Less fun than an arrow to the skull.
When Bennett Foddy created the Flash game QWOP back in 2008, he likely didn’t anticipate that in the future his silly little project would inspire an entire sub-genre of games featuring intentionally poor controls. In the past 12 months we’ve had Surgeon Simulation 2013, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and now Probably Archery, a game that developer South East Games hopes we’ll find as hilarious as its silly concept suggests it is.
Now, let me preface this review by clarifying that I am a man who enjoys smiling, and on the odd occasion, laughing. I don’t want to sit at my computer desk every day in order to play a game that makes me ponder global warming, or immigration, or some other problem currently blighting our hapless little planet. There is a time and a place to be po-faced, but playing a game in which you control an archer shooting semi-naked men with apples for heads is not it.
However, a game isn’t funny by virtue of it having cumbersome controls: QWOP was funny because it was simultaneously simple yet maddeningly difficult; Surgeon Simulator 2013 was funny because it combined the seriosity of surgery with the ludicrosity of performing said surgery with all the competence of a particularly dense chimp; Octodad was funny because of its off-the-wall concept and slapstick sense of humor. Unfortunately, Probably Archery is not funny, and as that is all it aspires to be, it is therefore a failure on all counts.
To perform the task of firing an arrow from your bow, you are required to have your fingers spread uncomfortably across your keyboard. The mouse controls the positioning of your hands; there are two keys to control both your elbow and shoulder movements; holding down shift changes which arm you are in control of; and pressing space/right-clicking “nocks” your arrow, which is the more fancy way of saying that it puts the arrow on the string of the bow, allowing you to fire it.
The controls are intentionally overly complicated, but nocking the arrow simply doesn’t work the majority of the time. I was frequently given a prompt when trying to do so informing me that I was holding my arrow too far away from the string, despite me holding it as close as physically possible, and times when I was holding it further away somehow registered the arrow as being within range. The nocking’s seemingly randomized success rate is then echoed by the actual firing of the arrows, which seem to always shoot far higher or far lower than you would expect them to given how you are holding the bow.
Many will argue that this is the “point” of Probably Archery, but I ask you: When has misfiring weaponry ever been funny? Watching my arrows sail past their intended target by a considerable margin didn’t inspire a belly laugh, but rather an exasperated sigh. This isn’t the only facet of Probably Archery that is exhaustingly unfunny, though. This isn’t a frequent criticism I have of video games, but Probably Archery could’ve greatly benefited from more gore. The “enemies” you face in the game, the aforementioned muscular men with apples for heads, simply drop to their knees unsatisfyingly if you somehow manage to shoot them down.
Also, as the player-character is a literal sack with a balloon for a head, if you fail to shoot your enemies down in one of the game’s horde-esque modes, when they reach you they’ll simply pop said balloon head. I’m not exactly the most bloodthirsty of individuals, but honestly, what’s on offer here is so achingly dull that it could’ve done with some cartoonish violence just to spice things up a bit.
In amongst the various modes that Probably Archery offers—because its concept was so good that South East Games simply had to apply it to eight different game types—the only one that offers any real replay value is ‘Eggsterminator,' which sees you shooting down flying eggs in a room filled with various breakable household items which you’re tasked with avoiding. Aside from the mild hilarity you’ll experience in this game type, the only other mode that threatens to be enjoyable is ‘Zombie Soccer’. This multiplayer mode pits you and your team against up to five other players in an attempt to play a game of soccer in amongst a zombie horde, with neither a bow nor arrow in sight. However, the servers are severely underpopulated to the point of being almost non-existent, rendering one of the game’s only saving graces thoroughly obsolete.
Probably Archery is an awful game, and it stands as yet another example of why Steam desperately needs some form of quality control to stop shit like this from seeping onto the platform. Its concept had the potential to inspire a few laughs, but South East Games has drained it of all humor and left us with the video game equivalent of a knock-knock joke: tired, unfunny, and not worth anyone’s time.