The first thing I did when I received a review copy of this game was to google the title, only to find myself faced with the tagline ‘You are old and angry and you’ve just been kicked out of your retirement home.’ Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued.
Further investigations revealed that Just Die Already is the most recent game from the developers of the widely popular Goat Simulator. It shares a lot of traits with its predecessor, so if you were someone who enjoyed the chaotic hircine mayhem from the last game then you’ll be sure to find something worth your time here. Of course, at the other end of the scale, if you didn’t enjoy Goat Simulator’s lack of real plot or cohesive narrative, this isn’t the game for you.
The story of Just Die Already, such as it is, is that you are a pensioner who has been kicked out of your retirement home for causing too much trouble. Apparently enraged by this new development, you are then free to explore the city, causing as much chaos and destruction as you can along the way. To keep track of your exploits, you’re given an appropriately named Bucket List that provides rewards when certain objectives are achieved.
Conceptually, that’s all there really is to Just Die Already. As with Goat Simulator, the game is a sandbox with an incredibly loose physics system and a lot of destructible items. The only real guidance players have is their bucket list; otherwise they are entirely free to explore the world and discover the small self-contained scenes the developers have put together. To help add to the mayhem, the entire experience can be played in four-player co-op.
Easily this game’s best feature is its visuals. The environments are bright and beautiful, and different regions of the city have distinct visual styles that make navigation surprisingly easy considering the size of the map. The cartoony design really helps to sell the gloriously bonkers action, and there are a lot of art assets that make for great visual gags. In many ways, wandering around the city and just looking at things is the main draw the game has – unfortunately, that leads onto the core problems this game has.
Just Die Already has two major issues, one more fixable than the other. The first is that the controls just aren’t up to what the game requires of you. Trying to grab items can often take several attempts and using melee weapons with any accuracy is impossible because of wildly inconsistent hitboxes, weapon range, and attack time. In some ways, that’s the point; your avatar acts and handles like a vaguely sentient boneless mass of flesh, and that’s part of the joke. Unfortunately, instead of being funny, it mostly serves to frustrate the player when they’re actually trying to get something done.
Which brings us neatly to the second problem Just Die Already has: the game isn’t very fun. For all that I deeply enjoyed discovering the game’s tagline at the very beginning, that sense of bizarre humour very rapidly wears off when you’re playing the game. There are certainly a lot of interesting things to discover and some of them are worth a laugh, but the paper-thin objectives aren’t enough to carry the game for more than an hour or two. Playing with friends through the co-op system can extend that, but even then the enjoyment is more coming from hanging out with people you like than from any inherent success of the game.
There are a few more minor problems to consider too. The overexaggerated physics can mean that your character gets stuck in the scenery from time to time, but there’s a quick reset button that respawns you relatively close by so it’s not a huge detriment.
More strange for me was the general lack of background music; this seems to be a game that would lend itself to a solid soundtrack as so much of the game is spent running around a city with no dialogue interruptions. Instead, aside from some sound effects, I spent a lot of my time with this game in silence. It was so weird that I’m still not entirely certain if this was intentional or simply a glitch, though from checking out some gameplay trailers and footage, it seems to be the former. If so, it was perhaps an indication that this game is meant to be played in co-op with players chatting to each other, but that’s not really an excuse not to have something in the single-player mode.
It is important to note that Just Die Already isn’t being marketed under a triple A, £40 price tag. Going into this game expecting something that you could sink 30 hours into isn’t a realistic starting point and to criticise it for not meeting that level of content would be grossly unfair. With that said, however, I would still caution anyone buying this game that its charm wears thin incredibly quickly. If you have friends to play with then you might be able to stretch it out for a few hours, but despite the multitude of bucket list items to cross off, there is very little compulsion to keep playing for long.
If you did enjoy Goat Simulator and want more of that style of game, then go for it. Just Die Already certainly scratches the same itch, and it has a lot more polish to recommend it than its predecessor. For everyone else, though, you’re probably better off saving your money for something with a little more substance.