Star Warped is a first-person parody point-and-click adventure video game that parodies the science fiction Star Wars universe, specifically the original trilogy of films released from 1977–1983: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. It was created by Parroty Interactive, which was a division the game's publisher, Palladium Interactive. Star Warped was released in both the United States and Canada in late 1997 as their follow-up from their debut video game; a Myst parody named Pyst. The Star Wars parody was released with versions for the Windows PC and Apple Macintosh operating systems. The game is no longer in publication, as Parroty's parent company folded after being bought by The Learning Company in 1998. The game invited players to "Be seduced by the power of the Dork Side". Star Warped received mixed and polarised views from critics, with some praising the game's variety, originality, and humour, while others dismissing it as lazy, unfunny, and dull.
Gameplay and plot
The game is set in the Modesto, California home of two die-hard Star Wars fans with a "Beavis and Butt-Head mentality", Brian (Brian Posehn) and Aaron (Robbie Rist). They claim to have never left their room since first watching the original Star Wars trilogy. They have compiled their "favourite snagged, borrowed and stolen" Star Wars merchandise, which the player can interact with. Gameplay primarily consists of a series of mini-games, including "Whack! the Ewok" and "Flawed Fighters", a spoof of fighting games such as Mortal Kombat. Characters include Leia I. Joe (a Princess Leia and G.I. Joe spoof), Cool-Handless Luke (Luke Skywalker with a missing hand and a pun on the film Cool Hand Luke), and Pizza-Flipping Greedo (Greedo as a pizza chef). The game also has several humorous items such as "scrapped scripts", "gene splicer", and "Tell you, I Will". Clicking in items resulted in animations and minigames. The game also featuring notable voice over talent in minor roles, including Tom Kenny, Jodi Benson, and Kath Soucie. The minigames included titles such as: U Don't No Jedi, Death Star Destructo, Whack the Ewok, X-Schwing, Dork Forces, Flawed Fighters, and Scrapped Scripts. The game was also released in Germany with completely new German voice acting. As the game was released two years before Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it avoids specific parodies of the prequel series; however there are some fake references to the then-future movies. While spoofing the first three films in the Star Wars film series, the game also targeted the extended Star Wars franchise, including its merchandise and marketing strategies.
According to Rob Halligan, Palladium's vice president of marketing, the success of Pyst opened up the doors for future parody games by the company; Star Warped and The X-Fools (a parody of The X-Files) were the first two they attempted. Once Palladium ironed out the "legal entanglements", the company hoped to release the game in May 1997. Writers for the project included comedy veterans from Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Comedy Central, and The Jon Stewart Show. After the writing process was complete and the jokes were approved, the developers collected the voice actors and got them to record the dialogue, and afterwards they put the game information onto CDs, and made them available for retail purchase by customers.
The game was featured in a segment in the magazine-style program Splat! about cartoons in video games, which aired on animation specialty channel Teletoon. Following in the footsteps of Pyst, Star Warped received its own website. After buying the game and registering, players were able to enter a member's only section of the site, where new content was added until 1998; however Allgame writer Christopher Michael Baker notes that even unregistered visitors to the website are still able to "check out and laugh at" some activities, minigames, and other content. An online-only quiz-themed minigame entitled You Don't NoJedi – a parody of You Don't Know Jack – was featured on the site, as a teaser to the game's content. Bonus modules from Star Wars were featured on the CD for PYST Special Edition. In 1998, after Parrot's acquisition by The Learning Company, Palladium founder and chief executive officer Ed Bernstein said "it was a fun business, but not terribly lucrative".
The parody video game received mixed reviews and tended to polarise the critics. Positive reviews focussed on the game's humour, originality, and gameplay, with some favourably comparing it to previous Parroty Interactive title Pyst, which they thought was more of an interactive slideshow than a game. Negative reviews were generally scathing critiques of the game's sense of humour, with unfavourable comparisons to media such as Family Guy and the Star Wars Holiday Special.
