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This Contains Spoilers!!!
You have been warned.
Click away, Click away!
Though honestly, if there ever were a spoiler proof game, this might be it. >.>
This game is available to play on the PC and on iOS. I played it on my iPad.
One begins The Mushroom Age by visiting Dr. Einbock. I think he is meant to come off like a mad scientist, but instead he comes off more like a half zombie nutcase because of the animations while he is talking. I don't think I will ever look at a portrait of Einstein the same way again. >.>
The first time I found this to be the case was in the first chapter when one needs to combine two items. The task given is clear enough, "Wet the handkerchief with the ammonia chloride," and for anyone who has played this type of game before they would instinctively know what to do in order to combine the items. For those who are new to this type of game, however, this spot may have been very frustrating as it never explains to click on one item and then on the other item in order to combine them.
Lack of directions aside (for the moment), one of the things that I really enjoyed about this hidden object game were the multiple layers in searching for things. Cupboards and curtains open and close and lend a more realistic take to the search aspect of the game. I really enjoyed it. However, I wish they had set it so that when you did things in one scene, they would then stay done in the next part scene in the same area.
Cupboards undone in scene 1-1, but magically put back together in scene 1-2
Early on it isn't so vexing, but later on there are locked cabinets that involve many layers. Awesome the first time, but very irritating by the fifth time. I found myself wishing the mechanic was a bit more static during the time spent in each chapter instead of resetting for each sub-chapter. It would seem logical to me that if one was in an area and moved something, it would stay moved instead of resetting as if one had never moved it.
As for the story itself, I found it to be irritating and annoying… but somehow compelling. I'm not entirely sure why I kept playing. I chalk it up to that whole can't look away from a train wreck mentality. The terrible voice acting at the start didn't help either >.< (more on that later). As I continued playing the story just kept getting more and more ridiculous. And I don't mean ridiculous in the sense of "that's just silly," but rather ridiculous in the sense of "OMG WTF, Did it seriously just say that?"
The offbeat humor in the game became apparent fairly early on. The first time it really sunk in was when I went to visit Nostradamus and needed to gather up the tools he needed to make his predictions. One has to gather them up because Dante Alighieri's ghost had an argument with Nostradamus and scattered them all over his house. Nostradamus then hits on the main character, which is only as lecherous and creepy as it is because of his disturbing cannibal facial expressions.
Once one has gathered the tools that he needs, Nostradamus does his predictions and his great powers see a lizard….
…and decides that is the reason we should go to the Dinosaur age next. He sends us on our way with a potion that will allow us to speak with intelligent creatures that we otherwise would not be able to speak with… and that was the first hint I was getting that this game was going to be way more than just offbeat. >.> So yeah, you time travel your way to the Dinosaur age next and are given this task:
Glorious. Perhaps it wouldn't have been quite so shocking if this completely ambiguous task wasn't the third chapter of twenty-three in the game. It was at this point that I became very thankful to the makers of the game that there was no penalty for clicking too much as I found myself digitally stumbling around trying to figure things out. (For the record, there is also a hint button. The hints, however, are not always particularly enlightening.)
I told myself the story couldn't possibly get any stranger… But then one meets a Dinosaur. Who pops up and keeps saying Rwarrr… Rwarrr… in this pathetic voice that makes me think of very very flamey things while doing the potty dance. Bafflement over the rather curious dinosaur aside, I found myself wondering why the hell the main character wasn't running away screaming. I'd like to think it's a right proper reaction to vocalize and flee when suddenly finding oneself in the dinosaur age facing a T-Rex… Maybe it's just me.
So our main character is vying for a spot as a Darwin Award candidate… until one realizes that the T-Rex (who himself admits he eats everything after we give him the magical talking potion) is not trying to eat the main character for a lovely dinner snack. 0.o Hmmmmm. And even more perplexing… he just… waits while she gets 18 melons to feed him, instead of just chomping down and eating her. Nom, Nom, Nom….?
