Games which set out to teach us something about our world or attempt to explain an event, a political, philosophical or even religious issue have always struck a responsive chord with us here at Bonus Stage. Over the years we applauded the efforts of Ubisoft Montpellier’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War which depicted the unimaginable horrors of the 1st World War in a personal and entirely engrossing manner. Later we were captivated by INK Stories and N-Fusion Interactive’s 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, in which a young photojournalist returns to Iran during the Iranian Revolution and now it seems we must add Artiifex Mundi’s latest outing, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love, to this exalted list. Set in the Cold War years following the Second World War, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love is a satirical, thought provoking and humorous perspective on Communism and the dangers of blind political ideology. With the developers based in Poland, a country invaded by Russia and Germany in 1939 and subjected to a harsh, uncompromising regime governed by both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love could be interpreted as Artifex Mundi’s attempt to tell their story of life under a foreign political dictatorship.
Employing a simple point and click style of gameplay, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love casts you in the role of Evan Kovolsky, a naive American journalist who believes he has found a worthwhile ideology in Socialism as embodied by The Leader of a fictitious east European country called Matryoshka. After failing to deliver a rousing speech extolling the virtues of Matryoshka at an event whimsically referred to as RedEx, Evan (or Ivan as his comrades soon begin to call him) is invited to visit the all-powerful Leader in Matryyoshka. On accepting the unexpected invitation Evan sets himself on course for a wild, twisting and hazardous adventure which will uncover a political conspiracy of epic proportions. During the course of the game Evan, and the player, will experience a gradual and subtle shift in their perception of Communism and Socialism and the devastating effects they sometimes have on their population. Over the course of time your allegiance will shift and you will find yourself supporting the very people determined to overthrow the Leader. Employing humour to tell such a profound and compelling story is nothing short of a master stroke.
The script and voice overs in Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love are among the best we’ve ever experienced in a game. Every character has a distinct and believable East European accent and their dialogue is rich with irony and sarcasm. There are many laugh out loud moments – for example at the very start of the game when Evan is feeding a US red-neck official questionable lines for his patriotic anti socialist speech – that will have you nodding your head in appreciation.
The meat and potatoes of Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love are, as would be expected, solving puzzles, finding, combining and using objects in order to move the game forward. The difficulty level has been pitched just right with puzzles that will have you scratching your head for a few minutes before experiencing that light bulb moment. And, if that moment is too long in coming, the developers have provided a handy hint system – sometimes by making a phone call or even listening to someone on the radio. These are hints however, rather than handing you the solution on a plate; they’ll steer you in the right direction with more and more guidance. Luckily there are no penalties for using the hint system as it’s clear that Artifex Mundi have no interest in stumping you at some obstacle which could prevent you from experiencing the rest of the game.
Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love is packed with puzzles and mini games to solve. Each puzzle however, fits in nicely with the game’s narrative and challenges not just your logical thought process, but quite often your reaction speed (for example when you have to stamp documents at speed and try to avoid stamping the wrong ones).
Graphically, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love is a refreshing feast of hand painted scenery and excellently animated characters. The colour palette is drab and grey, with run down, tired looking buildings and bleak streets. This almost depressing ambience reflects both the mood and disposition of the city and its inhabitants. Excellent. As we’ve noted, the audio here is nothing short of first class and proof that Artifex Mundi can offer top drawer voice acting when it counts. For anyone curious about the Cold War years or the impact of Communism on most of Eastern Europe in the years preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love is a treat that has to be experienced. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for a great point and click adventure, you need look no further.
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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Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
For anyone curious about the Cold War years or the impact of Communism on most of Eastern Europe in the years preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love is a treat that has to be experienced.