A dystopian world where gun-toting anthropomorphs, recycled human brains plunked down onto metal robot bodies, and hippy rebels all co-exist under the oppressive thumb of a trigger-happy pharmaceutical company sounds like a neat setting to dig into. It could be, really, except Hoodwink totally botches its inherent potential from the get-go. Almost every major step of the way in this insipid, barely hour-long point-and-click adventure feels like a lesson in how not to design a game.
Navigating Hoodwink’s story might be a lot more enjoyable if it made some modicum of sense. Roguish protagonist Michael Bezzle (M. Bezzle)’s adventure kicks off with a night out on the town to pilfer the items he needs to propose to his girlfriend Francesca. Most of your time spent fiddling around with rote fetch quests in the dirty slums of Global-1 is dedicated to this seemingly mundane quest, yet sporadic encounters with a cat-detective and the comically oafish UniCorp troops hint at bigger matters afoot. Wisps of frayed plot threads pop-up along the way, but none of them really come together to explain or intrigue. This total lack of cohesiveness comes to a head at the awkwardly-placed cliffhanger ending that does precious little to inspire me to play a sequel in order to find out what the heck is going on, assuming one ever gets made.
It doesn’t help that things get off to a rough start. The impact of the clever narrative slight-of-hand that unfolds in the opening scene introducing Michael is lost amidst some of the most unwieldy point-and-click controls I’ve encountered in a long time. Simply moving around to access specific areas of the screen and interacting with objects is a constant wrestling match. Changing the camera angle and transitioning between areas is triggered by clicking vague hotspots around the environment, rather than walking over to where you want to go. While this will sound familiar to adventure gaming vets, the way its implemented here just doesn’t work that well.
After I accidentally walked past a crucial puzzle hotspot sitting on the back wall following a brief cinematic, it took me several minutes of cursing and frantic trial-and-error clicking to figure how to get back there. I knew what I needed to do. The game just wouldn’t let get there without a fight. This particular issue is less prevalent in the open areas found further along in the trek, but most forms of movement and interaction throughout Hoodwink’s brief jaunt are awkward and sluggish at best — and that’s when they’re not glitching out.
In several instances, using a staircase caused the camera to get stuck on the wrong floor, forcing me to restart the game from scratch. Wonky pathfinding also occasionally made Michael walk in the opposite direction of where I intended him to go before looping around to his destination in a bizarre roundabout way. These funky moments stand out among the more general feelings of frustration that set in when trying to get around.
Hoodwink’s poorly conceived puzzles are far from inventive, and most boil down to fetching objects and bringing them to the obvious spot where they’re needed. Some puzzle solutions are absurdly disconnected from their objective, like one early-on that has you hunting down matches, smoking a cigar, and cranking a machine on the wall to reveal the item you’re hunting for. Others are either too basic to begin with or are ruined by the erratic hint system, which alternately tells you exactly what you need to do next or spits out vague leads. There’s a rare instance or two where interactive mini-games have you turning cranks or catching bugs, but these tasks are tackled within seconds and add very little to the experience. It’s not terribly hard to figure out what to do simple because there’s barely anything to interact with in the environments to begin with.
The lack of puzzle creativity carries over into the one-dimensional characters that they frequently hinge upon too. Playful stereotypes abound, from the flower child hippie spouting "stick it to The Man" rhetoric to the agitated Asian food vendor peddling rat burgers in bad English, but they’re more hokey than humorous. Dialogue alternates between cheesy and obnoxious too, and while some of the voice work is well done, most of it is overdone. All of this is a shame, because the cel-shaded artwork is really quite good, and the setting itself is an interesting place to explore. Unfortunately, everything else is pretty weak.
Source : feeds[dot]ign[dot]com