The explanation is quite simple. Apparently he has a toothache from being a naughty naughty dinosaur and eating all the poor innocent any and everything living it runs across. (Soooo… apparently our Darwin Award candidate just got lucky that the dinosaur ended up with a bunch of cavities when she ran across him….) It can't possibly get any weirder, right? Then the dinosaur opens his mouth and lets this woman clean out his teeth. Not so weird for the dinosaur I suppose. But again in true brazen and clueless fashion, our Darwin Award candidate goes at it, fearlessly cleaning out a T-Rex's mouth. WTF.
It was at about this point that I was getting over the shock of the train wreck and more or less getting on board with the whole… wtf aspect of this incredibly absurd adventure. Which is good, because I assure you, the game only gets more and more bizarre. Don't believe me? At some point you meet Socrates. And GIVE HIM A MASSAGE.
Actually, I must say, aside from the sheer ridiculousness of it… I thought it was an incredibly clever way to incorporate the simonesque type of puzzle mechanic. On the other hand, the fact that Socrates automatically assumed our female main character was there to be his masseuse bothered me. Which brings me to my final thoughts.
The geek in me was quite impressed with this ludicrous tour de force. The feminist in me, not so much. I'm not actually sure where the creators intent lies and how much was intentional versus a byproduct of those invisible things we do in our cultures that are perceived as lame, sexist, and pandering to stereotypes.
I think it's awesome that the main character is female. However, the voice acting at the start was absolutely atrocious. Most of the voices were fine, but the woman's voice (the character you are playing) is just…. awful. We never "see" her (ourselves) so all we have to go by to better understand her as a character is her voice. The intonations are too controlled and there isn't enough inflection, leaving the lines sounding flat and lacking emotion. For example: "He must've passed out" – is said like an airhead, not someone who should have been surprised and creeped out that a zombiesque loon was sniffing her then just fell to the floor. I imagine her body language as the lines are being read to have been more a wink, shrug, and a "teehee" than anything resembling concern or worry that Einbock passed out. When she says, "Are you kidding? I demand you take me to his desk" – it is demanded in a near monotone, and comes across as very uncommanding. When she is "commanding" the voice is more like some adult speaking to a child in a patronizing and condescending tone. I don't believe that she has any concern, worry, fear, or even bridezilla panic that her fiance has been missing, "for a few days". "You are obviously hiding something" is said more like a playboy bunny that wants to do dirty dirty things rather than someone who is angry that she is being kept from her fiancé right before their wedding.
All my gripes aside about the early voice acting aside, I found that the farther I got into the game the less it bothered me. My mind seemed to just shuffle it into the WTF part of the game and accept it for what it was without being totally thrown off by it. That isn't to say though that I'm still baffled why they had her voice acting that way. The only thing I can imagine is that perhaps they were attempting to have the character not be threatening. The main character is obviously an intelligent woman (as evidenced by various bits of dialog about things like physics… don't be fooled by her early onset stupidity in the beginning chapters of the game) but she has this singular focus on finding her fiancé before their wedding despite the obviously MIND BLOWING things happening. She's really smart, but has no apparent curiosity about the fact she suddenly finds herself time traveling.
It makes me wonder if they went with the everything but the kitchen sink method of planning. (Which, in truth, worked really well for the overall story, but not so much for the creation of the main character.) I can imagine the planners trying to figure out how to have the main character outlined: "Let's make a female character for women, but make her have a sexy voice for men…oh! and we need to have a motivation these women gamers can relate to – how about a romance book cover boyfriend and she's obsessing about her wedding? Yeah! But what would motivate a guy to play… oh! Lets make her super smart for the geeks…."
I want to say that the art and music were totally cohesive in some sort of insane way, but they weren't for me. I haven't entirely put my finger on why exactly that is. Not entirely cohesive, but somehow,oddly functional.
Overall the game is glorious. If you you can get on board with the sheer preposterousness of it all, it's a fantastic game. Then again, I do have a predisposition towards chaos and unquantifiable insanity…