Guard Duty is a tale as old as time itself; the beautiful princess has been kidnapped and it’s up to Tondbert, the lowly guard, to rise above adversity, find the evil that plagues the land, undo the wrong decision that altered the the course of humanity and sets to destroys civilisation as we know it almost one thousand years in the future and, wait… What were we doing again? Oh right, the princess! Inspired by classics of the genre, Guard Duty is a point and click adventure that takes you on a journey, spanning a millennium whilst not forgetting to have a laugh along the way.
Guard Duty plays out like your classic point and click adventure games, moving the cursor around to move the character, examine objects, interact with NPCs and use your items. The game doesn’t do anything unique with its gameplay, but that’s not what it’s trying to achieve. The addition of touchscreen in the Switch version is also a nice touch, but moving the cursor with the joystick allows for you to uncover points of interest, so I’d recommend sticking with that.
What can make or break a point and click adventure game is its ability to log your tasks. Guard Duty does this well with parchment and pencil that Tondbert is always carrying and does so with humorous scribbles that fits the game’s charm. The game also does a great job at dropping hints on what to do next, saving you from pulling your hair out by the handful. When you play as Agent Starborn in the future, the gameplay is much more linear, removing a to-do-list and opting for a communicator in Starborn’s head that allows him to ask his crew-mates questions during his mission. This certainly allowed for more character building whilst providing the player with ideas of what to do next.
In the menu during Tondbert’s portion of the adventure, there is no button legend which can often make it difficult when rifling through your inventory – especially when B is to examine. This wasn’t necessarily an issue in the future segment where the items were used automatically within the context of your actions, but it’s certainly frustrating for two thirds of the game until you get the hang of it.
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I always feel as though omitting rumble entirely is a wasted opportunity, and Guard Duty keeps your controller perfectly still throughout its approximate 10 hours of playtime. There were certainly moments where it could have been implemented, such as explosions, getting thrown out of the castle or shooting your gun but alas, not a quiver.
Navigating through various areas is quite intuitive. Often during Tondbert’s portions, an area will be a room or two and if you leave it, you’ll go back to an overworld. This made for backtracking and inevitable aimless wondering less of a chore that point and click adventure games are known for. In the future, the world design is quite linear as it focusses more on plot progression, but this certainly worked in the game’s favour as the story was getting especially intriguing by this point.
However, I did often notice that the game didn’t convey long rooms well. What I mean by this is that some rooms continue to go off to the sides and you need to instruct your character to walk to the far side of the screen in order to reveal it. With the deliberately chosen 4:3 aspect ratio, a little indicator here and there could have relieved my frustration immensely, but we always got there in the end.
Guard Duty‘s themes can be quite mature, with kidnapping, dark magic and a seemingly inevitable destruction of the human race at the forefront, but its lighthearted and comedic overtone makes it burst with whimsical charm. There is plenty of dialogue (sometimes too much in certain areas), revealing more and more of this curious world without having to tire your eyes with reading one text box after another.
The game is spread out across three acts, two in the past and one in the future. With its 8-10 hour runtime, I found that Guard Duty didn’t overstay its welcome, providing as much information for the player to grasp the concept and with optional detailed lore if the player opted to search for it.
Each character is memorable, with many having me laugh one moment and tear up the next. Guard Duty also wasn’t afraid to confront themes of disaster and loss, which is always a brave route for a writer to take. With the plot being as sound as it is, it’s evident that there was confidence throughout its development.
Graphics / Art Design
Upon first look, it’s clear to see where Sick Chicken Studios got their inspiration from. Guard Duty resembles classic PC LucasArts point and click adventure games from the early 90s, such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and I am very much OK with that. As mentioned previously, the game goes so far to recreate this design that Sick Chicken Studios developed it with a 4:3 aspect ratio however as also previously stated, this is not without its flaws. That being said, the nostalgia is just too much to ignore and there is no way I can stay mad when Guard Duty looks this good.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack certainly had its moments of glory, but I honestly found it somewhat lacklustre at times. It was never bad by any means, but I also cannot seem to recall a single melody as I cast my mind back. However to play devil’s advocate, having the music fail to standout did well to accentuate the importance of the dialogue; so I guess you win some and you lose some.
Every line of dialogue in Guard Duty is voice acted with an exaggerated cockney British accent. It certainly has its charm, fitting right in with the game’s Medieval European setting and surprisingly enough, also with the neo post-apocalyptic future. It often came across as rather silly at times and funnily enough, the first main character’s voice, Tondbert’s, often reminded me of Richard Ayoade (Maurice from The IT Crowd), which is all kinds of brilliant.
Final Score: 84%
Guard Duty is charming, witty and downright captivating in every sense of the word. Its fun characters and brave plot progression allows players to grow deeply invested in this multi-layered story, so much so that I would be all in for a sequel. If that were to be the case, I would hope that the interface and user experience would be given a second go, but I’m willing to forgive that considering how much this game had me hanging on each and every word with giggles and gasps.
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