Exploring, looting, and killing everything that stands in your way – these are the main objectives in WASTED: A Post-Apocalyptic Pub Crawler. A newer offering by Adult Swim Games, and developed by Mr. Podunkian, WASTED draws immediate comparisons to the Fallout franchise. This is not an unfair comparison for either game, despite other outlets and LPers poking fun. The similarity seems to be the entire point. There are obvious differences, and while it’s clearly a nod to the Fallout universe and lifestyle, WASTED manages to stand out quite nicely on its own.
In 1980, so the story goes, the United States and the USSR were at odds, which isn’t too far from the truth. The U.S. kicked things up a notch by firing a nuclear missile at the USSR, which was ignored as a radar error. Needless to say, despite firing a few missiles of their own, the USSR quickly ceased to exist. France and China got in on the act, and soon the world was obliterated. Some folks survived by utilizing their own underground shelters, built while the Cold War was still young, and the fear was nothing more than a feeling.
Unfortunately, these “Coolers,” as they came to be called, weren’t very effective at keeping out radiation, and this is where our story really begins. The humans that survived have been grossly affected by the radioactive waste that puddled into their shelters, poisoning their supplies, affecting their intelligence, and creating a new addictive substance out of their formerly-potable liquid refreshments; they call it Booze. A side effect of this green goo is diarrhea, creating a new currency: Toilet paper. The Wasters, as they are called, will do anything for their sweet, sweet Booze. (As a character, you’re no different, so don’t judge these poor souls.)
After character creation (there’s a mouth style called “Welp!,” and it’s everything I thought it could be), the game begins. All of the history is explained, then the player is thrust into the tutorial, introducing them to a brand-new gang of thugs. Predictably, these guys aren’t very smart, and the language they use is full of base humor, which is frankly hilarious; it’s everything you’d expect from an Adult Swim title. I was called a “buttmunch,” threatened, and had my stuff stolen by these three ruffians even as they struggled to form coherent sentences. As I followed them into their Cooler to retrieve my belongings, I was taught how to sneak, attack, unlock doors, and other vital functions. The gang helped significantly by being criminally stupid and placing themselves in easily-exploited situations.
The rest of the story follows along those same lines, with bonuses like an unofficial exploration timer (spend too much time on one level of a Cooler, and you become hunted by the S.O.B., a character with insanely high HP and an intense gun), and more crude dialogue. The real star of the show is the leveling system, however. It’s called S.H.O.T.S., and to activate it, you must drink Booze. The basic premise of the game is that you must drink to survive, but you’re surviving to drink – you can’t win unless you get plastered. There’s a caveat, though: Some drinks actually do you harm, so it’s always a gamble when you take a sip. Flasks contain passive effects that last for the duration of one Cooler. Large bottles contain permanent upgrades, such as the ability to have enemies explode once they die.
Once your character dies, that’s it – you (and your character’s upgrades) are gone for good. However, your possessions will be kept at your home for the next character, giving WASTED a distinctly rogue-lite flavor. Your progress is also saved, leaving your game more-or-less intact. You can store items in delivery boxes at the end of each Cooler, and retrieve them at your home, to which you are automatically transferred upon completion of a Cooler. Other items can be stored in crates at your home base, as well; weapons can be stockpiled, as can crafting and healing items. Fast travel is accomplished by clicking on your car, which is conveniently parked right outside.
The game’s difficulty increases as your character levels up, but it also ramps up the further into a Cooler you go. The goal inside the Coolers is to make it out with your sweet, sweet booze and a permanent upgrade – once you enter a Cooler, your only options are to finish, or die. Until you’re able to get stronger items and level up certain abilities, you’re almost certainly going to do more of the latter. Quests take you all over the map, with varied landscapes traversed, and truly stupid people encountered along the way. It is, after all, an RPG at heart. These quests make full use of the Coolers, ensuring that your motives aren’t entirely selfish.
The gameplay involves the standard controls for both keyboard and controller (I used an Xbox 360 controller), and they’re fairly responsive. I had very little trouble aside from my own mistakes. The settings for the look sensitivity were very precise, and as someone who sometimes has trouble with the focus being finicky (or, more accurately, the cursor moving way too fast for my eyes to follow), I appreciated that. There is an aiming assist, as well, and along with the aforementioned intuitive controls, this helped me to focus more on the action instead of worrying about whether I’d be able to hit anything.
A hallmark of Adult Swim is that they often feature games with a similar graphics style. It’s not perfect, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s nearly always fitting for the game. WASTED is no exception. The thick outlines and oversized heads of characters are like Nintendo Mii’s gone terribly wrong. If Telltale Games put out a parody in their usual animation style, this game wouldn’t be far off from the result…and it clearly resembles the thick-lined animation of Borderlands. The characters’ features and clothing lend a layer of hilarity to what is actually a very good visual design. The resolution is adjustable, and stays sharp even on larger screens. The colors are vibrant and clearly defined, eliminating any mis-identification of objects or locations. The HUD is very clear, as is the inventory system’s organization (again, it’ll be familiar to some players).
I hit a couple of snags in the graphics, and both of them involved explosions. When the S.O.B. is activated, there is a bright red notification that appears on your mini-map. Boomboxes appear in some places, and if a certain type of music is playing on them, the S.O.B. is on his way. I am not a graceful gamer. I was startled more than once by these harbingers of doom, and ran into traps shortly thereafter. These traps happened to be explosives, and as they launched me into the air, I became stuck in the ceiling. I could look around, and I could use my attacks, but they were fairly useless given my position. The first time, I was able to jump repeatedly to dislodge myself, but the second time required me to restart the game. There’s a lot going on, and the S.O.B. can serve as a reminder to stay focused if you’re suffering from indecision paralysis.
The 1980’s were a strange time to be alive, and the music from the era reflects that. WASTED attempts to capture that distinct sound in both the backing track and the notorious boomboxes. As someone who was born in the early ’80’s, I’d say they captured the essence of the decade pretty well. Synth beats and vague lyrics followed me around, lending an oddly-soothing, elevator-music sort of atmosphere. Despite the bad rap elevator music gets, when you’re trying to concentrate on survival, not having in-your-face (ears?) music is actually very helpful. Combat noises and voice acting both complement the soundscape nicely. I honestly couldn’t find much wrong with it on that end. From the perspective of the extremely immature person I secretly am, I couldn’t find much wrong with the game, period.
Wrapping up (despite having many more things to say), I’d recommend WASTED: A Post Apocalyptic Pub Crawler to not only anyone who enjoys the Fallout franchise, but also to those with even a passing interest in the Borderlands series. The RPG storyline is not a bad one, but the real stars of this game are clearly the Coolers. If you can handle the crude and immature humor, and you’d like something a little more lighthearted, you could definitely do much worse. At $12.99, WASTED is an inexpensive foray into a dungeon-crawling RPG adventure…just don’t let your kids play it. It is, after all, Adult Swim.
WASTED: A Post Apocalyptic Pub Crawler was released on June 7 of this year, and you can pick it up on Steam. Follow Mr. Podunkian on Twitter, and find more information about this and other games on his website. Follow Adult Swim Games on Twitter to see what else they’ve currently got on offer.