Developed By: CINIC Games, Adventure Productions
Published By: MixedBag SRL
Category: Point and Click Adventure
Release Date: 7.6.18
The nineties are back in a big way, and I could not be happier. Every week developers who grew up loving the same games I did put out a love letter to their favorite games and genres. Up next on the nostalgia parade is The Wardrobe for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a throwback to the glory days of 2D point-and-click adventures like Day of the Tentacle and the Monkey Island franchise. It’s also got plenty of Grim Fandango thrown in for good measure, but that may just be because the protagonist is a skeleton.
Skinny, Ronald, and the Wardrobe
Skinny and Ronald have been best friends their whole lives. One time they’re having a fun time playing in the forest when they stop for lunch. Ronald shares a plum with Skinny, who it turns out is violently allergic to the things. He dies and Ronald runs off. All of Skinny’s skin and organs fall off and he somehow ends up living in Ronald’s wardrobe… which… makes… sense? They do explain it, but that’s kind of a spoiler so I’ll skip it I guess. Anyway, Ronald is understandably traumatized by the whole affair, and hasn’t talked since the incident. Skinny makes it his mission to help his friend find his voice again and get over the whole event. He just has to figure out how to stay with his friend after Ronald’s parents decide to move, and then maybe a few other impediments. But it’ll all work out. Oh, and there’s this whole thing with plums running through. Don’t trust the dang things, I say.
The story and writing in The Wardrobe is the main draw of the game. I already mentioned all the adventure genre classics of which it reminded me, but it doesn’t just follow their leads. I mean, it does, what with the unlikely, sarcastic protagonist, but it also has very strong, original writing of its own. Skinny has a strong, unique voice and an aloof personality that carry the game’s narrative pretty much all on its own. The writers and designers built a zany, colorful world that only makes a little sense, and Skinny is the perfect guide to see players through it. A+ for story.
Point and Click
If you’ve played a point and click adventure game you know how The Wardrobe plays out. There is a cursor that you can move around with either the left thumb stick or with the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen. You use the cursor to select items or people with which to interact. In a nice feature for the genre, hitting the R button highlights any item or person that can be manipulated. Selecting an item opens up to four options for interaction; observe, pick up, use, and speak. The options are pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve picked up an item, it goes into your inventory (which is inside Skinny’s ribcage). You can combine items in your inventory to make new items, as well as drag items out of inventory to give them to/use them on other people or things.
So, again, pretty standard adventure stuff, but it does have one weakness. The default cursor scroll speed is super slow for some reason, but you can change that in the options. However, you can sidestep that altogether by just using the touchscreen, which doesn’t involve scrolling at all. So, it doesn’t blaze a lot of new trails gameplay-wise, but what it does do it does well, and I always appreciate a well-designed game. It’s a lot of fun figuring out how to solve the problems with the materials provided. Thanks to the writing, it’s even fun to not know what to do and just try using every item on everything in a room. Skinny has a wide array of snarky putdowns and exasperated sighs.
Easter Eggs Galore
The graphics in The Wardrobe have a simple and cartoony vibe. They’re bright, colorful, and sharp; so, generally, really pleasant. The characters are very detailed, at least relative to the cartoony style, but not especially well animated. Not every character really even moves, but the ones that do, the animation looks kind of cheap and stiff. So, while the characters are well-designed, it can kind of look bad when you enter a cutscene.
The real treasure of the game’s visuals are the backgrounds, however. They are absolutely loaded with Easter eggs from nerd and popular culture both classic and modern. I saw appearances by Lady Rainicorn, the Ninja Turtles’ masks, Wreck-It Ralph, that owl from Harry Potter, and the Lard Lad Donuts guy, and that was just what popped up in the first ten minutes! My personal favorite, though, was Sanji’s wanted poster from One Piece. The backgrounds are more detailed than the characters, and I often found myself not playing the game so I could spot all the references.
Sounds Like A Teen Spirit… Well, Skeleton, Actually
As much as I loved the writing and most of the visuals in The Wardrobe, it really all comes together thanks to a strong performance by Skinny’s voice actor. His deadpan delivery fits the mood of the game perfectly and does a lot of the work of setting the game’s tone. The supporting characters have unique and well-delivered voices, too, but Skinny really anchors the whole experience. There’s a bouncy, jazzy soundtrack that plays in the background, but that’s kind of all it is; background music, not meant to distract from what’s happening in the foreground. I liked it, but that’s about as enthusiastic as I can get about it.
The Wardrobe doesn’t have any motion controls, but as I mentioned before, it does use the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen. I actually really preferred the touchscreen to playing with the Joycon or Pro controllers. Even with the cursor sped all the way up I found the touch controls to be way more convenient. So that’s why I recommend The Wardrobe for undocked play.
TL;DR: Fun, colorful classic point and click adventure game with great characters and Easter eggs by the dozen. Play it.