I was threatening a game. I was no longer sitting; instead, I was standing and pointing at my monitor accusingly. I sat back down, feeling just the right amount of embarrassment for shouting at an adventure game when nobody is around to see. Hoodwink is an appropriately named adventure game. It's not because of the story, which is nearly non-existent, but because it lies, deceives, and obfuscates.
To call Hoodwink a game is, I think, a tad disingenuous. It feels more like the first half of an episodic title, really just a demo. E-One, the title's developer, created the game to showcase the engine it's running on. Unsurprisingly, it's rather pretty because of that, but even then there are plenty of hiccups.
Developer: E-One Studio
Publisher: E-One Studio
Released: June 29, 2012
Michael Bezzle is something of a scoundrel. That's right, M. Bezzle. Very convenient. He might be a good for nothing thief who steals from cats -- detective cats to be specific -- but it's all for a good cause. Or at least he thinks so. He's in love. Not just in love; he's getting ready to propose.
As anyone from the fifties can tell you, the best way to propose is to lather yourself in cheap perfume, get some flowers, and grab some chocolate. A ring comes in handy, too. Then you're good to go. Michael's a classic gent, so that's exactly what he does.
Getting ready to propose takes up most of the game, and while the task is a mundane one, it introduces the eccentric game world and its colorful denizens. The city of Global-01 is a melting pot of people from all around the world, anthropomorphic animals (at least one), and a hell of a lot of cybrogs. These little guys are essentially brains in jars contained within robotic bodies, and they're crazy. Just like everyone else in the city.
Unfortunately most of the characters end up being nothing more than one-dimensional stereotypes, from the angry Asian food vendor to the hippie shop owner who constantly calls Michael "Flower child." The voice acting is pretty solid, but the poor writing makes it difficult to take seriously or enjoy.
The entirety of the experience is restricted to one small area of the city, Kon Yang Town. None of the cast are really explored in any detail and essentially exist just to be used in puzzles. There are only about three main areas, and they have several chatty citizens lingering around, always ready to repeat the same sentence over and over again.
It's a post-apocalyptic dystopia, but a fairly unique one. It's got hints of noir, steampunk, and more typical science fiction. Running Global-01 is the omnipresent corporation, Uni-Corp. They have a monopoly on everything and even the cops spout out adverts for them. Meanwhile, the downtrodden eat rats cooked in cockroach-infested ovens. Lovely. These cockroaches, I should add, are South American militant cockroaches.
Though the game is small, getting about is no a speedy affair. Michael appears to be afflicted with a moonwalking disorder. While stylish in the clubs of the eighties, it is not appropriate for wandering around a futuristic dystopian slum. One can double click to run, but it's incredibly temperamental. You'd think that being fleet of foot would be sort of handy for a rogue like Mr. Bezzle.
Unfortunately, he's not great at picking things up or looking at them either. While the cel shading aesthetic is one of the few good things about this title, it can get in the way of hunting for things to click on -- something that the genre has a bit of a name for. The imprecise icons make what they refer to uncertain, and visually they are often obscured or just ill-defined. You might think that you're clicking on a new object, when in fact you're clicking on a table for the third time, and you're now locked into the the description of it. Even the funniest remarks in Hoodwink aren't really worth a repeat.
Some scenes come with a different angle so one can better assess their surroundings. It's not really used for anything other than screen transitions barring a couple of examples, but when it that happens, it's an exercise in frustration. Sometimes it ends up with Michael getting stuck, and, on one occasion, resulted in me having to reload a checkpoint. Replaying it? Not much fun. When you want to speak with people, you can't merely click on them. You have to click on the transition first, which often has Michael wander further away from them, then you can chat away. Pointless.
Luckily there isn't all that much need for pixel hunting or investigation, as puzzles are either solved for you in cutscenes, solved for you by the in-game hints system, or can't be solved by any logic and just require you to click on people, or a thing or two. This is simply unforgivable for an adventure game. Oh yeah, and let's not forget the times when the hint system will outright lie to you, like telling you to go and speak to somebody who has nothing to say until you've done a bunch of other things. Things, I should clarify, which have bugger all to do with the conversation.
In the tutorial scene you are looking for a ring. The solution to finding this sought after piece of jewellery is smoke a cigar, cock up, turn on a fan. These aren't spoilers, the game tells you to do these things. Then you find the ring; there's simply no logic behind it.
Around the mid way point, you'll need to get the stolen ring engraved. You get this mission pretty much the moment you get near the solution. It's a welder. He's all too happy to help, but oh no! He's fainted due to hunger and can only do it if you get him food. There's no real puzzle here, as there's only one place to get the food and nobody could have missed it. Totally random. Utterly disconnected.
There are two attempts to introduce a bit of physicality to the proceedings. If you've read any of my other adventure game reviews, you'll know that I'm a big supporter of this, but in this case, I wish they hadn't bothered. You just have to pick up cockroaches and roses that are moving while keeping your cursor over them as they try to get away. It's not very accurate, it's not entertaining, and it adds nothing to the experience.
I think that Hoodwink was meant to end on a cliffhanger, but it was simply abrupt. Michael gets out of Kon Yang so he can make his way to Little Europa, then boom: TO BE CONTINUED. I assumed it was the half way point. Honestly though, I wasn't disappointed. The chance to stop playing was one I relished. Hoodwink's last hurrah is mixing up the voices of the only two cyborg characters that you actually interact with. Two completely different voices, one a rich fellow cliché, and a gluttonous German. It's almost impressive to see so many oversights, bad design choices, and bugs in an hour-long title.
With so many great adventure games available, there's no reason for you to consider checking Hoodwink out. Even as a tech demo it's pretty unimpressive, though the actual environments do catch the eye. It's certainly not worth the price. If you do feel like being annoyed for an hour, you'll have to grab it on Origin. It's an exclusive.