In September 1977, Nasa launched the two Voyager spacecraft. The unmanned crafts' primary mission was to photograph the gas giants on the outer reaches of our solar system, but once there they would never return to Earth, and instead drift deep into interstellar space. Each one carried a 'Golden Record' (actually a gold-plated copper disk) packed with a selection of messages and sounds which, if ever discovered by intelligent life, could act as an introduction to the human race, from traditional linguistic greetings to Beethoven and Chuck Berry.
Drink More Glurp borrows the idea of this cosmic message in a bottle, only to ask the question: ‘what if it was the Superbowl, not the Golden Record, that was humanity’s first message to the stars?’ On a distant world aliens have discovered the existence of the human race via the medium of America's biggest sporting event, but have somewhat misinterpreted the importance of the ad breaks, and put the companies involved front and centre of their version.
As a result, these alien takes things like the high jump, javelin, and 100m sprint are all further adapted through the addition of in-game sponsorship: the tutorial is vanilla, but after that you'll be randomly assigned a sponsor for each event. The titular Glurp (a tasteless but highly marketable soft drink) is the big name behind proceedings, but plenty of other companies are looking for their moment in the spotlight and each one's products has an impact for competitors.
One company is a helium provider, for example, and so receiving its largesse means contestants take on an event while dangling from a balloon. Another, specialising in the questionable field of budget bear traps, removes one of your limbs from the equation. Steroid producers will make your unwieldy arms even clumsier and bulkier than they already were, while ‘Lard Sticks’ transform your already rotund form into a squishy and unmanageable blob.
In spite (or perhaps because) of these fairly significant hurdles, events are relatively simple. Some would be less out of place on an episode of Total Wipeout than at the Summer Olympics, but success still comes down to who can go furthest, fastest, or highest. Sounds simple except that your characters’ limbs, even when both are firmly in place, can be pretty difficult to control. For certain events it’s easiest to just spin wildly, windmilling madly from one end of the track to another, but many events require a more delicate touch, one for which your arms-slash-legs aren’t particularly well equipped.
The resulting experience is a game that borrows from the hyper-specific and deliberately frustrating limb movements of games like QWOP and Mount Your Friends, but within a mini game-filled atmosphere that's more akin to Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. As you swap between events and sponsors, any prestige you might have gained on a previous attempt is rendered useless: all that long jump practice doesn’t mean jack if your limbs have just been cuffed together by a corporation trying to get the word out.
Which all makes Drink More Glurp hilarious. The second you think you’ve got to grips with an event, it’ll be subverted with a new challenge, while at other times the stars will align and you’ll blow the competition out of the water. In one javelin-style event, I spun my creature’s arms so fast that it managed to defy gravity for a few seconds, before launching the payload forward in a perfect arc that surely set some sort of cosmic record. Of course, it could just as likely have gone backwards.
Simple concepts matched with a constantly changing rulebook make this an outstanding party game. Winning is great, of course, but the stakes are low enough that you can quickly learn to laugh at even the most embarrassing mishap, and each event can be picked up quickly enough that failures don’t really matter anyway. Following in the footsteps of games like What the Golf? and Behold the Kickmen in embracing simplicity and silliness, Drink More Glurp shows you can make a fantastic sports game with only the most cursory nod to the sports themselves.