Voice-activated trousers sadly can’t save Weird RPG from mundanity

Voice-activated trousers sadly can't save Weird RPG from mundanity

A new experience: Weird RPG is the first video game to make my lips numb. My character in the action-RPG is wearing magic tousers, see, which launch explosive basketball hoops every time I make noise into my microphone. Turns out, the most DPS-efficient noise is continually blowing to trill my lips like a child pretending to be a car. Weird RPG does have some fun ideas but sadly, it’s too mundane an ARPG to be truly weird—or good. Still, I was delighted when I found a helmet whose stats get better the worse your graphics card is.

Brbrbrbrblrlblrlbrlrbing through a boss fight with voice-activated magic

Released over the weekend, Weird RPG is a small action-RPG tripping across dimensions. From fantasy forests to a post-apocalyptic modern city overrun with zombies, click-click-click to burst baddies and grab loot. Violence is a lightweight hack ‘n’ slash, with four-hit combos, dodge-rolls, and an active ability or two determined by your weapon. You can unlock more weapon abilities and swap them in and out. All stats are determined by your gear too, no levels here.

Most enemies go down to a click-click-click-click roll click-click as they attempt to defeat or blast you, which is fine, sure. Bosses are tougher, requiring learning their attack patterns and dodging. Bosses have some sort of poise, becoming briefly stunned and extra-vulnerable if you damage them enough—but recovering poise if you go too long without damaging them. These boss fights can be intense, and quite fun with good gear. Oh, the gear!

Weird RPG’s itemization foundation is typical ARPG gear: a range of helmets and trousers and such with increasingly larger numbers; axes, hammers, and swords with increasingly larger numbers; and magic axes, hammers, and swords with effects like slinging fireballs or dealing a percentage of the enemy’s life as bonus damage (hello, Crushing Blow!). The strongest stuff gets weird.

Some weird items are voice-activated: make noise into your microphone and it’ll charge or trigger an effect. Some items grow stronger the worse your framerate is (you can lock the game to a lower framerate in the graphics options, if you really want). Others detect your graphics card and offer bigger bonuses to people with worse hardware. Weird gear I have seen includes:

  • Gloves which have good stats but change the game’s music (“A rap song will make you strong,” the item description says, though the new song isn’t rap)
  • A minigun swung like a hammer, dropping a nuke to end its combo
  • Pauldrons which call down lightning strikes on enemies when you “swear to God”
  • A good sword which offered big bonuses to bad graphics cards, but with my 3070 Ti gave a chance to randomly die
  • Gloves which “steal nearby enemy’s wallet” when you shout
  • A helmet offering absolutely monster stats at the trade-off of making you listen to “the song performed by game dev” at full volume, which sadly I never saved enough to buy
  • An AK-47 wielded like a sword, with a voice-activated secondary gun firing bullets

Inspecting a pair of trousers which get worse the better your graphics card is in a Weird RPG screenshot.

The worse your PC’s graphics card, the better these trousers become?

Those lusy trousers are how I ended up with numb lips. Unlike a sword I have, which charges up with regular attacks before it can unleash a spray of shout-activated homing hoverswords, the basketball trousers can seemingly fire as often as I can make noise. At first with items of this type, I liked a BA BA BA: short, sharp noises that are easy to repeat. But the AK-47 made me remember childhood playground machinegun noises. Tongue blown buzzing against the palate wasn’t distinct enough to properly register. But blowing through trilling lips, oh yeah, that’s the stuff, that does it. Non-stop dunks, here we come! And after a tough boss battle, I learned that your lips will go numb if you do that long enough. What rich knowledge.

The wackiness can be funny, and fun. Voice activation sounds like an idea aimed at insufferable screeching streamers, but I found it pleasingly silly to discover myself blowing raspberries at a video game. While most voice-activated effects honestly weren’t strong enough to be useful, some could be invaluable, so I’d end a boss fight laughing. I always enjoyed discovering a daft new type of effect, too. Unfortunately, Weird RPG runs into the same problem as many ‘comedy’ games: the jokes aren’t strong and frequent enough to carry the underwhelming rest of the game.

Weird RPG falls apart when you run into difficulty. It’s fine to die a few times in a level, or take a few attempts to beat a boss. But if you’re significantly undergeared for a chapter, the combat isn’t interesting or deep enough for me to enjoy the challenge. Some bosses would just murder me until I gave in to grinding.

Inspecting a helmet which forces you to listen to the developer sing in a Weird RPG screenshot.

I wish I had got these and heard the dev… sing?

You can go back and remurder bosses for tokens to buy strong weapons and armor from merchants, as well as tidy items like potions that summon a boss to fight on your side. Grinding bosses for gear is a staple of action-RPGs but it’s not fun, interesting, or rewarding when levels always have the same map layout and enemy placements, and treasure chests don’t respawn. Gear has no randomization either, so repeat drops are just vendor trash, never exciting or satisfying. You’ll also need to grind for healing items (or for gold to buy healing items) if you run out while bashing yourself against a challenge.

When grinding geared me up enough to pass another roadblock, I would be excited to see what new weirdness awaited and enjoy that lightweight hack ‘n’ slash violence. But then I’d hit another part I was undergeared for, and I’d run out of healing, and… ugh.

I was near the end of the game (judging by the achievements) and struggling with a boring tanky boss when my save file got corrupted. Alright. I’m done. I will not be starting over with a new save to repeat all that. I am curious about what’s yet to come but after six hours, I don’t trust it’ll be worth the effort. Still, I’ll always remember the time voice-activated trousers made my lips go numb.

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