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Throwback Thursday – Daria’s Inferno

Throwback Thursday - Daria's Inferno

Throwback Thursday – Daria’s Inferno

Add this to the list of adventure games that no one will ever play: Simon & Schuster’s latest release, Daria’s Inferno. Poorly marketed and virtually unheard of by adventure gamers, Daria’s Inferno is based on MTV’s hit television series, Daria. While it is far from a classic, still it deserves a better fate than anonymity.


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Note: This review was originally published December 18, 2000

Add this to the list of adventure games that no one will ever play: Simon & Schuster’s latest release, Daria’s Inferno. Poorly marketed and virtually unheard of by adventure gamers, Daria’s Inferno is based on MTV’s hit television series, Daria. While it is far from a classic, still it deserves a better fate than anonymity.

MTV’s Daria is a spin-off from those modern icons of popular culture and intellectual representatives of today’s youth, Beavis and Butt-head. Daria Morgendorffer, though, is the academic antithesis of our brain-addled friends. Unlike Beavis and Butt-head, who we laughed at, her misanthropic outlook is meant to elicit snickers as we wink knowingly at her droll observations. To be honest, and maybe it does have something to do with my age, I just did not find her or this game very funny. On the other hand, my ten-year-old son Jacob found Daria’s musings hysterical, and I suspect he is more the audience that Simon & Schuster is aiming to impress.

Daria’s Inferno contains all of the characters and original voices from the television series and is a first-class production. As Daria sits in Mr. O’Neill’s class listening to a recitation of that timeless classic, Dante’s Inferno, Principal Li interrupts announcing the felonious theft of the Five Crucial Instruments of Institutional Education–a #2 pencil, a Winnie the Pooh book, a hall pass, a disciplinarian award, and Daria’s younger sister Quinn. Retribution is threatened unless the thief returns the five objects by the end of the school day. Daria soon nods off in class and awakes to find herself in her own nightmare version of Dante’s Inferno. Her minimally animated adventure will now require you to visit the five circles of teenage hell–high school, the fashion mall, Degas Street (sort of a preppie hangout), your parent’s home, and the principal’s office.

The game is a throwback to the animated 2D games of the past. If you have played Beavis and Butt-head Do U or the classic Virtual Stupidity, then you will be able to jump right into the fray of Mike Judge’s animation. The humor this time is more cutting-edge and based on Daria’s insufferable observations of everything in her life. Eventually, though, her sarcasm wears thin. Is there nothing this girl likes? She ridicules cheerleaders, school, jocks, shopping malls, models, siblings, parents, and on and on and on.

The interface is traditional point-and-click. Daria can retrieve objects that can then be placed in her inventory and later used to solve puzzles. The majority of the puzzles are beginner level, and in fact I completed the entire game in two evenings. Once an area has been completed, it can later be revisited to search for any inventory items that may have been missed. One really helpful highlight for those who are stumped is a feature called “Sick, Sad World.” These are short, humorous commercials that are really clues as to what to do in certain areas, and they are well-done and funny. Daria’s movement can be controlled with either the mouse or keyboard, and I highly recommend the keyboard as Daria will come to a complete stop when she reaches the spot where you clicked the mouse. Normally this would not be a problem in an adventure game, but in an attempt to lengthen the gameplay, the developers have included on every level wandering obstacles. Basically, these obstacles are people who are indigenous to the area–for example, in the school halls there are wandering students–when Daria bumps into them, it raises her irritation meter. When the irritation meter is off the screen, then Daria is transported back to the beginning of the level.

Actually, this is not as bad as it sounds since you can then start again from the screen you just left. Even the wandering obstacles can be stopped if Daria clicks the correct inventory item on them, e.g., a whistle stops the football players and a portable cell phone will stop Daria’s mother. Any experienced adventurer will find this an extremely annoying game feature, but as we will now discover, different strokes for different folks.

To be honest, I was prepared to slam this game. It is short, it is not funny, the puzzles are too easy, the game length is artificially padded, and the final level is so quick it is almost as though the developers ran out of ideas. Then something funny happened. I clicked the Daria icon on my desktop so that I could load my saved game to grab some screenshots and I noticed that besides my save, there were now three others. Besides Jacob, who had started a game of his own, my 13-year old son Jonathan also had a save, and my oldest son’s 16-year old girlfriend Dana was about halfway through the game. Later that night, I watched as Jonathan and Jacob played Daria. They were laughing and enjoying every second of the game, and finally it dawned on me–this game was not released for me, it was made for the MTV Generation. As an unexpected side bonus, they were having a positive experience playing an adventure game and solving puzzles. They didn’t care that it was too easy because they were thrilled every time another puzzle was solved.

Bottom line: if you are over the age of 25, then don’t bother with Daria’s Inferno, chances are it is not your cup of tea. If you are under the age of 25 and are already a fan of the show, then the low retail price of $21.99 is an added inducement to purchase the game. And whether you are a youngster playing the game or a baby boomer watching a youngster playing the game, you are guaranteed a good time. I still wish, though, that there was a better marketing campaign for the game.

Final Grade: C+


Randy Sluganski

Randy Sluganski

Randy Sluganski was a true adventure gamer and his passion for these games made him just as important as the developers and publishers of these games. Randy passed away after battling lung cancer for over 10 years. Randy can never be replaced but we would like to light a torch in his memory for what he did for us with his love of adventure gaming.We dedicate this site to the Memory of Randy Sluganski and his love for adventure games.

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