Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is certainly a unique entry in the point-and-click adventure genre. Binary Space, the game’s developer, has crafted a lovely combination of puzzle-solving, political satire, character-focused storytelling, and zombie horror. If you’re thinking that’s an odd combination, you’re absolutely right. It is odd. Ghoul Britannia is odd. It is also, however, brilliantly charming and clever.
Ghoul Britannia‘s Take on Brexit
Video games take a long time to develop. As a result, games that are political, timely, and relevant are hard to come by. By the time a developer manages to crank out a game whose premise is political or based on real events, it’s very likely those events are distant memories. With Brexit, however, Binary Space has hit the jackpot.
Conceptually, Ghoul Britannia is an exploration of Binary Space’s worst-case Brexit scenario. You might be thinking – austerity? Political instability? Racial tensions? Well, yes, all of those – but also, the zombie apocalypse.
The game’s narrative opens with a speech from British Prime Minister, Nigel
Farage Frottage. The first of the game’s artful lampoons, Mr. Frottage makes a somewhat pompous speech lauding the people of Great Britain, before unveiling the ELU program. Designed to fill the gap in the job market previously filled by immigrants, ELUs – or “Extended Labour Units” – are corpses of the deceased, reanimated by radio signals coming from a huge transmitter mounted on top of Big Ben. Yes, it’s absolutely as bonkers as it sounds.
The story cuts to the inevitable aftermath; the zombie apocalypse. Our protagonists are Hope Andrews, a young woman doing her best to survive, and Dave Gorey – an ELU who can talk and think. Hence, Land of Hope and Gorey. Quite clever, that. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll leave it there. Speaking of clever, however…
Wit Beyond Measure Is Man’s Greatest Treasure
Where Ghoul Britannia really shines is its dialogue. Despite there being no voice acting, each character has a distinct tone and flavour. All in their own way, they’re all just so very… British. The comedy is sharp and dark, and a lot of the conversations and asides are genuinely laugh-inducing, something of a rarity. The characterisation is strong, and even minor characters are memorable. There are times when it gets a little bit “Ooh, isn’t it fun and naughty that we’re swearing?”, but those moments are few and far between. As a whole, Ghoul Britannia‘s dialogue sparkles, its characters are endearing, and the wry, sharp humour is a breath of fresh air in gaming, where so much is deadly serious.
Why Is This A Game?
All of that said, one thought nagged at me as I was playing. Why is Ghoul Britannia a video game at all? “Because Binary Space is a game developer”, I hear you cry. Well, yes, that’s fair, but honestly? The game-y parts of Ghoul are the weakest. The gameplay is fairly poor point-and-click fare, with many of the puzzles being more obtuse than fiendish. A lot of the time, I found myself clicking frantically, just trying to get the puzzle elements out of the way so I could get to the next plot point or conversation. The graphic design is slightly odd, as well. The 2D graphic backgrounds are lovely, but the 3D characters overlaid on top of them give the whole thing a kind of mid-2000s feel. I almost felt like I was back in the glory days of browser-based flash games.
Overall, Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is an intriguing experience and a breath of fresh air. I will most certainly be returning in February 2020 on the game’s full release to unravel its mysteries, and I would definitely encourage you to do the same.