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Review

Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love Review — Point and Misclick

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The point-and-click genre relies on simple mechanics to carry an engaging and often humorous narrative. In the case of Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love, for every joke that lands, a joke that does not follows. Despite this, Irony Curtain is a highly polished game, if exceptionally frustrating at times, that delivers an enjoyable experience.

Irony Curtain follows the story of Evan, a young journalist and devout communist who is thrust from his American life into a spy conspiracy in the heart of communist-ruled Matryoshka. The satirical nature of the story requires at least a basic understanding of communism to ensure the jokes make sense. Even then, many of laughs can be missed simply because the feels as though it is trying too hard to be funny. The reliance on overt humour is a shame, as Irony Curtain shines when it revels in its own absurdity and satire as opposed to direct jokes.

Irony Curtain gameplay screenshot 9

As with most point-and-click adventures, the story progresses by solving cleverly cryptic puzzles in each of the levels. Many of these puzzles are witty and simple, while others are unnecessarily infuriating. This frustration is due in part to the clunky, slow character movement which hinders the experience. Despite the ability to double-click a location to run towards it, the increased movement speed still seems sluggish in a game where the narrative demands players hasten to uncover the secrets of Matryoshka. Additionally, if the player has left an item behind, a painful amount of backtracking follows.

In mentioning the tedium of the puzzles, any conclusions would be unfair without praising the in-game help system. If the player is struggling they can utilise a help system that is marked with a yellow light bulb icon and takes many forms, including a phone help-line or fortune teller. The dialogue that ensues in these scenarios is as funny as it is helpful and provides much need comic relief from an inability to solve problems. Beyond that, the hints are clever and made many of the puzzles that required outlandish solutions feel achievable.

Irony Curtain gameplay screenshot 11

Reminiscent of a comic book, the art style is incredibly well suited to convey the irony of the Iron Curtain. The 2D world beautifully captures the stereotypes at work that create the game’s sense of humour. A red-stained colour palette underpins every environment to capture the stylised tone of the Matryoshkan communist regime. Evan’s character fits so well in such an awkward way within the country due to his more subtle design and animation. The background audio further conveys the setting, but is uncomfortably repetitive and annoying when playing for prolonged periods.

Players familiar with point-and-click games or communism will enjoy the polished satire at play in Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love. The clever experience is packed with character and has some genuinely funny moments that ham up the satire of an American communist playing spy. Irony Curtain may not revolutionise the genre, but it delivers a quirky and highly detailed world that is enjoyable to explore while laughing along with Evan’s naiveté.

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC.
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions coming soon.

What does a fitness instructor like to do with their spare time? Write about video games obviously. Amy has been obsessed with video games ever since watching her parents play Crash Bandicoot on PS1. All these years later, she is thrilled to get to share her thoughts on the games she loves so much.

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198X Review — A Nostalgia Trip Without a Destination

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198X

Some short stories feel more like chapters—snipped out of a larger work—that struggle to make sense on their own. 198X represents a translation of that ethos to video game form. As a result, the game feels unfulfilling, though that does not detract from the overall quality on offer. Ultimately, the player’s appraisal of 198X will depend on whether they place more stock in story or gameplay because while the former leaves much to be desired, the latter will be a hit for anyone with fond memories of the 8- and 16-bit classics.

In the framing and overall structure, 198X is decidedly modern, but everything else pulses with a retro vibe. At its core, the game is a compilation, weaving together five distinct experiences under the auspice of a story of personal development. From the Double Dragon-infused ‘Beating Heart’ to the turn-based dungeon RPG ‘Kill Screen’, each title feels slick, if a little undercooked. Those old-school originals could only dream of being as smooth as these throwbacks. However, the two-button input methodology results in the games feeling just a touch too simple, though their brevity—each clocking in at a maximum of 15 minutes (depending on the player’s skill level and muscle memory)—makes that less of an issue than it might have been. If more depth is present, it is hidden well, as the game lacks any sort of tutorial to guide players. Nevertheless, the stellar presentation goes a long way towards papering over the cracks.

The pixel art aesthetic of 198X is staggering. Each of the worlds that players make their way through is pitched perfectly to fit the mood it evokes. From the grungy brawler of the first game to the more melancholic mood of the open-road racer, the screen is drenched in lavish colour and far more detail than one might expect from such a seemingly simple art style.

Easily a match for the visuals is the audio. The in-game sounds of a car engine or bone-crunching strike are low-key, which allows the music to come to the fore. Those tunes are all from the electronic genre, simple, yet layered with enough depth to not feel tedious or tiring. Easily overshadowing all the rest though is Maya Tuttle’s voice-over narration as The Kid. Her tone is one of pervasive resignation that works to reinforce the same mood within the script.

That melancholia will surely strike a chord with anyone who has grown up on the fringes. The Kid speaks of once loving and now hating the Suburbia of their childhood, where memories of happiness collide with a contemporary feeling of entrapment. The words and lines are powerfully evocative—made even more so by the connection between the gameworlds and the prevailing emotion at that point. The problem is that they amount to nothing. The story comprises of these snippets—these freestanding scenes of life lived lonely—that never coalesce into anything. The Kid may find an arcade and speak of finding some sort of home and a source of strength, but it goes nowhere. The game ends just as things start to get interesting. Setting up for a sequel is no sin. Plenty of other games and media products—from Dante’s Inferno to Harry Potter—have done just that. However, to be effective, such first parts need to offer a story in and of themselves, not just the promise of a story to come, and that is where 198X falls apart.

With each game in the compilation being a straightforward, one-and-done affair and the overarching narrative feeling like a prologue at best, 198X is wafer-thin. The presentation is simply remarkable, and the package has enough variety to be worth a look, but the unmistakable impression is that something is missing.

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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