Review – The Wardrobe

Review – The Wardrobe
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Platforms:

Windows PC, Steam

Game Name:

The Wardrobe

Publisher(s):

Adventure Productions

Developer(s):

C.I.N.I.C. Games

Genre(s):

Adventure

Release Date:

February 15th, 2017

The Wardrobe from C.I.N.I.C. Games

Remember the classic comedy point-and-click adventures of yesteryear? Games like Day of the Tentacle and the Monkey Island series? The folks at Italian studio C.I.N.I.C. Games sure do, and they’re attempting to bring a similar sensibility to their debut offering, The Wardrobe.

The Wardrobe game screenshot, alley

Everything but Lions and Witches

The Wardrobe definitely manages to accomplish a similar tone to its influences. Its setting starts out seemingly prosaic – a family home – but immediately ventures into madcap everything-but-the-kitchen-sink humor territory.

In the first game location alone, for example, you’ll encounter a talking bear-skin rug with an unhealthy…attachment…to a rubber ducky. Then there’s your protagonist, Skinny. The name’s ironic, because he’s a skeleton. This might be a call-back to another classic adventure, Grim Fandango, though Skinny’s more of a wise-cracking teenager than put-upon working stiff Manny Calavera.

Not all of the humor lands. Due in part to the fact that the game is translated from Italian, a number of repeating motifs – like references to fruit – feel more like idiosyncrasies than laugh-out-loud jokes. But the constant random weirdness is charming, and the cleverly drawn backgrounds are a treat to the eye, packed with visual jokes and references to other games, cult movies, television shows and more.

The Wardrobe game screenshot, sewer

Stuck Gears and Broken Teeth

The main problem with The Wardrobe is that the random surrealistic elements extend to the puzzles, as well. More than just difficult for the sake of difficulty, they follow a logic of their own. Players used to asking “How would I solve this puzzle?” are forced to ask, “How would a comedy adventure game want me to solve this puzzle?”

As an example, one scene requires the player to wake a bum who is blocking an alleyway. In order to do this, repair a broken alarm clock by replacing its gears. To obtain the gears, help a giant crocodile with his toothache. To drill the crocodile’s tooth, create a drill bit by breaking off a bedpost and using a blowtorch to burn away the post itself, leaving the metal screw behind.

Apart from the fact that these events don’t flow together particularly well in terms of narrative logic, there’s no explanation for the fact that another, more obvious solution – using a megaphone obtained in a different puzzle – wouldn’t work equally well.

Some nostalgic players might enjoy a return to this kind of tortuous, illogical inventory puzzle. I think its overuse probably contributed to the decline of point-and-click adventure games in the first place.

The Wardrobe game screenshot, bedroom

A Skeleton of a Plot

The plot’s also a bit of a slow starter. Skinny’s mission is to help out his best friend Ronald – the only witness to Skinny’s death at a picnic – confess what he’s seen in order to save his eternal soul, but at least the first third or so of the game involves simply muddling around Ronald’s family home in the middle of moving day. The fact that Skinny himself is a fairly endearing character only goes so far, and the slow story development makes The Wardrobe a less engaging game than it could have been.

The biggest potential turn-off, though, is the obscurity of the inventory puzzles. Guided by absurdity and comedy rather than realistic logic, the solutions are convoluted verging on nonsensical. I had to spend more time combing through YouTube walk-throughs than actually playing the game itself. I much prefer the comparatively realistic approach to adventure games – like those Wadjet Eye Games has been publishing – in which the narrative itself drives the puzzles.

The Wardrobe is available via Steam.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Watch the official trailer for The Wardrobe below:

infinitywaltz

[Anaheim] infinitywaltz cut his teeth on Moon Patrol and Galaga. In addition to writing about video games, he has covered gothic and industrial music for the likes of Dark Culture, ReGen, StarVox and Grave Concerns.

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