After the year we’ve had it’s nice to sit down and play a game with a primary goal to simply make you laugh.
While other games can leave you aggravated at all the failed jokes and gags, Her Majesty’s Spiffing is funny, smart, and self-referential all the way through its regrettably short length.
Her Majesty’s Spiffing adds to the line-up of games released thanks to Kickstarter. Having launched their campaign in October 2014, Billy Goat Entertainment Ltd has brought Her Majesty’s Spiffing to PC, PS4, and Xbox One after reaching their goal a month later in November. They kept their backers relatively well informed right up to release; though during its Kickstarter there were mentions of an episodic business model. The end result isn’t exactly episodic, and what they’ve gone for isn’t very well disclosed; a forum post on Steam says the plan is to have Her Majesty’s Spiffing as the first of a trilogy. This unfortunately means that the game has a sequel-baiting ending which fails to give the player much pay off.
The start of Her Majesty’s Spiffing sets up a world in which the Queen has dissolved the government after “political developments in 2016” – as in Brexit. The competition to return Britain to a place of power led her to turn to the stars; however, it’s never made quite clear as to why during the opening. It seems that the Queen felt Britain should colonise a new planet ahead of its competition, except later on it turns out that perhaps the Queen wasn’t the only leader with this idea. Sent out to find a suitable planet to colonise are Frank Lee English and Aled Jones, on their ship, The HMSS Imperialise.
Her Majesty’s Spiffing’s attempts at comedy work more often than not thanks to its two central characters, English and Jones, and Its self-awareness means that there are many jokes to be had at their expense. The game jokes about stereotyping a lot, for example, such as how Aled Jones, who is Welsh, has the most stereotypical Welsh name possible. Right at the start both characters discuss not resorting to trite nationalistic jokes – the next line is literally “right, who’s up for some tea”. Her Majesty’s Spiffing isn’t afraid to laugh at its characters, its own gameplay, and its own limitations. There’re plenty of jokes on Brexit including lines like “Helpless to oppose the future forced upon them. Like the youth after the referendum”. Frank Lee English is the playable character and the delivery of his lines is always amusing; as a character he is hilarious both intentionally and unintentionally. There are so many jokes in Her Majesty’s Spiffing and most do get a good laugh out of you. However, I feel players outside of Britain will be lost on many of them, especially some of the more obscure references to British culture.
There are so many references to film, television and even radio in Her Majesty’s Spiffing, and they come across in both dialogue and design. In the dialogue there are references to Wallace and Gromit, Inspector Morse, BBC Three, and even Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review. In aspects of the design there’s Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek, Moon, and others. The dialogue tends to break the fourth wall which is something Her Majesty’s Spiffing does throughout, but as it breaks the fourth wall very quickly and quite often it’s never jarring and mostly done for comedic purposes.
Graphically Her Majesty’s Spiffing utilises the right style to make the visual gags work well. Just looking at English is funny – a big man with a moustache and bald head played for laughs. There is some noticeable screen tearing at the start on Xbox One but that problem doesn’t seem to arise much again. The sound sometimes seems quite scarce and is mostly made up of loud thuds from English’s feet as you run around the spaceship, which eventually annoys.
As for the gameplay of Her Majesty’s Spiffing, the point and click mechanics are relatively sound, though I wish there were more items to click on for further story or jokes. It achieves that classic point and click aspect of having items that can be used in more than one way, but items can only be used once. For me, it warranted another playthrough, trying items in different ways for other outcomes. On my first playthrough, for example, there was an item I could have used really early, but I managed to hold onto it till the end and used it for a joke. Also in my first playthrough was this hilarious section where you drive the ship, but in my second I somehow avoided it – it’s a shame this is possible as that section was a highlight. I even found myself going for achievements which is not something I do frequently. I only really got stuck twice whilst playing, figuring the problem out by trying everything with everything – something that again Her Majesty’s Spiffing makes a joke about.
Sub-titled The Empire Staggers Back, it has been said that further entries in the Her Majesty’s Spiffing trilogy will depend on sales. It’s a dangerous way to play it, especially as the ending leaves you with no payoff, and on top of that I’d also say the game is a tad too expensive. Priced at £14.99 and running at 2-3 hours for a single playthrough, other point and click games like the recently released The Little Acre offer a similar sized adventure at two-thirds of the price. Yes there’s some replayability here for the players that want all the achievements, but most players will feel let down by the length of the game given its price.
Though funny at almost every turn and a rather competent first game from Billy Goat Entertainment, the fact that Her Majesty’s Spiffing leaves you flat-footed on a cliff-hanger that may never be resolved is a real shame. Frank Lee English is an engaging and funny central character to play as, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere before the credits roll. I would like to see more from this series for another great laugh thanks to its smart writing; whether it will materialise is another story.