Humor is such an important tool in human civilization. If we didn’t have the power to laugh at both genuinely funny and unexpectedly funny moments, we’d all be soulless, empty beasts that just kind of plodded through life. Sure, love is great and all, but finding things that delight us to the point of uncontrollable reactions – laughter, tears, the occasional fart that makes more laughter – is the pinnacle of existence. But it is important to remember that not all humor is timeless. If I ran up to some kind on the street today and told him “All Your Base Are Belong To Us,” he’d probably think I was stroking out, and rightfully so. That doesn’t mean it didn’t used to be funny: it just isn’t a properly encapsulated joke to sustain the passage of time. But when you play and live long enough, there are jokes out there for everyone, on every level, and it seems that C.I.N.I.C. Games wanted to make sure there was something for everyone in their title The Wardrobe.
The Wardrobe is a point and click adventure game that clock in at just under five hours of play time start to finish. Pretty decent, especially given the plotline that feels like the beginning of Toy Story and ends with some shockingly poignant moments, with tons, TONS of referential humor in between. Skinny and Ronald were best friends…are best friends…but Skinny is, well, dead. He apparently had a lethal plum allergy that Ronald didn’t know about, and Skinny took a killer bite when the two boys were out on a picnic. Ronald hasn’t spoken since that day, and Skinny has been secretly living in his house, reborn as a skeleton who watches over his friend. But Ronald is running out of time: if he doesn’t speak about the incident with SOMEONE soon, he’ll be damned to Hell for all eternity! And Skinny isn’t having a great time, either, because it turns out Ronald is moving and it’ll be quite hard to communicate with Ronald when his wardrobe has been removed.
Mechanically, any veteran of point and click adventures will be able to navigate this game in no time flat, though the inclusion of a quick tutorial by a harassed sounding narrator is quite helpful. Using a lot of influence from the classics, Skinny will have to look at, talk to and interact with different objects and people in order to get to his goal. Along the way, he’ll also pick up a ton of little items, starting with chewing gum and dentures and ending with a pair of wedding rings, all of which need to be used somehow. Interestingly, Skinny’s unique position (being a skeleton) means he can just keep things inside his ribcage, which is, hands down, one of the more inventive ways to explain storage in a game. I mean, don’t get me wrong, watching Guybrush Threepwood casually put an eight foot long ramrod down his pants is one of the best sight gags ever, but Skinny just nonchalantly filling up his abdomen with nicknacks is damn good as well. The Wardrobe isn’t going to let you die, so feel free to take your time, experiment, and get a bit goofy with things.
In fact, instead of get ready, I should say “brace yourself,” because The Wardrobe takes its bizarre nature to heart and makes some of the explanations and puzzle connections equally strange. It isn’t quite as bad as Paradigm in terms of illogical association, but it’s certainly no Kyrandia. One of the very first things you have to do is flush yourself down the toilet, which doesn’t seem possible or even probable when Skinny looks at it initially. I mean, once you find out there’s an intricate layer of rooms and exits in the sewers, suddenly it all clicks, but who was gonna tell you that? The dust monster intent on taking over the world? Or the bear rug that thinks a rubber duck is his wife? Those two are busy talking about what I just said they were talking about, they’re not gonna help you.
In terms of characters and presentation, I absolutely adore The Wardrobe’s cast. Skinny himself is a remarkably relatable protagonist, acting out of love and loyalty for his one true friend. His sarcasm and dry tone isn’t part of his personality, but, rather, stems from events and moments that call for it: he’s not just a one note person. He understands and accepts that he’s in a video game, but it isn’t constantly referenced or brought up, and he’s far more passionate about the task at hand than many heroes that I’ve seen recently. The interactions he has also range from oddball hilarious to somewhat sinister but necessary. Any talk with Nut the rodent usually leaves me laughing, and the interaction with the very bored and rude museum security guard was formulaic but solid. I don’t want to give away too much of the story line, as that’s the entire point of point and click adventures, but Skinny really gets down into some uncomfortable topics and aptly philosophical moments with characters, and it helps to keep the game balanced with some somber notes. After all, Skinny’s already dead: it’s Ronald’s soul that he’s concerned about.
My only displeasure with the game was the range of referential humor was, and the sheer density of it all. There were some weirdly deep cuts that were mixed into the game, such as Ranma ½, the original Maniac Mansion and Donnie Darko, and plenty of modern, Internet bred phenomena. The portrait of Slenderman in the family living room, a dead Angry Bird in the fridge, and some capsaicin powder with spiciness over 9000 are just a small taste of it. As a result, sometimes I felt like the game left the writing and dialogue to take a backseat and expected the player just to look over everything and do a slight chuckle to indicate “I know what that is, and I find humor in it.” I didn’t dislike The Wardrobe’s level of name dropping (and it recognizes it several times), but I feel like it sometimes draws focus away from the storyline, and that’s a mild shame, because it’s really, really good.
Lastly, the port of it all. The Wardrobe keeps things true by having the joysticks move the mouse cursor around the screen and allowing for hot buttons to highlight and jump to interactive objects. This works out fairly well, and I honestly have no complaints that need addressing. Sure, it would be cool to use a mouse with the game, but the lack of mouse drivers certainly isn’t the developers fault. Instead, MixedBag (branching out into publishing, nice!) did a bangup job of making sure this game was totally playable and enjoyable on the Switch, and did a marvelous job of avoiding the Switch tax and keeping it the same price as on Steam.
The Wardrobe may have flown under a few radars, and that’s because the point and click resurrection period has been long and strange. But the Switch is a place for games to be reborn and rediscovered, and I’m incredibly happy that this one made its way into my visage. While some of the moments were a tad strange (it’s flagged for Sex for a reason), the whole experience and the ending made it more than worthwhile. Instead of dropping a few hours on a movie that can be easily forgotten, I would suggest picking up a game that’s sure to be remembered. Take a look inside The Wardrobe.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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