30 years ago, the world of video games was completely different. Nowadays, we’re treated to hundreds of new video games released each year, with budgets sometimes exceeding the biggest blockbuster films out there. However, in the 90s, home entertainment was a beast of its own and in particular, narrative driven games. Teams like Naughty Dog now have the technology to create worlds like The Last of Us and Uncharted, offering visuals that feel on par with what you’d get on a trip to the cinema but it wasn’t always like that. 

That’s where the world of FMV games come into play, also known as interactive movies, FMV games comprise of live action footage with the ability for the player to interact and change the outcome of whatever narrative is on offer. Some of the most notorious FMV games include Night Trap, a game so controversial that it’s responsible for video games having age ratings and Psychic Detective, but the game that I had the pleasure (?) of playing is perhaps the most notorious, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties. 

For those unaware, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties has quite the reputation, hailed frequently as one of the worst video games ever made and has become a joke for all involved. I’ll get into why shortly, but that begs the question: why am I reviewing a 30 year old game that nobody likes? Well, that’s where the team over at Limited Run Games comes in. You see, LRG aim to preserve video games of all quality, whether it’s a recent game that was digital-only or something that has been out of circulation for years, the team aims to preserve these games for future generations to come and previously have done so with the aforementioned Night Trap many years ago. So when the chance came for the team to give similar treatment to Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties, they jumped at the opportunity. 

Released on the 5th of March 2024, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties: Definitive Edition is more than your average port. Similar to the recent Atari 50: The Anniversary Collection, this release also houses supplemental material similar to what you’d get on a boutique Blu-ray for a cult film, with extras such as video content, the original screenplay, a model viewer showcasing the cover art and other release materials, unused and deleted scenes and more to truly create the all-in-one stop for your Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties desires. 

Across 23 unlockable videos, there’s close to three hours of content for fans of the game to dive into, including trailers, audio commentaries, interviews with game historians such as Jeremy Parish, Jared Petty, Kelsey Lewin or internet content creators such as James Rolfe (Angry Video Game Nerd) or Cecil Trachenburg (GoodBadFlicks) discussing the legacy of the game, in new and archival material. There’s more bonus content included in this package than most studio Blu-ray releases, so you get a lot of bang for your buck here! Also included is a new game mode, entitled ‘Plumb the Depths’, which is where you’ll be unlocking the previously mentioned videos and more. 

All of this sounds great, but you might be asking “What about the game itself? Is it really as bad as people say? Does this release improve it in any ways?” and the answers to those questions are pretty simple. First of all, the game is (and I’m saying this in the kindest way possible) atrocious on almost every conceivable level, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a terrible experience. Quite the opposite, I found myself perplexed on almost every occasion of the 45 minute runtime of this ‘interactive game.’ You see, where a typical FMV game would house footage for each sequence, with Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties, what you’re experiencing is more akin to a PowerPoint presentation than a real film. Static images appear on screen as music or dialogue is heard, and it leads to one of the most awkward and stiff experiences I’ve ever encountered with a piece of media. Every ‘performance’ in the game feels straight out of a bad porno flick, with lead actors Edward J. Foster and Jeanne Basone re-inventing the phrase ‘wooden acting’ with their work here. While the runtime for this game is pretty short, the places that the narrative goes gives you a good chunk of additional ‘scenes’ to experience if you pick the wrong answer. Speaking of picking answers, that’s the extent of the interactive portion of this video game. At certain points, you’ll be presented with a screen offering two or three options for you to pick from, which will lead to different outcomes. Some will offer a game over, some will offer an utterly bizarre ending, but one path will lead you to the true ending. 

The narrative of the game is pretty barebones too, as we follow John and Jane, both adults who live at home with their parents, who constantly nag them to find a partner. Thanks to the actions of you, the player, both John and Jane may find true love out there waiting for them. Well, that’s after you handle the creepy bosses, dual narrators and more in this gonzo adventure, of sorts.

While I can echo complaints that Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties is probably one of the worst video games I’ve played in my 26 years on this Earth, I’d be lying if I said I had a bad time with it. At one point early on, the game lingers on this picture of a dog that caught me off-guard and resulted in me screaming with laughter. The aforementioned performances are so poor that they come back around in a “so-bad-its-good” way that makes the entire experience a blast to sit through.

For achievement or trophy hunters, LRG have provided a list that’s simple to complete and mostly requires completing the game, unlocking the bonus videos and a few other miscellaneous ones that I won’t spoil. It’s a fun list and I grabbed the Platinum over the course of a few hours. 

Before you press play on the game, you’re presented with one of the unlockable videos immediately entitled ‘But Why? Why Bring Back Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties?’ which includes interviews from the developers of this port, as well as video game historians and other figures explaining why a release of Plumbers is important, even if the game itself isn’t particularly good. It’s one of the best inclusions on any release I’ve covered in quite some time because it echoes a sentiment that I wish more people had. Preservation is important. Whether it’s a shot-on-video film released by one of Vinegar Syndrome’s partners labels or one of the worst video games of all time, being able to physically own a game like this that could have very well been lost to time is something we shouldn’t just take for granted. With how common it’s becoming for films to be removed from streaming services, video games being pulled from digital storefronts due to licensing issues, these games fade away and become harder and harder to get your hands on. With a game like Plumbers, it’s even trickier because it was released on hardware that’s hard to get access to nowadays like the 3DO. 

Thankfully, the game is available for all to experience now, whether you’re playing on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox or PC (at a later date), everybody can now play the “worst video game of all time” in its (sort-of) high definition glory. I’m not going to attempt to argue that Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties is an underappreciated masterpiece and you should go into it knowing what you’re in for. It’s a short, bad game that’s been given the five star treatment from the team over at Limited Run Games in the same way that Arrow Video restores films like Microwave Massacre and includes commentaries and making-of documentaries on their releases. 

Was this a necessary remaster? My initial thoughts would have been “Absolutely” but given the clear hard work and passion put into this release from all involved, I think the world is a slightly better place now that we have this video game available for all to enjoy. Well, enjoy as much as you can given the quality of the game. I’d argue that what the team over at Limited Run Games put together for Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties exceeds most remasters we see nowadays, with little more than improved performance and other minor tweaks. You’re getting both a copy of the game and a bevy of content that justifies the price tag alone. You get more value here than you would paying £25 to upgrade Ghost of Tsushima to the PS5’s ‘Director’s Cut’, just saying… although the quality of the actual game may not be to the same standards. 

As long as you’re aware of what you’re in for, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties: Definitive Edition is a blast from the past that surprised me with how entertaining it was, despite being flawed in practically every imaginable way. Limited Run Games has given this title its definitive release, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that it is indeed, a video game.

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Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties: Definitive Edition is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch now. A PC release is planned to release later in 2024. 

A review copy was provided by Limited Run Games for the PlayStation 5 version of the game.

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties: Definitive Edition - Limited Run Games
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