The Wardrobe is a point and click puzzle game developed C.I.N.I.C Games that attempts to imitate some of the genre’s most illustrious titles. I have a somewhat mixed relationship with point and click titles. I applaud the creativity and art design displayed by some of the best examples of the genre, but I often find that the puzzle elements - the very thing these games are built around - to be contrived and often incoherent.
The story starts with best friends Skinny and Ronald eating food together at a picnic. Skinny eats a plum offered to him by Ronald, not knowing that he is allergic to the fruit; so allergic in fact that he goes into anaphylactic shock and dies. Right from the off, the tone of the game is set, as Skinny is reborn as a skeleton. Skinny must then find Ronald - who has not spoken since the incident - and tell him it wasn't his fault. The writing is simple, but it’s compelling enough that you want to progress the narrative in order to reunite the two pals.
The gameplay focuses around environment exploration and interaction. Players must find and combine the correct items around the world, in order to progress to the next area. Solving the puzzles is sometimes the result of a logical conclusion being drawn, the rest of the time is pot luck. It’s incredibly frustrating at times and can lead players to searching out walkthroughs rather than guides. I found myself stuck on several occasions; rather than getting incredibly irate, I found it easier to just search for guides on the internet.
One of the titles strongest aspects is its art design. Each area of the game looks hand drawn, giving it a really personal feel. Unfortunately, the animations don’t look quite as crisp, something that is even more obvious during the unusually choppy cutscenes. Characters are well designed - each one feels unique and well drawn; yet their voice acting is usually less impressive. The voice acting in general feels of a lower quality than the rest of the title, something that can be blamed on the quality of the equipment being used to capture the performances, along with some of the performances themselves. It never detracts from the game enough to result in a poor experience, but it did leave me feeling like the developers could have done a better job.
Humour is a funny thing in video games. If it is done correctly it can make for a memorable experience, but when taken to an extreme it can come across as immature and juvenile - The Wardrobe is the latter. Much of the humour can be boiled down to potty humour and constant meta-jokes. The game constantly loves to reminds you that it is indeed a videogame; the main character Skinny will regularly break the 4th wall addressing the player. While this might have been comical on one or two occasions, it’s prevalent throughout the entire story. Had the developers not constantly relied on immature humour, the story could have been a really heartfelt story about friendship.
To fit in with the meta-jokes prevalent throughout the game, the developers have also filled every bit of space in the game with pop-culture references. Each bit of the world is filled with other videogames, movies and even music. The extent to which the developers have gone with this is almost admirable, and while it can be fun in a “Where’s Wally” kind of way to spot them all, it often serves as a distraction more than anything else. In places, the references verge on straight copyright infringement, something I’m surprised has made it into the full release.
Considering the emotional peak of the story was supposed to be Skinny reuniting with his grieving best friend, the ending honestly left me feeling rather disappointed. After a few lines of dialogue, the game just kind of ends and that’s it. The journey did not justify the ending at all, and it made what were very relatable motivations feel wasted and rather flat.
The Wardrobe is not the worst point and click game I’ve ever played, but it does fall short compared to the likes of The Secret of Monkey Island series or even Grim Fandango. A reliance on meta-jokes and pop-culture references, alongside irrational puzzle design leave this point and click adventure falling short of its true potential. Fans of the genre will likely find enjoyment here though, if only due to the obvious inspirations behind the game.
The Wardrobe (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
A reliance on meta-jokes and pop-culture references, alongside irrational puzzle design leave this point and click adventure falling short of its true potential. Fans of the genre will likely find enjoyment here though, if only due to the obvious inspirations behind the game.