I’d never heard of this point-and-click adventure game but it seems it was a Kickstarter project a while back. Looking at the credits, now I’ve finished it, there are a number of high profile backers and a fair few people I know or follow on Twitter, so I’m surprised I’d not seen it mentioned before now. Anyway, the lovely @IndieGamerChick gave me a copy via her IndieSelect initiative earlier in the week so here’s my Contactually Obliged Comments. I mean, I would have talked about it anyway because that’s the point of this blog but there you go.
First off, before I even get into the game properly, I want to get some negative stuff out of the way. I’ve already had most of these comments picked up on by the devs and there’s a patch coming soon (and a workaround available now) to fix the main one, so I’m not going to dwell on most of them. The main problem is a game-breaking bug where you’re unable to move. I’m assuming it’s intermittent, or caused only by a specific but unnecessary sequence of events because otherwise there’s no way this would have passed testing.
A second issue isn’t so serious but jarred. All the dialogue is spoken, but the quality of the voice acting isn’t… well, it’s not great for some of the time. I can see from the credits it’s probably because they’re not voice actors, but the main issue is that lines of dialogue that follow each other were clearly not always recorded together, so the flow from sentence to sentence feels off. That said, well done for the range of accents from the prim to the silly. Also on the voices – there’s a lot of chat. Sometimes, too much. It doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem nearer the end of the game but I don’t know if that’s because it was cut back or I just got used to it.
Finally, the graphics and animation. There’s something a bit “Flash game” about the sprites and how they move and scale, and it just doesn’t work for me.
Problems over, what is good about The Mystery of Woolley Mountain will partly depend on whether or not you were a geeky kid in the UK in the 1980s. There are references to films, TV and – of course – games from that era coming out of your ears. Some feel a little forced (Roland Ropeman listing all his collectables, for example) but many are incidental (like the Jamie and his Magic Torch poster, or The Adventure Game area). You don’t need to “get” these references to complete, or even enjoy, the game, but if you do it adds a lot to the experience.
As a point-and-click game the quality of the puzzles make or break it. Some games suffer from having too many obscure solutions where items are used in such an abstract way you wonder how you were supposed to figure it out at all, and descend into “use everything on everything” just to progress. That, thankfully, doesn’t happen much here, with plenty of hints or nudges in the right direction. The few times it does come up, it’s helped by being able to press a button to highlight which items on the screen are interact-able – it’s harder to miss items that you might consider just part of the scenery that way. The puzzles themselves are pretty varied, with some requiring you to combine items, some requiring you to work out letter or colour combinations, and others where you have to find specific items for characters.
I would go into the plot but it’s not really necessary to tell you more than it’s about a bunch of odd chaps on a submarine who have to rescue one of their own, and a load of kids, from a witch. There’s a robot, time travel, monsters, a pub and a horde of strange characters with puzzle-exploitable foibles to interact with along the way.
The Mystery of Woolley Mountain is not the best game in the genre you will play, and it’s very rough edged and quirky – and not always in the good way. But it’s funny, it’s not too difficult, and it’s well worth a few quid especially if you’re a fan of this sort of game. Especially if you too were a Spectrum owning 80s geek.