If there’s anything more concerning than where we go when we die, it’s thinking about how we should live right up to that fateful moment. Going out in a blaze of glory does hold a certain appeal, and as a collection of the spectacularly terrible ways to go, Just Die Already really over achieves. But like your elderly avatar, the fun of this game has a pretty short life left ahead of it before it gets cranky and painful.
As one of four geriatric nursing home patients who abruptly decide that dying peacefully in a stuffy nursing home isn’t how they want to go out, you leave in search of a more glorious and violent end. Expect no real story or philosophical explanation of why you’ve come to this conclusion, though; Just Die Already assumes that you and up to three others in online co-op are in the mood for absolute havoc and doesn’t put much between you and that bloody prize.Wanton chaos is your driving force, and for anyone who loves a good ragdoll physics engine with emergent systems that can interact to create very hectic scenarios, like when you introduce electricity to anything involving water or other liquids. There’s plenty of unguided fun to be had, like when I chopped my way into a secret tunnel to find a weird recluse working on exploding squid technology, or a hidden dojo I found filled with furry suits.
That said, I found myself constantly referring to the Bucket List for my next goal, which included tasks that range from simple things like turning over trash cans or taunting locals, to more difficult objectives like trying to shoot hoops in spite of some finicky controls. Checking one off rewards you with points to buy new items and weapons like a Roman candle or a katana, who occasionally come with their own Bucket List challenges. The downside of the checklist spelling out every step for you is that you rarely stumble upon secret moments or events that stand out as funny or memorable completely unprompted. There’s no equivalent to the “Penis Shaped Foods Protest” or “Satanic Ritual” moments that made Goat Simulator so delightful here.The city you rampage through is separated into sections, all of which have well-realized themes and environmental quirks. You’ll easily be able to tell if you’re in the Zen Garden, which is guarded by killer monks, or the Docks that are marked by waterways filled to the brim with dangerous creatures. There are enough prominent landmarks in each location that learning to navigate the vast city just by sight is relatively easy. That’s helpful, since many of the Bucket List challenges are zone and even building specific. Character models for the NPCs are surprisingly varied, with folks wandering around town looking just as odd as you do. I particularly like how vibrant the color palette is, with the sharp blues and greens of water and grass really punctuating the cartoony art direction.
No matter what you’re doing, though, you’re given nagging reminders that Just Die Already’s gameplay is messy and simply not well put together. Is that intentional as part of the joke? Maybe, but it’s annoying. Aiming is frustratingly imprecise, hit detection is a crapshoot, and characters swing weapons and objects in inconsistent arcs. Trying to hit someone with a close-range weapon can be remarkably difficult, and getting into back-and-forth melee fights was almost always losing effort for me. Platforming is clunky, and interacting with objects doesn’t feel responsive. The wonky physics often impede what should be a straightforward object-placement puzzle in inexplicable ways. Just the simple act of playing can sometimes kill the mood before you even encounter a gag.
What causes Just Die Already to… well, just die, is that the overall humor feels hit or miss. Sure, many of the gags are funny, in the same way that watching someone trip and fall can be funny in the simplest sort of way – and here, they might trip and fall onto a spring-loaded manhole cover that launches them into power lines that fry them to a crisp. I guess that’s worth a chuckle the first time or two you see it. What completely fails to work are the objectives that ask you to gruesomely dismember random people for no reason – what’s the joke here, exactly? To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hyperviolence in games, it’s just that it’s not inherently funny on its own – you have to add some comedic context to it.
Just as many of these bits are just strange. Opening a bathroom stall and watching a naked man run out is awkward and maybe fits the overall energy of Just Die Already, but I can’t say there was ever a time when I actually laughed at it. The fact that you’re playing as elderly people is supposed to be its own joke as well as a lens through which all the other jokes seem that much more hilarious, but unless you find a Boomer simply being alive to be funny, this entire mechanism falls flat. But, as with all attempts at humor, your mileage may vary.