A Quick Look At Stupid Invaders

While it is true that the Dreamcast's library is heavily weighted towards arcade conversions and quick fix experiences, the system does play host to a fairly large number of PC ports across a range of genres. Star Lancer, Railroad Tycoon 2 and The Nomad Soul are all games that have their roots on the PC and all made the jump to the Dreamcast effortlessly, but there is one genre that's oddly under represented: the point and click adventure.

Sure, ScummVM (now at version 1.8) allows you to play a whole wheelbarrow full of old PC adventure titles - many of which are amongst the best games ever created - but when it comes to official releases, they're somewhat thin on the ground. This is particularly odd when you consider just how similar the Dreamcast is in terms of hardware to a mid-range PC from the late 2000s (and it has the added bonus of the Windows CE compatibility), and even more so when you glance at the keyboard and mouse peripherals gathering dust on your shelf/down the back of the sofa. The Dreamcast looks, for all intents and purposes like a console that should be literally bursting with point and click adventure games, but in the PAL territories at least there is only one such officially released title filling that role: Stupid Invaders.

In recent times we have been treated to indie adventures Elansar and Philia, but if you discount those and the aforementioned ScummVM, the Dreamcast's collection of point and click games starts and ends with Ubisoft's title. Based on a French cartoon series called Space Goofs, Stupid Invaders tells the tale of a band of aliens who get lost while looking for somewhere to have a picnic and end up crash landing on Earth. In at attempt to remain undiscovered for fear of being experimented on, the five extra terrestrials hole up in an old house and attempt to lie low until they can repair their space ship. It all goes a bit wrong however, when local evil scientist Dr Sakarine learns of the aliens' existence and dispatches a bounty hunter called Bolok (pictured below) to track the 'invaders' down and bring them to the lab for a nice spot of dissection and anal probing. At this point, it has dawned on me that Stupid Invaders is the second game on the Dreamcast (after Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage) to feature a character named after male genitalia...but that's a subject for another day.
Throughout the game, you take control of the different aliens and must move through the house going from room to room collecting items and solving some fairly abstract puzzles, all the while avoiding Bolok and his instant death cut scenes. There's a nice bit of oddball humour thrown in to give Stupid Invaders a nice sense of familiarity - funny voice samples and left-field references are par for the course when it comes to these types of games. Furthermore, if you've ever played a point and click game in your life you'll pick the mechanics in Stupid Invaders up pretty quickly, but sometimes you'll find yourself completely stumped as to what you're meant to do next.
The first time I played Stupid Invaders was back in early 2001 and my access to sites like Game FAQs (or the internet in general, for that matter) was quite limited, and so I got stuck quite early on (it was a puzzle involving a firework) and I couldn't work out what I was meant to do, even after hours of just wandering from room to room clicking on every single thing I could see. Eventually I gave up and the game went to Gamestation with my Dreamcast on that fateful day when I foolishly traded the lot in for a PS2 and a copy of NHL 2001; but since then I have restarted the game and managed to get much further this time around. It's true that some of the later puzzles are still a bit confusing but now I have the wonders of broadband to help my stupidity overcome the trials and tribulations befalling the neon-coloured protagonists of Stupid Invaders. And believe me - after going round in circles for an hour, reaching for Google seems like the only option sometimes.
As far as point and click games go, Stupid Invaders is fairly standard stuff but it has the added bonus of looking absolutely great. Of course, the game is hardly taxing the Dreamcast as it is mostly made up of pre-rendered backgrounds, pre-rendered character models and pre-rendered movies, but it looks like a playable cartoon in every sense of the word and sounds just as good too. It didn't hurt that the original voice cast and animation studio responsible for the cartoon series was employed to work on Stupid Invaders, and it really shows. Other games can claim brilliant 3D models or stellar lighting effects, but it's hard to deny that Stupid Invaders looks pretty damn good when you take it as the sum of all it's pre-rendered parts.
An episode of Space Goofs for your viewing pleasure

In short, Stupid Invaders is a game that is rarely mentioned when the Dreamcast's hidden gems are discussed, but that's not entirely fair in my opinion. It looks great and plays as good as any other point and click game could hope to; and while it's not on a par with the likes of Full Throttle, Beneath A Steel Sky, Monkey Island, Discworld, Broken Sword et al it's still a great example of this genre done well.

An interesting footnote to this article is that the original Stupid Invaders website is still online and retains all of the functionality it had back when the game was contemporary. It features some great artwork and downloadable content (including a 2001 calendar, if you have any use for it) so go and have a look. Sadly, the Dreamcast links are all broken now (they only go to the European Dreamcast homepage anyway), but there's still some fun to be had reading character bios and watching tiny AVI movies.

3 comments:

Harry Diplock said...

Dude i feel ya, i traded so much shit into gamestation to get the new console back in the day, conversely I also picked up a lot of good stuff when the prices went down. Nothing i miss more than when there was a big ass wall of pre-loved DC games. Shenmue 1+2 for £20. dayum.
Love the DC, Love the site (which I just found!) The junkyard is now on my speed dial. Keep up the good work fella!

Tom Charnock said...

Yeah, they were good times! To be honest I pretty much hoovered up everything I could find in the various Manchester GS branches, and then I started taking bus journeys further afield to more exotic locations like Liverpool just to see what DC stuff they had in stock! Thanks for reading :)

Reprise said...

I have to agree. GameStation was incredible for retro goodies back in the day. In the early to mid 2000s I started buying 'retro' games almost exclusively, picking up loads of classics for the Dreamcast (as well as N64, Mega Drive, Saturn etc.), because you could so many bargains. It's part of the reason why I own two complete, boxed copies of Banjo Tooie ;)

Regarding Space Invaders, I only ever played the demo, but I always wanted it. I was a fan of the TV series when I was a kid and love point and click adventures. Just looked it up on Ebay and the prices have got ridiculous :(