If you’ve ever watched the talk-over-a-bad-movie hijinx of a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000—the creators of which went on to design the online entity RiffTrax—you have a pretty good idea of what to expect with RiffTrax: The Game. If it’s all completely new to you, the concept is pretty straightforward.
MST 3000 featured a quirky crew of characters (a human and a couple of snarky robot friends) who quipped and mocked their way through a series of bad, public-domain movies that usually fell into a sci-fi or old monster movie category. The ongoing series, which has had several iterations over the last couple of decades, was all about goofy fun and little more. And now with this new game, you get to do that with your own quirky crew of pals.
RiffTrax: The Game initially packs some 250 short film clips culled from old movies and commercials of yesteryear. (Another 100 clips have just been released, with more DLC theme-packs promised soon.) It’s the gamers job to come up with the funniest “insert here” jokes or gags they can think of and then vote on who did the best job. And if you aren’t very good at coming up with great gags, well, the game can help you out.
There are two modes to play. The “Write a Riff” mode essentially allows you and fellow players to type in your own on-the-spot giggles (and choose an optional sound effect) within a given amount of time. And then your line and sounds are voiced in context by the game itself. And if you are totally stumped, as the seconds tick away, you can opt for a riff for me button that quickly offers up a prerecorded comment at a slight point deduction.
Those prerecorded riffs number in the thousands, and are the central part of the second mode, called “Pick a Riff.” This mode gives players who aren’t feeling particularly witty a hand of potentially funny riffs that they can choose from to fit whatever scene they’ve been shown.
In either game mode, the second step is for all of the gathered players to vote on who came up with the funniest retort. And after a designated number of rounds, the game calibrates votes and celebrates your self-chosen riffing king.
One copy of RiffTrax: The Game will accommodate up to six players. The owner creates a room code, and players can sign in online with that code from their computer, game console, or phone. It’s worth noting that even though you only have up to 6 people playing, you can have a community of others watching. You can also enable your community to vote for their favorite jokes directly. So, even though the whole community doesn’t play, they can still participate.
The game owner also has a variety of menu controls to choose from, such as the number of rounds to play; the amount of time you want for your quip creating; access to voice chat and profanity filter bleeps; and whether or not you want to add an AI riffbot competitor to the mix.
Gameplay then can be as long or short as the gathered gamers please.
The clips themselves are all content free and generally a bit silly when looked at through our modern-day lens.
And let’s face it : There’s something particularly joyful about a group of friends laughing at one another’s jokes. Some attempts will whiff totally, of course, but it’s still part of the fun. And that generally leads to more freestyle goofiness.
Just choosing the prerecorded riffs is also very enjoyable since they come from the riffing pros and usually fit surprisingly well.
Some of those prerecorded riffs can be a bit edgy with their winking implications or a mildly sexy slant, but nothing ever crosses the line into being truly nasty.
Quickly typed-out humor on the fly, however, can cross the line sometimes, depending on the personalities of people you’re playing with.
That said, since all the zingers are typed, the game does have built in filters that can be turned on to catch and bleep any inappropriate words. There’s also an option to appoint a moderator in your group who screens all responses before revealing them to everyone else.
There’s a verbal chat option as well, which with raucous players might be problematic. But, honestly, potential problems here are less about the game itself and more about the people you choose to play with—and how they engage with humor.
RiffTrax: The Game is an inexpensive title packed with casual gaming, party time fun. You don’t have to have a family of comedy writers or a group of stand-up comedians for friends to enjoy this game.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.