Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back

Game Reviews Adventure


The Empire Staggers Back review

It's not easy being British. Not only is there the weather and the crushing social anxiety to deal with, but you also have to live with the knowledge that your ancestors civilised half the globe only to have the colonies demand independence and, once they got it, turned out to be considerably better at killing off the indigenous people, or each other, than you ever could.

And then there is 2016... Let's face it, 2016 has not been a good year for Britain so, in Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back, Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain (and the other bits) exercises her sovereign right to dismiss the government and take back control of the country herself. Being a pragmatist, Her Majesty realises that the best bet for the future of the country is colonisation of space so the Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies (SPIFFING) is created to seek out new worlds and create a new intergalactic British empire.

hms screen4

Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back is an old-school point and click adventure game in the style of classic games such as the Monkey Island series and Day of the Tentacle. For those of you under 30, point and click adventure games were a massively popular style of game around 20 years ago, but aren't seen very often these days where you play one (or more) characters and guide them around the game, interacting with objects, collecting items and using them to solve puzzles. Point and click adventure games are known for their sense of humour and Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back is no exception!

hms screen3

You play the part of Captain Frank Lee English, bold commander of the HMSS Imperialise and it's crew (made up solely of Sub-Lieutenant and Welshman Aled Jones), and your job is to guide him around each level, interacting with objects and items. The controls are quite simple, on PC point and click to tell English where to go or open the item menu and on console, one analogue stick handles movement and the other moved the cursor. Selecting an object open a contextual menu allowing you to investigate, look at, interact with or add/use an item from your inventory. In the case of the last option, some items can be taken with you for later use or combined with other items to make more "interesting" items. For veteran point and click adventure gamers, it's a very familiar interface and for new gamers, it's very easy to pick up.

Although it's built on the Unity game engine, which limits the games graphical performance in places, the art style is very good (and even quite striking in places) and the characters are well animated. The only real disappointment with the game is that it is quite short, something that the developers freely admit. Funded via Kickstarter, Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back was produced by a very small development studio of four people on a very tight budget and this means that they were not able to make the game as long as they would like. Future games depend solely on the commercial success of this game, so there is a lot riding on this release.

However, the game's humour and observational comedy more that make up for it's brevity. Although you need to be British or an Anglophile to understand some of the humour (such as whether Birmingham is in the North or South of England) much of it is very silly and reminiscent of comedy classics such as Monty Python and Airplane! (both of which it pays homage to).

Her Majesty's SPIFFING: The Empire Staggers Back is a refreshing revisit to a classic style of game with some amazing humour. It's a fantastic idea for a game and I sincerely hope that a sequel will follow soon.

Nick Bown is Screenjabber's Technical Director and occasionally finds the time to write as part of the Games team. Hailing from a time when computer games came on tape and consoles had wood effect cases, Nick has been gaming for a while and regularly enjoys PC and console titles. As a hardware nerd, he can often be found tinkering with the innards of gaming rigs and servers or explaining the difference between L2 cache and system RAM to those keen to take their gaming hardware to the next level!

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