Comedy Quest is a great little freeware comfort food snack for fans of classic PC adventure games. It's basically an amalgam of the styles of Sierra's old "Quest" games; you've got the long-nosed blocky characters of the original AGI engine era, but with the color depth and simple mouse-based interface of the later SCI engine games. Unlike most of Sierra's old catalog, however, there's no deaths or hang-ups. It's pretty easy to roll right through, with small environments and simple straightforward puzzles, but there's added challenge in scouring the screens for comedy inspiration to pull off better sets and eventually get a better ending.
You play as The Kid, dweeb protagonist with big dreams in the mold of Roger Wilco, Larry Laffer, Guybrush Threepwood and etc. The Kid's goals are a little more modest than most, though; he just wants to be a stand-up comic. We take him through three consecutive nights of his life, starting with his first attempt to get on stage at a dive bar, progressing through two nicer venues after that.
In each sequence, there's a bit of typical adventure game puzzling to get you inserted into the club's lineup, and then you have to actually perform your set. The sets are by far the most inventive and interesting part; while you're going through the mandatory story sequence each night, you need to be keeping an eye out for inspiration for vignettes to use on stage. When you see something interesting, The Kid usually clues you into it, and then you click your trusty notebook on it to stash a joke away. Once you're on stage, the regular menu options normally have only a 50/50 randomized shot at landing with the audience, but using one of the jokes you collected in your notebook is a guaranteed laugh riot. Land the majority of your jokes (3 out of 5) and you've had a pretty good night, with more points the more you land.
I absolutely love the concept of having to observe the environment to gather jokes, and it would be great to see it expanded on in the future. It's a bit perfunctory here, as is the story-based puzzling, in which you're almost led by the nose right to every solution. Some plot threads and puzzles that appear to be shaping up are just dropped out of nowhere, too; for example, on the second day your landlord demands the rent and you have to email home to beg for money, but then the next day you just go to your third gig and finish the game -- nothing ever really comes of that development. It makes you wonder if maybe a larger game was planned originally.
Aesthetically, it's spartan but in a strangely polished way. Like no one involved could really draw all that well, but they were determined to make everything look as good as possible anyway and generally had a pretty good sense for visual design. I like the voice acting too, which presumably is just the designer and his mates. It's unpretentious and unprofessional, but everyone involved had a good handle on what to make their character sound like, and there's a certain charm to it. The game having a genuinely good sense of humor throughout also helps a great deal.
It's small-team no-budget freeware, so you gotta cut some slack and make peace with the fact that it's going to be more flashes of potential and entertainment than a well-rounded polished product. But this is a great portfolio piece for Crothers and a pretty solid indication that maybe somebody should throw some money at them to attempt a full-length project at some point.