As much as I adore games like Maniac Mansion and Shadowgate on the NES, I never grew up on PC gaming. Therefore, I missed out on so many critically acclaimed graphic adventure titles like Grim Fandango, Leisure Suit Larry, Monkey Island, and countless others. Last year I had the pleasure of playing through Thimbleweed Park and have had the urge to play though more like it. After watching the bizarre and hilarious trailer for The Wardrobe by CINIC Games, I jumped at the chance to give it a go.
You take control of Skinny, a living, talking skeleton that was accidentally killed 5 years ago by his friend Ronald. During that time Skinny has stayed in a coffin-shaped wardrobe in Ronald’s room, watching over his traumatized friend who hasn’t spoken a word since the incident. Skinny decides to convince Ronald to talk about what happened to cleanse and save his soul, but as luck would have it, he discovers that Ronald and his family have moved away and left him behind! Skinny’s quest is to track down Ronald, all the while keeping his wardrobe close. From this description the game may sound dark, but it is pure comedy through and through, just mixed with some dark undertones. Skinny is extremely likable and full of witty and clever remarks as he encounters others on his adventure. He has a bit of a snarky attitude that comes through when you make a mistake, breaking the 4th wall to great effect.
You begin the game in Ronald’s house just as the movers are clearing it out. You go from room to room collecting and using items, observing the scenery, and talking with other characters. You’ll need to use problem solving, along with a lot of guesswork to figure out the puzzles and progress to the next area. Skinny remarks early on that this isn’t an adventure title where you have to try everything with everything, but after spending some time with the game I don’t agree with him. Almost all of the puzzles are item based, and many of them make sense, but some of them are extremely out there. Maybe a seasoned veteran of ‘90s adventures games would fare a little better than me. There are some modern day sensibilities to make the game a little easier. For example, by hitting the R button, you can highlight all of the objects Skinny can interact with. This is a great way to narrow down the search for items. You can carry a bunch of things around in Skinny’s ribcage for easy access later.
The Wardrobe really shines with all of its quirky characters and a treasure trove of pop culture references as well as a few entertaining Easter eggs. In the first area alone you encounter a crocodile that has escaped from a reptile prison, a dust monster hell-bent on world domination, a silent mummy bartender, and a talking bearskin bathroom mat. Dead Cousin Ted and exploding hamsters (Maniac Mansion) have nothing on this game. Every single character I encountered brought unique personalities complete with wonderful voice acting. I found myself laughing frequently.
There are over 40 areas or rooms to explore and each of them is jam-packed with items. Some are useful and you can interact with others, but most are there to serve as background. There are hundreds of perfectly placed Easter egg references that include everything you can think of from movies, games, books, and more. From Pikmin to They Live, and Stephen King to Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Simpsons – heck you name it – it’s probably in here. I took my time looking at each and every item I could get my hands on to see what kind of zany reference I’d discover. Each room is an interactive work of art.
I was engrossed by the visuals in this game. Each character and every room has so much character and life drawn into it and the cartoonish art style is simply beautiful. However, the occasional cut scenes all seemed very rushed and a tad sloppy. There is a nice variety of background music that switches up depending on the environment. Most of the music has a jazzy feel to it, which seems perfect for a light-hearted adventure game like this. All of the voice acting is phenomenal, especially Skinny, who is a very enjoyable protagonist. The controls are quite simple and easy to learn; all you need to do is move your cursor around to select items and choose dialogue. I mostly played this game on the TV, but utilizing the touch screen for item selection does make this game even easier to play in handheld mode. The writing in the game is packed with humor, although some of the jokes can be confusing or fall flat. Your enjoyment may be dependent on how much of the references you get. If you’re like me and make many mistakes, you may get tired of Skinny berating you with the same dozen or so lines.
The overall story isn’t that great and it’s almost too strange, lacking any reason, but then again this isn’t a game that should be taken too seriously. The fun is meeting all of the characters and exploring. Unfortunately these adventure games can live or die by the puzzles they present, and honestly they’re not that great here. It’s really the only serious knock I have against the game and I believe Thimbleweed Park did a far superior job building creative and insightful puzzles that made sense. Here it’s all about collecting all of the items and then just trying things until they work. The game is also a bit on the short side, clocking in at around 5 hours or so.
Anyone who loves adventure titles, or gamers who want to try something different should take a serious look at The Wardrobe. Strictly looking at gameplay it really doesn’t introduce anything new or mind blowing, but given the fact that these types of games were nonexistence for so long, I’ll let that slide. The gorgeous visuals, hilarious writing, quirky characters, and pop culture references more than made up for any gameplay shortcomings. The game is just a tiny bit on the short side for the $14.99 asking price.
The Wardrobe was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.