General Horse And The Package Of Doom

PC, Linux

Is FMV lunacy General Horse And The Package Of Doom any good? No? Yes? The best game of all time? Somehow it doesn’t seem important. General Horse And The Package Of Doom exists, and that is all it ever needed to do.

This is an FMV game made on what I’m going to guess was a budget of about 74p, a glorious cobbling together of cardboard props, dressing-up-box costumes, astoundingly dodgy green-screen, and some of the finest Sharpie-drawn tattoo work you’ll likely ever see. The Croatian team features upward of no professional actors, all giving it their absolute minimum effort, while wearing some splendid wigs, and I strongly suspect being drunk most of the time they were filming. What’s not to recommend here?

General Horse, as you’ll likely have guessed, is the last remaining military postman in the galaxy. So it’s up to him alone to deliver a mysterious package to Station 8, a former space station that grew so big it’s now considered a planet. On the way he needs to warp between seven other planetary bodies, with the option to land on each and explore, along with other random incidents occurring between. As you go you need to manage your levels of food, fuel and health, by bargaining with others, discovering supplies, or getting into space fights.

And it’s all delivered just so spectacularly… badly-well? Our conventional Earth languages don’t have the capacity to describe this adequately. I mean, every single scene goes on for far too long, is packed with awkward stretches of silence and/or stumbled lines, or “actors” crashing their lines, and ultimately makes little to no sense. I loved them. It certainly helps that General Horse has such dreamy eyes.

There’s a Western-style planet, complete with duels at noon, felt-tip moustaches, and opportunities to gain fame. Brilliantly they didn’t think to get wind guards for the mics here, so you have to pick the dialogue out of the gusts. But there are special effects too! The rocket in the background! The laser blasts from guns!

So many of the locations are wonderful. The Western-themed area above appears to be some abandoned film lot perhaps. There’s a bar on a space station that’s filmed in what looks like a ruined restaurant, overgrown with moss and weeds, the bar stools looking like something from a post-apocalyptic scene.

I love that I can’t tell how much is by design, and how much is because this is the absolute best they would ever be able to do it. I suspect it’s the latter fuelled by the former. The game’s website perfectly captures this, a grotesquely Geocities-style monstrosity, written in rainbow coloured Comic Sans. The store blurb, meanwhile, boasts of its “highly intelligent humour” and “method acting”.

In fact it goes on,”Many of our high-quality actors were never even given their scripts. They were carefully guided to become their characters and then we just let the script happen.” This extends to the superbly broken English in places, faithfully captured in subtitles that seem to be going out of their way to mock the mistakes made by the team.

In between activities, during idle times on your ship, little skits will randomly play in. Maybe you’ll find an object in space that contains some peculiarity, like a tiny piano, or a shoebox filled with microscopic people. At one point Horse and the on-board computer (played by the same actor, naturally – hey, if it’s good enough for Picard…) have an argument over a book of stamps.

What else to tell you. The Space Police are floating oily blobs that endlessly consume donuts. There are costumes bordering on Vic Reeves territory. At one point you can relax in a hammock and read some Calvin & Hobbes. There’s a sequence about Horse’s birthday that seems to go on for over a month, as if some sort of endurance test for the player, to see how long they can put up with it before finding the ‘skip’ button. I made it to the end, but only by writing this paragraph during it. I was kind of expecting an achievement at the end. But no. Instead a haiku about pooping.

I cannot deny telling it to “get on with it” out loud quite a few times. It does drag on a bit too long. And it’s definitely odd these days to have a main character who’s smoking all the time. And yet, having finished it, the outtakes over the credits show me just how many scenes I hadn’t come across on my first journey across the galaxy. For instance, the man in the nappy.

It’s very sweary, and not exactly progressive. But it made me laugh a whole bunch, often with it, sometimes at it – but never without their laughing at themselves with me.

Is my life better for playing General Horse And The Package Of Doom? Unquestionably. It is it also worse? Very probably. Is there £7 worth of entertainment in here? It very much depends upon your definition of “entertainment.” If you love the idea of something that exists at the midpoint of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Room, then goodness gracious, is this the game for you.

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