The POSTAL series is one of the wackiest ones in the gaming industry. It’s also highly controversial and pushed the boundaries of what could be allowed in video games. The series is also one with an interesting history. Postal, the first game in the series, was very violent whereas the sequel Postal 2 was more controversial and off-the-hook rather than violent. Postal 3 was retconned and is mostly ignored or joked about by developers Running with Scissors and the newest game in the series, Postal 4 feels like it was a barebones unity project made by hardcore fans of the franchise rather than the developers who made the cult classic Postal 2. The magic that made Postal 2 just isn’t there anymore and its graphics are what made Postal 2 so unique and outrageous.
Most recently however, the Postal franchise was licensed to developers Hyperstrange to create a spin-off using the original games’ IP. And what we get is the most riveting plot of all time: The Postal Dude has brain damage. Yep. That’s how you know the game is going to be wild.
What makes Brain Damaged stand out from the rest of the games in the Postal series is that instead of an open-world adventure, it’s a boomer-shooter reminiscent of games like DOOM and Wolfenstein; and what do you know – it fits perfectly into the Postal world and the messed up mind of the Postal Dude.
Unlike Postal 4’s uncanny and offputting graphics, Brain Damaged employs a unique retro-looking design to most of its textures and world. There’s colourful and vibrant places with floating islands, or there’s dark and gloomy areas that you won’t question how the Postal Dude even got there in the first place.
For example, if you pick up a shovel – it looks like a mashup of technological bollocks and you can reflect gun bullets back at enemies with it; if you pick up a pistol, you can right click and you can get an aimbot that’ll make sure you never miss the enemy, sweet!
It’s not a Postal game without taking the piss out of contemporary events and times. Some, are much more extreme than others (which is pretty much on-par with the franchise) while some are welcome additions and mock things that people don’t like – such as COVID and Elon Musk. Enemies, levels, worlds and voice-lines all make reference to things that’ll recognise. Some of the enemies aren’t offensive but are just inappropriate while some teeter on that edge of offensive like Postal 2. These enemies don’t just appear in one level, either, they can return later in the game; and the variety of different enemies and abilities (alongside their unique designs) means there’s no shortage of unique encounters.
The humour is there, but it mostly takes a backseat to the amazing gameplay and level design that the game employs. There’s options to speedrun levels complete with leaderboards for each level and a percentage (out of 100) of how much of the level you’ve done – but it’s entirely optional. When I first played the game, I went through it casually as I normally would, before trying to speedrun the levels and get the best times possible. Of course you stand a much better chance of getting quicker runs on lower difficulties, but it’s a postal game, so the hardest difficulty is postal and it’s definitely hard.
In my opinion, the worst part of the game is that past the first chapter (“American Dream Gone Wrong”) levels seem to be too long and become a slug to play through, defeating the point of speedrunning through the levels. In my initial playthrough I wasn’t collecting everything either, and it still felt really long. The game LOOKS brilliant and the first chapter is very well designed, but the two chapter after have a noticable dip in quality – a shame because the first one was well-made.
There’s points in these later levels too that feel like they disrupt the speedrunning intentions of the developers, puzzles and sequences that need to be solved that halt the fast-paced nature that the game is meant to highlight. It’s a shame, because I loved going through the game as quickly as I could, but the puzzles being long and sometimes confusing, requiring actual thinking and looking around, in a game that pushes the idea of going fast, it seems against that whole concept.
It was unexpected to see the gameplay itself play so well as a boomer-shooter, it’s fluid, the inputs are quick, fast and there’s a large variety of unique and different weapons that stand-out from one another; outrageous enough to fit perfectly within the game world without seeming out of place. There’s a lot of freedom in how you use the weapons and that’s what makes it feel so good. Normally in games like these I’d just hang onto the most powerful weapon, but Brain Damaged gave me a reason to use the wheel of weapons that they have available which makes for a much more fun experience than most in the genre.
POSTAL: Brain Damaged is a fantastic spin-off that understands what makes the franchise so beloved whilst adding its own flavour through a change of genre, vastly different graphics and great gameplay. If you’re looking for something with the same crude humour as the original games, and you love DOOM-like games; Brain Damaged is a must buy.