Lancelot’s Hangover: The Quest for the Holy Booze Review
Do you like medieval history? How about humorous point-and-click adventure games? If so, then Lancelot’s Hangover might well be for you. It’s an irreverent, no-holds-barred take on the medieval period, where you control one of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Lancelot, on a quest for the “holy booze”. Its politically incorrect jokes poke fun at stereotypes, but beneath the surface, there is an intelligent commentary on both modern and medieval Europe. The nature of the game is polarising, and the description alone will either intrigue or turn away the audience.
So, what is this “quest for the holy booze”? It’s a pun on the holy grail, of course, and one day Sir Lancelot, knight of The Round Table, is visited by God himself and told he must find the holy booze and throw the greatest party England has ever known. There’s only one catch, the holy booze is in France — somewhere the game describes as “A dangerous place, where all men are gay and women have hair under their arms.” And did I mention Lancelot’s attire is a pink Speedo and mug of beer? In one fell swoop, both English and French stereotype jokes have been hurled before the game even begins, and this can only be the work of someone from a land uniquely positioned close enough to understand this humour and its connotations but removed enough to not be offensive: Belgium.
Jean-Baptiste de Clerfayt (sounds French to me, mate, as Lancelot would say) is the game’s solo Belgian developer, who somehow manages to walk the increasingly thin tightrope that is political correctness with his humour. Mostly because the gags are never too cutting, and he also gets in some jokes about the Belgian monarchy, the Smurfs, and the country’s penchant for neutrality, so you come away with the impression that it’s all one big laugh. There will, however, be some that take offence. Lancelot’s Hangover’s motif is also very Euro-centric; these facets combined with the medieval satire that requires knowledge of this period of history to truly understand means the audience for this game will be niche. The good news, though, is if this sounds appetising to you, then you’ll likely revel in the references and easter eggs on show.
To give you an example of the humour and gameplay on offer, in one scene you must find a way to enter Redemptionland™, a religion-themed amusement park. In the queue is, among others, a Catholic monk and nun. The nun, Sister Suzette, finds the monk’s deep voice arousing; she also happens to be into organic food. You have to find a way to combine an organic food brochure with a bible so that Sister Suzette “blows her chastity belt” to create a distraction for you to sneak into Redemptionland™.
The characters are just as wacky, featuring the likes of Stephane de Jobse (a Steve Jobs reference) and Hipster Jesus, but the satire goes much deeper, also being an intelligent commentary on the hypocrisy of the medieval Church. For example, it criticises the papal bulls sold to the peasantry that would absolve them of their “sins” and give them entry into heaven upon death. Moving back to modern parody, in one town you encounter a French mime and his rapping bear who mistake you for an English music producer. The mime exclaims that he can’t wait to attract all the beautiful women with hairy armpits. And when Lancelot tells them he isn’t a music producer and that he hates their music, the mime and bear assume that this must be sarcastic British humour and that it means he actually loves them. This is a uniquely Belgian perspective on Western Europe, and it’s great to see an indie developer embracing and utilising their personalised advantages in their work.
Lancelot’s Hangover is not a long game, clocking in at two to three hours playtime. It’s also a fairly on-rails experience, with the moment-to-moment gameplay requiring you to move through each of the handful of locations across Europe to talk to characters and solve puzzles. Your main objectives are to gain information concerning the location of the holy grail’s location and solve puzzles to obtain items that allow you access the grail and concoct the “holy booze” in it, which you have to take back to England for the mother of all parties. One puzzle example is having to barter for and take psychedelic drugs in a forest to unlock a hidden path which is otherwise invisible so that you can get an item needed for the main quest. You can also interact with characters by talking to them and unlocking new but limited chat options, where they give you further information about your quest.
The art is hand-drawn and copies the style of medieval paintings and tapestries, but with a comical twist — Lancelot’s aforementioned Speedos being just one instance of this. It’s generally well-rendered and a pleasure to look at. Sound design is middling, with some ambient tunes repeated on a loop, and there is no voice acting to flesh out the world, either. Another negative is the game’s somewhat abrupt ending: while it does provide closure on the story, it just sort of fizzles out, which is at odds with the absurdist nature of the rest of the game.
There is a lot to like about Lancelot’s Hangover. It has terrific artwork, and a unique story and premise not often seen in video games. Its humour is also hilarious and Monty Python-esque, with the caveats that you’re not easily offended and you have a working knowledge of Western European medieval history. While impressive for a game developed by a single person, it must be weighed up against the full length and breadth of video games as a whole, and this is where we run into the problems. It’s short, there isn’t a lot of room for player agency, there’s not a lot of content on offer, and it has an unsatisfying ending. The fundamentals are all there, though, so it’s worth picking up if you find Lancelot’s Hangover’s unique premise and sense of humour intriguing.
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