A writer from Electric Games highly recommended the game due to its "very, very funny" humour, "cartoony" graphics, "hammy" acting, "fun" gameplay, and "impressive...highly original" mini-games, while singling out the minigame Scrapped Scripts for praise. Doug Radcliffe of CD Mag singled out the Pulp Fiction-style script in one minigame for praise, but thought players would get bored after a few hours, due to the individual minigames not having longevity or replay value. Christopher Michael Baker from All Game Guide deemed it the most "entertaining" of all Star Wars parody video games due to its variety of "fun", "great", and "hilarious" minigames; the site also found it fascinating to have the opportunity to delve into the personal belongings of super fans of the Star Wars "Holy Trilogy", deeming their collection both "interesting" and "creative", and ultimately recommending the game for Star Wars fans to have a go at. Meanwhile, America Online's Huge Electronic Brain named the game the "Funniest CD-ROM of the Century". Joe Szadkowski of The Washington Post thought the game was "well worth" the $20 price tag, and reminded readers that the game was a parody, not to be taken seriously. Star Warped was the first video game that Killscreen writer Zach Koster actively sought and bought, after having seen the game featured in the television show Splat!; he attributes the parody video game to his decision to become a video game journalist. Emil Pagliarulo of The Adrenaline Vault saw Star Warped as an example of how Parrot Interactive made games that were "completely original simply by capitalizing on unoriginality", and said it "pokes fun at just about every Star Wars game ever made". A writer from CD Access described the game as "hilarious" and very entertaining, offering hours of gameplay. GameSpot reviewer Helen Lee noted that while its predessor Pyst was more of an interactive product, Star Warped is a fully-fledged game, and added that the parody trampled over all aspects of the Star Wars trilogy leaving nothing as sacred.
PC Action thought the game offered a bit more variety than Pyst, though concluded that it was a "cheap concoction", and that the reader was better off putting their money into the Star Ward cinematic sextet. Interpreting the game as a tribute to nerd culture, Steven L. Kent of The Seattle Times described Brian and Aaron as "charming", and noted there is an "eerie sense of reality" to their collection of memorabilia; the site felt that the games were a "quick diversion" which made up for them lacking in depth, and thought the most enjoyable minigame a Space Zap parody called Death Star Destructo. Computer Gaming Magazine noted that Star Warped was a collection of mini-games while Pyst was simply a "slideshow". The Danish journal article Serious Games: et studie af kommunikations mekanismer–i teori og praksis (Serious Games: A study of communication mechanisms – in theory and practice) by Sune Matras noted that the game used lowbrow humour imitate the Star Wars work, thereby treating the subject in a new way and with a subtle style.
Richard Cobblet of PC Gamer thought the game was "pretty bloody awful", "agonising", "painful", "uninspired", and "lazy", and negatively compared it to the Star Wars Holiday Special, while accusing Parroty Interactive for producing a series of "comedy plague-pits". A writer from Entertainment Weekly gave the game a D, and in a scathing assessment of the video game deemed it a "catastrophe" of lowbrow humour, low-rent minigames, while criticising the "irritating...obnoxious" commentary by the game's protagonists. A reviewer from The Collection Chamber thought the video game was "unlicensed, unofficial and woefully unfunny", and negatively compared it to Robot Chicken or Family Guy by saying that the parody made the quality of those two animated shows look like that of acclaimed comedy series Monty Python. German review site PC Games gave the game a rating of 23 out of 100, commenting that the game lacked a funny bone and had "non-starter" gags; in the conclusion of the review it was recommended that PC Games' readers save their money on purchasing the title, instead investing into buying the Special Edition versions of Star Wars. Another Germany review site, PC Action, positively compared the title to Pyst, saying it offered more variety than the Myst parody, but also suggested that players would get bored after an hour of gameplay, and said that when the "modest" cost of the game was not worth the "cheap concoction".
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