Revisiting Beavis and Butt-head’s forgotten point-and-click adventure

Created by Mike Judge, Beavis and Butt-head is an animated sitcom that originally aired on MTV from 1993 to 1997. It stars a pair of idiotic, immoral, heavy metal-loving teenagers who spend their days watching music videos, flipping burgers, and terrorising their suburban hometown of Highland, Texas. The violence, childish humour, and nihilistic tone drew a lot of criticism at the time—mostly from people it wasn’t aimed at—but that didn’t stop the pair from becoming unlikely icons of ‘90s pop culture.

Like anything vaguely subversive, Beavis and Butt-head were blamed for a number of real-world crimes, forcing MTV to bury them in a late night time slot. But this controversy only inspired more people to watch it, and its popularity continued to grow. This resulted in a movie, a merchandise empire, and a number of Beavis and Butt-head videogames. Among these are Bunghole in One, a crazy golf simulator, and Little Thingies, a collection of minigames. But the best is undoubtedly Virtual Stupidity, a point-and-click adventure released in August 1995, just as the show was entering its sixth season.

Beavis and Butt-head’s famous lack of ambition is reflected in the game’s story. They’re on a quest simply to become cool, and they think joining local criminal Todd’s gang will help them achieve this. “From Highland High to Burger World, help the boys avoid things that suck, find things that rule, and be sure to stop along the way to break something,” reads the game’s manual. “This is gonna be cool.” There’s something compelling about how little is at stake in Virtual Stupidity. Adventure game heroes usually get tangled up in a conspiracy or find themselves on a desperate mission to save the world, but Beavis and Butt-head are utterly self-serving and narrow-minded.

Mike Judge provides the voices of Beavis and Butt-head—and supporting characters including Van Driessen and Tom Anderson—but the dialogue was actually written by Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil. They worked on the show with Judge, though, so it feels authentic, and is every bit as puerile as you might expect. There’s an enormous amount of dialogue in the game, and almost everything you look at or interact with is rewarded with a bespoke line. It’s funny, but only if you find Beavis and Butt-head funny. If their sniggering cynicism and toilet humour leave you cold, you won’t get much out of it. The interface uses a Full Throttle-style verb coin, and there are more points of interaction than a lot of adventure games from the era.

As for the puzzles, they’re what you might expect from a mid-’90s adventure game. A lot of item combination and logic leaps. Nothing on the level of a LucasArts game to be fair, but there is some annoying pixel-hunting. There’s a piece of gum stuck to a water fountain in the school you need for a later puzzle, and I can’t imagine anyone finding without a guide. You can barely see the damn thing. But, really, Virtual Stupidity is a game you play to hang out with Beavis and Butt-head and laugh at their daft jokes, not crack satisfying puzzles. And anyway, you're playing as a pair of certified idiots. It wouldn't feel right if they were suddenly problem-solving geniuses.

If you feel like spending some time with Beavis and Butt-head yourself, ScummVM now supports the game. This means it’ll run on pretty much any PC with minimal fuss. There are better point-and-click adventures out there, but you might be surprised by how good this one is, despite being a TV spin-off. And if you were a fan of the show back in the day, you’ll get an extra kick out of it. Almost 25 years later, and despite being (at least in theory) a mature adult, I still think these losers are funny as hell. And I’m glad, thanks to the likes of ScummVM, fascinating old games like this aren’t lost in the mists of time and can be enjoyed decades later on modern machines.

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