The review copy of Oh…Sir! The Hollywood Roast was provided to me via a PR company. This will in no way affect my judgement of the game.
For those who are unaware of the Oh…Sir! series, it takes the form of a fighting game in which words are the weapons and the aim is to come up with the best insult to pummel your foe into submission.
The game has been around for a while on Steam with 2 in the series, the first Oh…Sir! is based on standard characters and The Hollywood Roast is a parody of a range of celebrities. Both have been released for the Switch at the same time and as The Hollywood Roast is basically the same core game with all round improvements, I have focussed the review on the sequel.
The Hollywood Roast plays out like an old fashioned 2D beat-em-up, but in place of punches and kicks, the aim is to chain together insults to damage the opponent. Each player chooses in turn from the same list to make an insult using the beginning, middle and end of a phrase. As both players are choosing from the same list, it is possible that your opponent will steal the perfect end to your insult so players can use connectives such as ‘but’ and ‘and’ to continue the insult and make it longer. Each player can also use 2 phrases generated randomly that only they can see, to help make the insults as smooth as possible. A new feature in The Hollywood Roast that isn’t present in the original is a ‘Comeback’ skill which can be used after the player has taken a significant verbal beating which will add to the insult automatically, ramping up the damage. This adds a little more variety than the original and can make the battles a little more tense. Players are also able to increase their damage by using repetition of themes (focussing on using ‘your mum’ insults for example) to create a combo meter or by picking on each characters specific weaknesses. The weakness mechanic is a good idea but isn’t particularly implemented well as it isn’t obvious what the weakness of each character is unless it is memorised from prior battles.
The game has a kooky art style, with each celebrity looking like a caricature of their real life counterpart which makes each character instantly recognisable. The caricature of each celebrity is emphasised more with the voices and the comments that each make to one another at the beginning of a stage. The problem with caricatures is that there is a thin line between poking fun and offensive racial stereotyping which unfortunately, The Hollywood Roast frequently crosses. Some of the characters raise a grin such as ‘The Greasy Wizard’ (Gandalf) or ‘Dirty Potter’ (Harry Potter) but most are cringy in their delivery and a few are down-right offensive. The character of ‘Chop Sue E’ springs to mind as being particularly offensive, complete with an over the top Asian accent (see picture below). Some of the script is also incredibly offensive, not in a satirical funny way but in a, ‘who on earth would approve this’ kind of way. In a world that is currently trying to fix years of injustice surrounding sexual abuse with initiative’s such as ‘Time’s Up’, there should not be a game making jokes about the Weinstein’s; It isn’t satirical or clever, it isn’t funny, it should not happen.
The gameplay in The Hollywood Roast is what you’d expect. The insults are a lot of fun to start with although can wear a little thin after time. The game is primarily built for multi-player although does feature a ‘career’ mode for single players featuring increasingly difficult stages with challenges for each. The multi-player is great fun the first few times but there isn’t a much in the way of variety to keep you and your friends from coming back time after time. The single player is also fun for a while but becomes tiring quickly, eventually feeling like a chore. The biggest issue that arises in both single player and multi-player is there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the scoring system. A grammatically perfect insult with a recurring theme that rolls off the tongue will hit for next to no points and a long-winded, drawn out, almost nonsensical jab (especially from the CPU) will almost kill a character. The frequency in which insults arise also seems to be a little unstructured which can be a tad annoying. I assume the insults are randomly generated, however in a few sessions with the game, I found myself coming up against the same insults over and over again, yet on another session, I would find myself with new phrases to work with. This can be especially frustrating when playing with friends as one game can feel very similar to the next.
Overall, the The Hollywood Roast tries to do something new and while partially succeeding, needs a lot of polish before I would recommend it. As a party game, when it works it is a lot of fun and with both players sharing the same screen, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform on which to play it. However, the insensitive jokes and stereotyping can’t be ignored and ruin what is supposed to be a light-hearted game meant to poke fun.