I once considered myself funny. Maybe I actually was, or maybe my friends were just easier to amuse. Perhaps that’s why I chose them. But one of the harshest lessons I’ve learned as “an old” is that comedy evolves. As such, I now find it difficult to make my own family laugh playing RiffTrax: The Game.
This party game is basically an updated and licensed version of What the Dub?!, which was originally a knockoff of RiffTrax to begin with (both games are developed by Wide Right Interactive). For those who don’t know, RiffTrax was born from the creative team behind Mystery Science Theater 3000. And if you don’t know what MST3K is, I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
Focusing on RiffTrax, the premise is that a group of comedians (usually three at a time) provide witty audio commentary over what are considered to be bad movies. In other words, the writers poke fun at the films the same way you and your friends do at home. With RiffTrax: The Game, the comedic onus falls back on your friends…with some professional help.
Basically, the game shows you a film clip then either removes a snippet of dialogue or just gives you a few moments of silence to add your line.
You use your phone (or any device with an Internet connection) to write your “riff.” The game plays the scene back with your line dubbed in, and all players vote for their favorite(s). Points are added up, and it’s on to the next round. When all the rounds have been completed, the player with the most points wins.
That’s the same setup as What the Dub?!, but there are a few new twists here. The most notable, of course, is the inclusion of actual RiffTrax recordings. If you can’t come up with a good line, you can opt to use a RiffTrax team line. Even if all players write their own, one or more (depending upon the number of players) RiffTrax lines are added, depending upon your settings. These are easily identified because they have the actors’ voice (as opposed to the computer generated voice that reads the players’ lines), and because they’re consistently funny. Having done this since at least 1988, the professional Riffers certainly know what they’re doing. Also, they’re not facing a time limit and trying to type on an iPhone interface that for some reason doesn’t allow the use of the spacebar to move the cursor within the text.
You can turn the RiffTrax team off in the settings, but we never did. They were able to add some humor when the rest of us had run dry. More importantly, their riffs provide coaching, helping you get a feel for the type of jokes that do and don’t work.
Another new addition is the ability to vote for more than one riff. When we played with five live participants plus the RiffBot, we were able to vote for our three favorite riffs, with the first selection getting more points. This provides more fluid scoring that helps players stay competitive.
In our case, it also allowed my 10-year-old to get some votes. His habit of simply adding fart and “bruh” sound effects to every answer would otherwise push him out of the running after a couple rounds.
Online play is also a welcome feature in RiffTrax: The Game, including support for streamers and Twich voting. For those not interested in sharing their jokes with the world, up to six players can actively participate in local or online modes, with 12 more able to join in for voting purposes. Online mode allows you to connect to games with strangers or include just your friends via a private room. Speaking of which, the system for connecting still requires players to log onto a website with the provided room code, then use their separate device to enter their riffs and vote.’
This makes it easy for anyone to join, but it does get annoying when your phone goes dark and you have to unlock the screen, refresh the browser, and log back into the game to interact.
That’s the phone’s fault, of course. In looking at the game’s faults, I really have just three. First, there are only around 250 movie clips. That’s down from What the Dub’s 300, and isn’t enough to prevent you from quickly recognizing repeats. 100 more are coming soon, and hopefully the developers keep that up. Second, the sound effects input screen is buggy. There are too many to scroll through within the time limit, and scrolling would often freeze up on my iPhone. And finally, the RiffTrax: The Game’s formula never changes. You’ve got plenty of options to control the number of rounds and the length of time available to enter your riff and vote, to block crude language, etc., but the game itself remains the same throughout. Some kind of bonus round or just a You Don’t Know Jack style gameplay change-up would do wonders for RiffTrax’s long-term appeal.
I started this review off with the revelation that I’m not funny. I think what I meant to say is that I’m not consistently funny. Even with the RiffBots’ participation, there may be entire games where you and your funniest friends aren’t laughing much. However, there will be times when you completely nail a riff—when you know, “That one could’ve been on the actual show.” RiffTrax: The Game provides ample opportunity for laugh-out-loud bits, and enjoying those moments is the reason you’ll consistently return to this game.