Hi, welcome to Super Adventures. I'm Ray Hardgrit and I know absolutely nothing about the first Postal game. I've played a lot of Postal 2 and I've heard that Postal 3 is so bad that developer Running With Scissors basically disowned it (in fact it's so bad that they added the game box into Postal 2 and you get an achievement for pissing on it), but the original Postal remains a mystery to me. I'll soon fix that though.
(Fair warning: there's a good chance I'm going to end up calling the game 'Portal' instead of 'Postal', and it likely won't just be once, so try not to be confused if you catch me screwing up.)
It's a bit of a controversial game this one, and not just because it puts players in the position of a homicide lunatic carrying out acts of mass murder inspired by real life shooting incidents. In 1997 the United States Postal Service actually sued Running With Scissors over their use of the word 'postal' in the title. And lost.
I'd better start a new game quickly, before I fail at the control options screen too and end up with the mouse mapped backwards.
Alright, so this is the closest thing I've got to a story then:
"10/17/97 The earth is hungry. Its heart throbs and demands cleansing. The earth is also thirsty."Yep, that's the diary of a lunatic on his way to becoming serial killer alright, I've played DreamWeb so I know what they're like. There's no capitalisation on the word 'earth', so he's talking about the mud under his feet here, not global famine, and apparently the throbbing heart of soil can only be cleansed with a good meal and something to drink. This is something that he's been giving some real thought to for some reason.
Right then, objective 1: Buy fertiliser?
LEVEL 1: HOME.
That's me up there at the top by the house, using the mouse to spin around on the spot. The moving van makes me think he hasn't lived here long, but with all these police laying siege outside he might have actually stolen the thing to make a slow getaway. The bar on the top says Postal Dude has to kill 90% of hostiles, which apparently make up 84% of the town right now. Guess he's been pissing everyone off this evening.
So that's my situation then: Postal Dude is standing in his front yard, there's police about to storm the premises, and there's a spinning shotgun floating over on his top right. Whoa forget the siege for a second, I'm going around back to get my boomstick!
|Any shots without the HUD top and bottom of the screen like this have been cropped and zoomed in for the sake of your eyes.|
Alright, the first 2 cops are down, leaving 18 to go. I'll grab that health pickup above me and see if I can do anything about the police gathering around my front gate now.
Still, I've got 6 hit points left, so I'm still in the game. I just need to quit walking into explosions for a while until I find another one of those miraculous healing crates.
Fine, I'm coming back out, but I'm not taking my finger off the trigger until everyone on screen is dead or dying. Oh that's something I should mention: enemies often crawl around for a bit yelling stuff out after I've taken them down, and I can either leave them to their suffering or use an execution move to put them out of their misery. Fun times in Postal Town.
At least they caught one of their own in the blast, who was hiding behind the building completely out of sight. Though I get the feeling he was probably a civilian. Not that the game cares much one way or the other what I do to innocent bystanders. As long as I take out enough of the folks trying to kill me, it's a win. It's like the opposite of Lemmings.
I'm getting a nice collection of shotgun shells now, as I've stopped trying to switch weapons in combat. A limited ammo, high damage weapon doesn't suit my 'spray bullets everywhere, eventually hit something' aiming technique anyway. The rifle's more than capable of killing any variety of goon... just takes a bit longer.
I've hit 100% casualties now and I'm still here, trapped in this tiny scrolling illustration of a town, trying to figure out where I screwed up. Did the game crash? Am I supposed to be finding an exit? Oh, OH, I've figured it out!
LEVEL 2: THE TRUCKSTOP.
Actually it's cool that Running With Scissors can joke about stuff like this, but it would've been nice if they'd patched it maybe. It doesn't seem like the Steam version comes with a manual so it's not like I could've looked it up.
Anyway I'm on level two now and they've given me my full health back, so I don't see any reason not to save the game for later.
Well I can confirm that the second stage is very much the same as the first stage, except with more things blowing up perhaps.
This is also handy for taking enemies out at a distance, which is the safest way to play I reckon. In fact I try to kill them before they're even on screen if I can help it; spraying bullets into the emptiness ahead of me and listening out for screams. The starting rifle's got more range to it than you might expect.
LEVEL 4: PARADE OF DISASTERS.
You know, besides Postal Guy's (very) occasional one-liners and the dumb things the wounded come out with sometimes, this is the closest the game's come to comedy so far. I was expecting a bit of Grand Theft Auto 3 style satire, maybe a couple of jokey shop signs and billboards, but it's not even on GTA 1's level. Most of the humour comes out of how cartoony and distant the slaughter in the game is. Tiny brainless low polygon dudes panicking because I interrupted their scripted parade with bullets is just funny.
Check out that lighting by the way. If I stand next to a light source my whole character is lit up, even the side that should be in shadow.
LEVEL 5: THE BRIDGE.
Man, I can't believe I'm still taking damage from pistol goons like these guys. It's frustrating because with mouse and keys I should be able to dodge around their line of fire while holding my aim firmly in their direction, but the controls just aren't up to it. To strafe I have to hold down an extra key along with the turn left/turn right controls, and without a crosshair I'm aiming blind. It just seems unnecessarily awkward, as game developers should've known better by 1997. They've basically ripped off Wolfenstein 3D's controls for a game that came out a year after Quake.
Okay there's a rifle, shotgun, another shotgun, grenades... oh a rocket launcher! That seems cool, I'll go with that.
So that's Postal then: it's not really offensively bad, just offensive. Though on the other hand I'm not sure I'd ever want to play any more of it, as it's just too awkward for me to really enjoy. The description on Steam compares it to Robotron, but the problem with that is that Robotron has dual stick controls that let you steer in one direction as you're shooting in another, and Postal really doesn't. There's no reason at all that this couldn't have done the same thing, the developers just chose not to.
It's still kind of rare to find a game outside of the GTA series where you're unambiguously playing as the bad guy like this, but Hotline Miami jumps to mind as a game that pulls off a similar style of gameplay with far more grace and better controls, and without needing to rely on controversy to make up for mediocre content. Though on the other hand Hotline Miami doesn't have Postal Dude's voice actor, so neither game's perfect.
In conclusion: I can't really recommend the game, but you could get some fun out of it if you stick with long enough to get a handle on how it plays.