Hoodwink is a game that looks great on the surface. It’s a point and click puzzle adventure set in a dystopian Oriental – inspired future where life is governed by one gigantic corporation. It’s packed with visually wacky characters and lashings
of fun-for-all-the-family innocent humour. You play as conman Michael Bezzle (M.Bezzle? See what they did there?… No, I don’t either) who gets caught up in a web of intrigue after a failed proposal to his girlfriend of two months.
As the adventure starts Michael is making himself comfortable in a typical detective’s office. This is where the game introduces you to movement and interaction within the city, and succinctly sums up the depth of Michael’s character within the first five minutes of the game. The situation quickly escalates as the inept Michael is caught red-handed by a giant anthropomorphic cat. Apparently not content with simply stealing from the cat, he proceeds to set him on fire before fleeing the room and breaking the door handle off so his victim can’t escape. It’s all done in a really light-hearted manner but doesn’t quite reach the realms of slapstick humour, instead languishing in an awkward chuckle purgatory.
Hoodwink does have some genuinely funny dialogue, but there’s not enough aimless chat with NPCs to really expand on the humour. Talking is strictly reserved for quest/puzzle relevant characters and most of the humour gets bogged down in stereotyping that is at its best annoying, and its worst just plain ignorant. We’re essentially talking bucktoothed Asians who ‘hilariously’ exaggerate their inability to pronounce the letter L, here, bumbling their way through stereotype-laden jokes whilst cooking rats into takeaway food. It’s in no way malicious, but as a form of humour it’s jarringly outdated and quite confusing given the heavy Asian influences the game world has. In one hand it reveres the culture and in the other it pokes fun at it in the way an American businessman from the thirties would. Michael himself is a younger, totally inept Han Solo suffering from attention deficit disorder, and everyone he meets is plucked straight out of the Quirky Game Character source book.
Bizarrely, the most interesting characters you meet in this character-driven game are the ‘Second Chancers’, human brains in robot bodies, which you encounter in various forms of mental mania throughout the first sojourn through the metropolis. The puzzles and mini-games that take place around these characters are the most enjoyable, if not the most complex or challenging. In fact, none of the puzzles in this episode are really that challenging, with mouse-based minigames being more down to how fast you can click than how fast you can think. Solutions are always pretty obvious and the map isn’t large enough to become frustrating when they aren’t, which can be a godsend when you’ve just walked past the same NPC who spouts looped dialogue at you every time you pass. It feels a little unbalanced, you spend more time making small talk with hippies and robots than you do trying to figure out where mission items are or deciphering puzzles.
It could be a design choice for the sake of a learning curve but it would definitely benefit from less spoonfeeding. On the offchance it takes you too long to figure something else the game chimes in and pretty much solves the puzzle for you (Which takes all the fun out of finding walkthroughs). It’s good, but way too much time has been spent on the aesthetics as opposed to the depth of its gameplay. It uses dialogue and visuals to support the cookie cutter puzzles, which would work, if the those things were just a little more interesting than they are at the moment. There’s a reason people still play Monkey Island religiously, and it’s not because of the graphics. It’s because the jokes, as cheesy as they are, are still hilarious, the characters are timeless, and the nature of some of the puzzles means the game has the potential to be different every time. It’s hard to find reasons to replay Hoodwink at all, with a complete lack of easter eggs or anything at all to discover beyond the main quest. These are all things that may well be changed in time, and if they are, Hoodwink could become a diamond in the rough, but as it stands, it’s easily an average experience.
The visuals, however, are easily above the norm. It’s a gritty but colourful cel shaded metropolis splashed with neon and grunge. It’s going to be a real treat seeing how the city takes shape over the course of the game, as the more uptown areas will be a huge design contrast to the slums and it’ll be great to see the game take place over a larger range of environments. Perhaps bigger districts will give Michael Bezzle room to grow, because at the moment’s he’s a little fish in a genre with some very high standards indeed. Hoodwink has a long way to go before it’s complete, but its beginning is by no means awful. Keep an eye on it, and hope indie developer E-One put as much time into the future puzzles as they do in the quirky graphics and accessible story.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.