My love for all things MST3K then Rifftrax goes all the way back. I’ve seen Pumaman (or Pyuma man, if Donald Pleasence has anything to say about it) fly like a moron, I’ve seen the horribly hilarious movie Manos: The Hands of Fate (Hi Torgo!), my family and I watch Just the Jokes version of the whole Harry Potter series every year, and movies like Birdemic (“slrrrpanels”) and Road House (take your pick of Nelson’s original solo, or the new 3-Riffers edition, they’re both awesome!) had periodic playtime in our household. Heck, even the Twilight drek is almost watchable with the combined powers of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. With cameos from giants like Neil Patrick Harris, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and many more, Rifftrax is the cinematic comfort food that got me through the pandemic. Well that got me this far, now I have Rifftrax: The Game to take us through the crummy sequel. Let’s fire up the Nestor-powered sleigh and embark on a world where Ben Affleck (just a speck) is both Daredevil and Batman. Oh humanity…
If you watched the trailer above and immediately thought of What the Dub?!, then you have a good idea of what to expect with Rifftrax: The Game as it’s the spiritual successor. I can say that because the developer of both games, Wide Right Games, says it’s, then hush. If you haven’t played either, here’s a crash course on your way to becoming a professional riffer. Much like You Don’t Know Jack or similar games, one person will host and stream to any sharing service (e.g. Twitch, Discord, etc.) and the others will join that host on a webpage (rifftrax. game) with a four character code. At this point, the host will choose either Pick a Riff or Write a Riff (more on those in a moment). Then that person will select game settings, such as how many rounds they will play, input or vote time, and even the option to enable ranked voting. At this point, everyone takes a stiff drink of something preferably alcoholic and prepares for some of the worst movies imaginable.
Players will see a short clip (with subtitles, thanks!) and then be prompted to insert their own riff. The track will then replay, inserting one of the player’s riffs. The track repeats, the next riff plays, and so on until all riffs have been seen. At this point, everyone will vote for their favorite, and the score will then be tallied. The next round kicks off with a brand new music video, new riffs, and the game continues until the end of the final round when a winner is declared.
The main problem with a title like Rifftrax: The Game, and those like it, is that it depends on a bigger party to get the most enjoyment out of it. Simply put, despite what’s on the virtual box, it’s unplayable for two. Players 1 and 2 will choose their riffs, and they will be read aloud by the fairly good automated voice, then one of the three official Rifftrax team members will read the third option, thus invalidating it. Although it may be funny, you know it was not chosen by the players. It’s a bummer because the alternative is one where you don’t get the official talent delivering the lines like the professional riffers they are. Expanding the squad to three makes the game more competitive, but you’ll really need four to six to reach its full potential.
Before starting a game, you will choose between Pick a Riff and Write a Riff. Pick a Riff presents a list of possible riffs that you can use to match the situation. As such, it’s largely subject to getting good answers to use. Kind of like Cards Against Humanity – the fun is kind of the luck of the draw, and you can only redraw once. In Write a Riff, you’ll type your own riffs to try and do something funny. You’ll hear the storyline I mentioned above again, with one of the Big Three reading his own joke from those submitted by players. Unless you’re drunk, you don’t pick the one the team reads because it’s obviously not correct, no matter how appropriate or funny it is. Still, the Write a Riff option is the superior option because it allows you to make your best answer. It’s also where you’ll find the Venn diagram between your friends who think they’re funny and those who actually are.
Listen, I don’t know what the team of Coronet Films and Safety Instruction Films, two now defunct safety video companies, did to get the attention of the Rifftrax team, but wow will you see a lot of their slightly offbeat, often inappropriate films. Highlights include Kodachrome-colored garbage like “Build your Vocabulary”, “Shake Hands with Danger” (yes, he just took the key and then returned it for no reason), and much worse. You’ll also get movies like “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (yes, that’s John Travolta), “The Last Shark” and “Robo Vampire.” All of these elements are beyond horror, making them perfect for riffing. Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions and the raised eyebrows of an evil army of lawyers, you won’t get any of the Just the Riffs movies. This isn’t the fault of the developers or the Rifftrax team, it means you won’t be able to write your own riffs for Harry Potter, Wonder Woman 1984 (which is fine – this movie riffs itself) or Face /Off. What you’ll see are over 2,000 clips across a wide variety of movies, with the first free content drop in the first patch adding more drek like “Planet of Dinosaurs”, “Beaks!”, “Giant from the Unknown”, and “The Wonderful Land of Oz”, and if you haven’t seen the latter, I’m going to recommend you watch it during the day – it’s a horror movie, let it be or not.
I mentioned that the game integrates with Twitch, and it does so via Twitch Chat voting for up to 12 “audience members”. This aforementioned patch also offers a host of new moderation and content control tools to help keep the bad guys out of your PG-13 riffing fun. This brings me to the custom riff options.
If you’re inclined and you (of course) own the rights to whatever you’re about to include in your game, you can add your own custom .mp4 clips to your game. This works well if you’re streaming to Twitch because everyone can view the clips remotely, meaning they don’t need to have a copy of said .mp4 themselves. You’ll also need to adjust the caption options (they’re plain text, so it’s not difficult) in order to present them properly, but that means you could possibly display All that you want. I’m not about to go against said lawyers, but you’re free to do whatever you want – just be sure to invite me over. I think I’m funny, but I’ll let you judge for yourself in our gameplay video above.
The game ships for Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC, and supports cross-platform play right out of the box. It also has an introductory price of just $9.99, which honestly seems fair. While I can’t say I like the Pick a Riff option, the Write a Riff mode could make for a hilarious party game. If you and your friends are the kind of people who like to tear through the effortless trash that Hollywood keeps pumping out, then this game is for you.
Rifftrax: The Game is a fantastic way to get your funny friends together to riff on sadly bad movies. With over 2000 moan-worthy tunes, and more on the way, this should make for some seriously fun times at your next party. Just get ready to type because Write a Riff is the best way to play.
Ron Burke is the editor of Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, TX, Ron is an old school gamer who loves CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games and recently got into tabletop games. Ron is also a fourth-degree black belt, with a master’s rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also ranks in several other styles in his search for an all-around fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trends Editor Laura Burke for 21 years. They have three dogs – Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).