventure sub-titled “The Empire Staggers Back”, you will be mobilising S.P.I.F.F.I.N.G. – Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies!
Tasked with searching the cosmos for an inhabitable planet to colonise, the protagonist Frank Lee English and his trusty side-kick Aled, who’s most certainly Welsh are on hand to locate a suitable location.
After a brief introduction, Big Ben (which we’ve always known is secretly a large space-venturing rocket), propels the small ship skywards, and you take control of Frank as you enter space.
First on the list is a good old-fashioned cup of Early Grey tea, and once you located Frank’s cup, emblazoned with the Union Jack, and Aled’s Welsh dragon mug, you work your way back through the ship to deliver your freshly brewed beverages.
It’s worth mentioning at this point, that HM Spiffing, is labelled as a comedy 3D space themed adventure game, and by just about exceeding its Kickstarter target of £30,000 by £3k, the dream of the Belfast based developers, BillyGoat Entertainment, has come to fruition.
So, it’s a comedy… I’m British, with a typically British sense of humour, but I don’t mind admitting that I’m not a laugh out loud person, just with horror games. I’m not going to be a YouTube star by rolling around the floor laughing or jumping out of my seat. So when a game claims to be a comedy before a genre, I’m somewhat apprehensive about its chances of success.
But I’m incredibly pleased (and a little shocked) to say that HM Spiffing did indeed leave me laughing out loud on numerous occasions. With constant digs at Britain and our beloved traditions, Spiffing certainly isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself; sometimes by a direct quote, a discreet innuendo or by touching the fourth wall and interacting with the gamer.
Soon after you start you’ll see 4th wall references, whether it’s talking about certain jokes early on in the ‘voyage’, Frank Lee pointing a Telescope towards the camera and jumping back in shock at what’s outside of the game world, or the very well placed broken panel sporting the logo ‘4th Wall’.
As you manoeuvre around the ship, you’ll find controls remain fairly simple, yet there were just a few hiccups. Firstly collision detection isn’t the best, spaces that look easy enough to pass are blocked by invisible walls, and making those spaces smaller wouldn’t have made a difference to the game, but it would have stopped that unrealistic bumper.
Moving around is smooth, and the point and click gods have answered my prayers by giving us a sprint button that makes traversing the rooms even more enjoyable. You can quick action with A, and the same to examine with X, but holding down A pulls up the wheel allowing you to talk, use, examine or combine, which gives you the chance to easily combine whatever item is equipped.
It’s an effective control system that makes a point and click adventure feel much more fluid, and a small step towards a third person adventure rather than a search and discover puzzler.
Saying that, puzzles are plentiful, and whether you’re finding a battery pack to put inside the Xbox controller, or trying to work out why you need that mild green washing up liquid, there’s a great variety which makes exploring the various finds even more enjoyable, especially when there’s regular little one-liners about the items or their standing in the British way of life.
With this it’s safe to say British gamers will enjoy HM Spiffing considerably more than others because they’ll instantly ‘get’ the vast majority of the jokes, but even those who aren’t quite as familiar with the English way will still enjoy the well voiced and expertly written script.
Sticking with the sound, there’s no denying that there’s some fantastic voice work, mostly down to Frank Lee English, who has a very frankly English accent, and Aled who’s… Welsh… Beside that there’s plenty of subtle effects, background noise and ambiance, but the real highlight is the voice acting and the way it all carries through to the animation.
Animation is a big word in gaming as it covers such a large area these days, and while it is presented as a 3D styled Cartoon, which has taken more than a few hints from the art direction of something like TimeSplitters, it’s all very impressive.
There’s some great animation of the characters and their movement, as Frank mutters to himself, you’ll see his lips moving, and whether walking, running or trying out the treadmill all activity is well represented in a smart and comedic way.
With some well made, sharp and interesting textures, there’s a decent level of detail which will make you want to explore every corner for the next British innuendo, but you’ll never feel like an over populated screen has made you miss something important.
Her Majesty’s Spiffing is a very impressive package, but when I first got my hands on it, I was alerted to ‘a fairly short game’ and sure enough most people will struggle to fill much more than an evening with it. However while it might not have the length of some adventure games, it’s certainly on par with the quality of some of the best out there, I found Spiffing funnier than much of Monkey Island, and the tongue-in-cheek charm and British sarcasm only made it better.
Going back to near the start of the game when you give Aled a cup of tea, it also crossed my mind what would happen if I gave him the other cup, and this did intrigue me to do exactly that to look for any differences, some where minor, others non-existent, but I still enjoyed every second of it.