Any review of Prank TV (also known as Hellraisers) must start with a discussion of Neighbors from Hell. Sorry, that’s just what the reviewer’s handbook states. I don’t have any choice. Anyway, Neighbors from Hell (released in 2003) was sort of a cute puzzle game where your goal was to torment your neighbor by hiding in his apartment and playing tricks on him. It was a pretty short and easy game if you just wanted to get through it, but if you also wanted to achieve a perfect score during each episode, then thought and ingenuity were required, and I enjoyed the game more than most.
Neighbors from Hell spawned two sequels, neither of which I played (one of them wasn’t even released in North America), and now Russian developer Jam-Games.NET has created their own entry into the genre, Prank TV. The premise behind Prank TV is about the same as in Neighbors from Hell. You don’t like your neighbors, and so you decide to play some tricks on them. The difference here is that instead of controlling one character, you have a family of misfits ready to jump into action, and instead of all events taking place in a single apartment, the missions occur all over the neighborhood, including the local bar, casino and gym.
The tricks in Prank TV are of the cartoon variety, and they usually involve the victim suffering bodily harm. For example, during the mission in the beauty salon, you can replace the hand lotion with hot coffee, causing the beautician to get burned rather than massaged. And in the gym, you can tinker with the treadmill so the jock gets slammed into a wall. Sometimes the tricks are funny to watch, but usually they’re just kind of sad, and sometimes they don’t make any sense at all, like when you stick a fork into a slot machine, which somehow causes it to fall over on the croupier when he tries to play it.
During each mission you control a single character, either Mom, Dad, Granny, or the Son. The characters aren’t any different, which seems like a waste (maybe Granny should be able to do something special with her cane, or maybe the Son should be able to fit into smaller places or something), and your goal in each mission is to play a certain number of tricks on your current victim. To play a trick, you have to search the 3-5 room mission area for some inventory objects, and then use the objects in the right places. As an example, for the coffee trick in the beauty salon, you have to pick up a coin from a purse, then use the coin in a coffee vending machine, and then place the coffee on the massage table.
Complicating matters is the victim. If the victim spots you, then he (or she) beats you up, and you lose a life. You get three lives for each mission, but usually they aren’t needed. Prank TV isn’t exactly Commandos or anything, and hiding from the victims doesn’t take much in the way of skill, only patience. However, if you do get beat up three times, then you simply have to start the mission over, which isn’t much of a penalty since the only challenge to the game is finding the objects and prank locations, not carrying them out.
Like I said in the introduction, I liked Neighbors from Hell, partially at least because it was novel. Prank TV is basically a bargain clone of that bargain game, and it’s as bad as that description makes it sound. There isn’t any real challenge to the game, the tricks aren’t all that funny, and you can probably blow through the included 11 missions in about five hours. Neighbors from Hell rated your performance in each episode, with linked tricks scoring you bonus points, but Prank TV doesn’t even try to do anything like that, and so once you’ve completed a mission, there isn’t any reason to go back, and so there isn’t any replay value to the game. But what am I saying? Replay value? There isn’t any first-time value to the game, either.