Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review: The Wardrobe [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As you may have been able to tell reading my reviews I’m a big fan of the classic point-and-click adventure genre, especially the classics made by the LucasArts team. Full of quirky characters, witty dialogue, and unusual situations they were full of fun. Of course sometimes funny solutions to problems involved pretty baffling logic and could prompt a need to get some help but typically the frustrations were outweighed by the enjoyment. Managing humor and fun with making logical sense is a difficult tightrope to walk, and the Switch has had games that have fallen all over the spectrum in this genre, but none has ended up feeling quite like The Wardrobe.

Modern, self-conscious, and full of more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at The Wardrobe is very much an adventure game made by people who are familiar with the genre for the sake of cracking some jokes at its expense. Pretty much everyone and everything you encounter is a bit weird, the artwork that defines your environments is rich with detail and references, and the solutions to problems involving your inventory can be positively bizarre. There’s simply no telling who or what you’ll run into next or what you’ll need to do to progress.

Unfortunately, that’s also the game’s glaring and massive Achilles heel. The genre is well-known for running aground when it comes to solutions to puzzles being logical, but here even the journey to understand what it is you’re looking to do is often an illogical mess. Not limited to being unsure what in your inventory you’ll need to combine to get a desired effect, much of the time you simply end up having no idea what the steps are that you’ll need to complete in order to accomplish your major tasks. You’ll simply see that there are people or things around that you can interact with that you’ll likely want to do something about but how, why, and how doing any of it fits into the puzzle is a mystery.

Oftentimes even when I’d accomplished a task I was rewarded with what then seemed to be another random thing to deal with, and again with little to no direction. A button to highlight everything in the environment you can interact with at least helps, but you’ll either need to break out a walkthrough or exhaustively try every action on everything in the environment while stumbling onto some of these “solutions”. Granted, the abundant humor and weird events along the way act as a reward for success and can help to motivate you to move forward but there’s no avoiding the fact that the puzzle design in the game is an absolute mess.

The value proposition for The Wardrobe leans heavily on how much frustration you’re willing to endure for the sake of the enjoyment of the ride. If you’re up for something fun and simply plan to hit a walkthrough when things get too obtuse (which will happen often) there’s certainly fun to be had. In addition, given the game’s price, the adventure takes a while to get through and has a lot of funny beats along the way. That said, not acknowledging how poorly the puzzles and flow of the game are designed would be a disservice, it’s sloppy at best and that makes recommending The Wardrobe a challenge.

Score: 6

  • Strange characters and situations
  • Pop culture and meta references aplenty

  • Probably the worst offender from the genre on the Switch in terms of nonsensical puzzle design
  • Solutions to problems aren’t the only thing that’s unclear, often the steps to move towards solving problems are also unclear
  • Likely will require use of a walkthrough more than once short of simply “trying everything” due to how unclear some puzzles are