Ever since the sensation of Pong, people with expensive degrees in art history have asked: when will there be a video game for me? Well, it pleases me to report that such a decades-long desire has finally been fulfilled. The Procession to Calvary is a point and click adventure game by indie developer Joe Richardson that showcases silly wordplay and art appreciation. Employing a unique style and humor, Calvary makes for a joyful romp on mobile devices.
What Is Your Quest?
The outright silliness of Procession to Calvary stretches to every single element of this indie experience. Kicking things off, your protagonist sets out on a quest following a holy war (seen in Richardson’s prequel Four Last Things) to kill enemy-patriarch Heavenly Peter. Equipped with your sword and sardonic wit, you set out into “The South.” On your journey you receive quests, each bringing you closer and closer to your target. These range from stealing clothing from two naked, wrestling men to helping a “magician” escape his crucifixion. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the game keeps the player engaged and ready for the next outrageous challenge. Moreover, a varied score of classical music paired with distinct visuals creates a world unlike any other in gaming.
A Moving Tribute
The standard point and click formula finds fresh grounding in Procession to Calvary through the clever repurposing of famous Renaissance paintings. Characters and landscapes are all pulled and animated from the real-life works of Renaissance masters such as Rembrandt, Botticelli and Michelangelo. All animations play out in the style of Terry Gilliam’s surrealist bits from Monty Python. That is, everything you see on the screen looks as though it has been cut from their original painting and moved around like a paper doll. Consequently, this very intentional design choice adds its own layer of absurdity. Actions are awkwardly and hilariously executed by stoic, unchanging faces. Immediately, the comedic dialogue heightens within the context of what is normally the very serious business of such romantic pieces.
This aesthetic fits perfectly with its similarly Pythonesque wordplay. As a result, it covers the world of the game in a postmodern humorist style. As with most point and click titles, story is mostly driven through choices made by the player in how they converse with NPC’s to learn new information. The text in this game absolutely oozes irony and satire. Its fourth wall even comes crashing down around the player from time to time, with “God” addressing complaints of self-referential humor directly. Oftentimes your protagonist will directly point out the absurdity in each quest within dialogue with NPC’s. Subsequently, this often prompts a written response by them to not think too hard on it for the sake of continuing the game.
At one point I even debated with a guardsman about why I wasn’t allowed in a certain room. Ultimately, he reveals that the room contains artistic depictions of Kickstarter backers, containing no real significance to the plot. That level of payoff persists, alleviating most frustrations you encounter amidst genre-standard puzzles.
The King’s Gambit
One element of any adventure/point-and-click title that always deserves special criticism is its puzzles. Procession to Calvary exceeds this staple by offering a variety in its degrees of challenge. In general, the puzzles present themselves through tapping the right dialogue option or giving a certain character a correct item. What increases the satisfaction of completion is that just about every task feels essential to the plot of your adventure. One characteristic of this genre that always bothers me is the use of highly tedious challenges. These artificially manufacture a longer experience that feels forced on the player. Thankfully, I only ran into two of such tests throughout my playthrough. The rest plays out logically in highly gratifying ways.
It Shall Be Suffigance
The Procession to Calvary is a quirky adventure title that is an absolute delight. The gorgeous visuals, classical soundtrack, and sharp humor unite, forming a unique comedy adventure. Creators like Joe Richardson remind players that there is still much untapped potential in unique game creation. He reminds us that even in genres that are saturated and bogged down by their own tropes, creative solutions exist. In short: what was old is new, which was old again, is new again.
Is it Hardcore?
If all is fair in love and war, then you can call The Procession to Calvary my fair lady! Don’t think about it too much. This game is a gut punch of non-stop comedy and gory violence. Its puzzles are mostly satisfying, with the few exceptions being made up for in-chuckles.