Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It
Betrayal at Club Low… Man, what an oddball of a game. Under normal circumstances, this could have been considered an insult. But right now it’s more than a compliment. It’s one of the big reasons you should play it.
From the first few minutes in the game, it becomes clear that this won’t be your run-of-the-mill experience. Your protagonist has got grey/blue skin, glowing eyes and is disguised as a pizza delivery guy. Turns out you work for a spy agency called “The Circus”. Your mission is to extract an undercover agent in the nearby Club Low. You need to figure out a way in, a way to reach your target without raising too many eyebrows and make your escape.
This may all sound relatively simple but Club Low has an absurd amount of security and cautious patrons. This isn’t a stealth game. You won’t be avoiding prying eyes, but rather interacting with any and everything that may help you accomplish your goal. Along the way, you’ll uncover some side objectives, helpful items, and pizza recipes (more on that later).
Adult Swim, The Game
The game is unapologetically weird and I love it. You can intimidate the queue outside the club with wild dancing. You can fight or give in to the urge to drink from an alley puddle. You’ll take the role of chef to appease a man in your way. Buy the club a round of drinks so they won’t judge your dance moves. Convince a DJ they need a full night’s rest and that they should go home mid-set. Only for you to take over and blow the crowd’s collective minds with your pizza decks. All to make money, and gain some permanent buffs to increase the chance of success.
I love the way this game presents itself. It was like playing through an episode of some obscure Adult Swim show. In fact, the overall style of the title reminded me of the show: Xavier: Renegade Angel.
So you’ve got your mission: Find the agent. Get him out. How exactly do you go about completing the task though? Simply roll some dice. Almost every action you take is tied to a skill, and each skill is tied to a die. This dictates whether anything you do is a great success, or an embarrassing failure.
A Roll of the Dice
However, it’s not a straightforward game of chance with a 1-6 value die. You have seven skills: Cooking, deception, music, observation, physique, wisdom, and wit. Each skill has a 6-sided die. These start with values of 0,0,0,1,1,1. Quite low I know. Try to do most things and you’ll just fall flat on your face. However, as in any game with skills/attributes, Betrayal at Club Low is centred around upgrading these values all the way up to 10. Upgrades are bought with Cash, either won through a successful roll, or through your pizza dice (more on that now).
You may be dressed as a pizza delivery dude, but that’s not enough to sell the performance. You actually need some pizza. It’s more than just a front though. Your pizza can make you money, or it can be the deciding factor for victory. Lucky for you there are some inexplicable, yet highly convenient pizza ovens scattered around the environment. As well as ingredients for your pizza.
New ovens found reward you with a new recipe for a total of three. These recipes are your pizza dice. The faces of the die are blank at first. However, each ingredient found can be added to the recipe. These ingredients include $2/$4/$8 faces, or multipliers for money. There are faces that increase your nerve and health. These are values lost to specific opponent dice, reach 0 on either and it’s game over. There are also strategic ingredients such as a pepper that allows you to reroll an opponent’s die. Or a pineapple that swaps your cast skill die with your enemy’s. Which can take a weak 3 from your side, and turn it into a strong 8, for example. Thus, these pizza dice are ultra important to making the money needed for upgrades, and turning the tables in a dire situation.
No Stone Unturned
In Betrayal at Club Low, interacting with everything is a key part of success. You never know when a jacket you talked your way into getting could come in handy. Aside from this, interacting with people multiple times is also encouraged. You can often soften them up with a keen observation or a witty joke. Successful attempts at this can add modifier conditions. These conditions can often decrease their dice values, or increase your own. Some conditions also have the opposite effect. Adding debuff dice that lower values, or take away points of your health or nerve.
These conditions are quite interesting and full of character themselves. Fail at telling a joke, and you’re hit with an “awkward” condition that can make you lose nerve. Succeed at pickpocketing, and your character feels guilty, which can potentially add a X0 modifier to cash dice.
It’s Weird, and It Knows It
As I mentioned before, the art style reminds me a lot of an Adult Swim show called Xavier: Renegade Angel. It’s got this low-res, gritty, and dare I say ugly design with pretty clunky animations. And yet, I view it as adding to the character and appeal of the game.
The style doesn’t come across as a cobbling together of assets, but rather a conscious decision. Part of this is how it dives headfirst into its weird aesthetic, and low-quality models. It places all kinds of wild items throughout the club, like a security room with a tennis ball pit or a desk with a huge face. Or even how NPCs will exit a scene with unexplained rocket boots. It knows exactly what it is, and what vibe it’s going for and it just works. I’d hardly call it easy on the eyes, but I could definitely call it wonderfully unique.
Seeing as our playground is a club, music is obviously a factor I can’t overlook. Thankfully the music works a treat. It’s a soundtrack chockful of electronic beats that never lose their lustre. Each track feels like you could find it in some underground or niche bar or club. And the quality of production surprised me; even the sound design. Outside the club, music is muffled and bass-heavy, with sounds sharpening as you pass through its doors, eventually crisping up as you reach the dancefloor. Unless you have some real disdain for electronic dance music, I’d be willing to bet your head is moving before long.
This game took my expectations and flipped them all upside down with ease. From the music to the characters, the gameplay, the design of the world, and its wonderfully weird aesthetic. I really did not expect to enjoy the game as much as I did, and I can easily recommend it.