There are few things as vacuous as morning variety television. Yet, it seems to persist. Beamed into the homes of people who are only half awake and waiting rooms everywhere, they are like white noise but with terrible, forced banter and infomercials for funeral insurance. But at least there’s plenty to make fun of, particularly on the lower-budget versions of these shows, like the kind you might find on public access television.
The most well-known, or at least the most influential, of these variety TV/public access send-ups is Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job – an Adult Swim surrealist sketch show so good it makes the existence of thousands of hours of pointless television nearly worthwhile. Tim and Eric’s no-budget, extremely off-kilter style has inspired many, and its influence can certainly be felt in a game I have recently played and very much enjoyed – Salamander County Public Television.
Salamander County Public Television is the work of a solo dev who goes by Tin or Tininsteelian and has released this and his other commercial project, Taco Tom 2, under Tinzone Games. Tin has been honing his particular style of absurdist minigames, using plenty of clip art and stock photos, since 2010. They are equal parts Warioware and Flash game, and in SCPT, a bunch of these minigames form the gameplay core of a genuinely funny game with a twist on Tim and Eric’s public access-inspired style.
In Salamander County Public Television, you play as the newest employee at the titular TV station. Immediately, there is a big problem – the station’s ratings have taken a huge dive because everyone in Salamander County has gone missing. You and your stock photo, Microsoft Sam-voiced co-workers need to solve the mystery of the sunk ratings (and I guess, find all the inhabitants of the county) while chucking on TV segments to a viewership of zero.
These segments are where the minigames come in. They act like absurdist sketches and make good use of the stock photo concept. Make the world’s largest waffle? That sounds like a TV segment. Driving a car with mushrooms for wheels? Sure, why not? Whack an orange as far as you can with a banana? That’s television.
There are scores to chase in these games, but you can just experience them for the little jokes that they are. And they’re good jokes, too. This is a consistently funny game, not just in the minigames but in the adverts made of stock footage that play in between chapters, as well as the Slack - sorry, Whack message exchanges that make for the story segments.
The story takes suitably bizarre turns, and it all runs at a fast clip, just like an Adult Swim show. It will all be done in about two hours, and if you like your humour on the odd side, it will be a great two hours. Playing SCPT is a far better use of your time than the television it is parodying.
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