Can words hurt as badly as actions? Clearly the people at Vile Monarch think so, as evidenced by Oh... Sir!! The Insult Simulator, a game that assigns health meters to people engaged in an argument. This is a game where you insult others, RPG style, to some of the most hysterical results imaginable. And all its parts come together to make for an experience that's a bit better than excellent.
The Insult Simulator's hilarity begins as soon as you see its interface. Your chosen character is placed in a conflict-stirring scenario with an opponent. As the argument begins, a list of sentence parts appear mid-screen for the players to choose from in a turn-based system. Once you've built your insult, you press Circle to fire it off on your next turn. The better the insult, the more damage it does. By choosing a "(...)" option, you can skip the turn and let the game refresh the list of sentence parts. The system is surprisingly thoughtful and easy to learn, and the results are some spectacularly weird quips such as "Your father is vile!" There's a lot of great fun to be had here.
As you might have gleaned from the Oh... Sir!! moniker, this game is swimming in Britishness. This isn't so much a nationality thing as a way to add a fancy, proper-English flair to the proceedings. The only blatantly American character is the well-spoken H. P. Lovecraft, who opens his shirt to reveal tentacles when delivering a particularly biting zinger. It's all presented in a pixellated cartoon style that is sparsely animated yet brimming with personality. We even get voice acting for each character, which is amusingly stilted as they go through their patchwork insults. Music is very, very subdued, as it ought to be in a game where constant reading is involved. When you factor in the low price, these production values are, at the very least, commendable.
The Insult Simulator's gameplay gets its longevity from its finer details. One of the most satisfying things to pull off is a sort of sabotage, where you take the finisher you think your opponent was going to use. Maybe it renders your own insult less effective, but you've just undercut the enemy's offense. Not all words are up for grabs on both sides, though. Both players have a side-hand of two sentence pieces that can be swapped once per turn, allowing you access to a precious few pieces your opponent can't take. Often occupying these spaces are finishing statements, such as, "and I have proof!" Using these appropriately can be the key to victory in more heated arguments. If I haven't successfully conveyed it, then just take my word: the depth at hand exceeds common expectations and makes for a thoroughly engaging experience.
While the "battle" system itself is fleshed out to perfection, I was initially disappointed by the game's rather limited vocabulary. This is understandable given its price and the presence of multiple voice actors, but it should still be noted. As I kept playing, though, this oddly became less of an issue. Sentence pieces like "your dear old auntie" gain a certain character of their own as you find endless things to use them for. When you're backed into a corner and forced to build an insult that kinda sucks, it's still humorous in its own way to see the familiar sentence parts playing out. Depending on how you utilize them, your insults can be childish or ghoulish using the same subjects or clauses, and that's pretty cool.
If you want a more difficult experience, your best bet is to go online. I was happy to see an indie release with such solid cross-play matchmaking; you shouldn't have to wait long to find an opponent. As expected, this is the ultimate challenge, where all the tactics I've laid out - and a few I apparently have yet to perceive - become more important than ever. Here is where the humor factor ramps up considerably, because your opponent's insults are more heinous and psychotic, and you know that somewhere another real-life person is coming up with them.
Perhaps the best thing about The Insult Simulator is its ability to compel personal evaluation. Through exaggeration, it illuminates the ultimate truth about back-and-forth bickering. The insults you and your opponent come up with are so ridiculous, so petty, and so unrelated to the conflict at hand, that after a couple hours it starts to make you realize how unimportant your real-life quarrels can be. That, in turn, is why I'm glad the developers kept this at a Teen rating. Middle-schoolers, more than anyone, would do very well to give it a playthrough. In fact, in this day and age, where all facets of American culture seem to be at war with each other, everyone could use some time with it. It's an introspective quality that elevates this great game towards excellence.
Despite its limited vocabulary, Oh... Sir!! The Insult Simulator is far more than just a novelty - it's absolutely superb. It's hilarious, therapeutic, and - thanks to unlockables and a stellar online mode - packed with longevity. Rarely does a game come along that's inexpensive, juvenile, and profound all at the same time. Definitely give this one a shot.