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The Mystery of Woolley Mountain Review — A Diamond Covered in Wool

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The Mystery of Woolley Mountain promo art

Comedy in video games can be hard to execute. Point-and-click adventures have been experimenting with humour since their inception, and The Mystery of Woolley Mountain is a great example of how to do comedy right. The game brings brilliant characters to life through witty jokes and dialogue that always maintains a sense of silliness. Sadly, for all of the game’s narrative accomplishments, severe bugs bring it back down to earth.

In The Mystery of Woolley Mountain, the player takes control of the Helmholtz Resonators, a band of time-travelling misfits who must rescue the stolen children of Woolley Mountain from the tyranny of an evil witch. The game begins when Van Damme, one of the Resonators, travels to Woolley Mountain on his own to save the children and ends up captured. When Garland, the leader of the group, finds out, he gathers the remaining misfits together to save Van Damme and the children. As the game progresses, unforeseen twists and turns create an unconventional and unexpected story, which is a refreshing change in an industry focused on remakes and sequels.

The tutorial does an exceptional job of welcoming the player into the wonderful world and mechanics of Woolley Mountain. Through the scottish stylings of Van Damme are introduced the point-and-click controls and the notion that not every puzzle will have an immediately obvious solution with the tools at the player’s disposal. The defining characteristic of this opening level is the sheer amount of laughter that ensues whilst playing it. The combination of Van Damme’s accent and the simple, yet clever dialogue results in laugh-out-loud moments that are never crude or offensive and set an endearing tone that pervades through the game’s three acts.

Woolley Mountain’s mechanics follow those of traditional point-and-click adventures, requiring the player to select an item from their inventory and drag it to the desired location. Occasionally, some targets require very specific placement to enable the action to trigger. On the Switch, the joystick works well for the drag-and-drop controls when the console is docked, but can become fiddly and oversensitive when in handheld mode. Alternatively, the touchscreen can be used when playing as a handheld device, which alleviates this problem.

In light of the simple plot, The Mystery of Woolley Mountain features delightfully quirky characters that bring the world to life. As Garland desperately tries to bring the team together in the opening act, the player gets an insight into the obsessions of the crew, sparking curiosity as to how these individuals will be of any use to Garland in rescuing the children. Manrose loves acting, Frithel loves science, Chladni loves women, Carlton loves moonshine, and Auto loves Carlton. Each of these conflicting personalities creates unique puzzles throughout the game, which allows the humour of their stereotypes to thrive.

The 2D artwork compliments the basic controls and simple storyline, enabling the distinctive characters to shine. More consideration for the colour palette would have benefited Woolley Mountain greatly, as the game often has a lot of objects that can be innocently ignored due to the overuse of bright colours on screen; this can be overwhelming at times, and distinguishing what the player should be focusing on can be difficult. Highlighting interactive objects using the right trigger button makes this issue less concerning, though more subtle colour choices might have made the puzzles more intuitive and visually engaging for the player.

For those inexperienced with point-and-click puzzle adventures, Woolley Mountain can be challenging at times. Some of the solutions require very abstract thought, which could be difficult for a newcomer to the genre. However, this difficulty does not detract from the overall comedic joys of the experience, particularly when burning obscure objects and using talking sea urchins to solve science puzzles are involved.  

Woolley Mountain’s successes in character and narrative design, however, are let down by some unfortunate game-breaking bugs. In two separate instances during OnlySP’s time with the game, the storyline could not be progressed at different stages. The first instance was due to a character not being in the right location to trigger a cutscene, and the second was due to an NPC not registering that correct items were already in the inventory.

What makes these bugs so infuriating is the fact that they prevent the completion of such a wonderful narrative. You genuinely want to uncover The Mystery of Woolley Mountain, and to have that opportunity taken away is truly disappointing.

The characters of Woolley Mountain possess such an endearing quality that to stay angry at the game’s flaws is difficult, as disastrous as they can be. You desperately want to keep playing for the funny dialogue and charming puns. The only criticism of the narrative elements of Woolley Mountain is that it lacks even more opportunities to interact with other characters and their hilarious dialogue.

Once these issues have been corrected, Woolley Mountain will be a fun, if short, experience worth playing just for some quick laughs. As frustrating as the title can be, it is shining example of how to do comedy in video games without ever being offensive. If puns and light-hearted silliness are your style, then you will adore what The Mystery of Woolley Mountain has to offer.

OnlySP Review Score 3 Credit

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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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Review

ZED Review — A Boring Walk

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ZED Review Screenshot 1

Players intrigued by the premise of ZED will have to look elsewhere for a game that delivers on the promise of an emotional journey set amidst surreal landscapes. Although the game does have fascinating visuals, the lack of any real gameplay makes the entire experience dull and uninspiring. However, despite being an altogether terrible experience, the ending is still somehow emotional.

ZED tells the story of an ageing artist suffering with dementia who must recover his lost memories  to create one final artwork for his granddaughter. The player assumes the role of the artist, stuck in his own twisted mind, to collect important objects from the course of his life and bring him peace.

Gameplay entirely consists of two things: walking around to find objects and solving basic puzzles. In all of the game’s areas, only four objects are to be found. Finding the objects is an incredibly simple task in most levels as the design is linear and leads the player along a path or through a small collection of rooms to find these items. Occasionally, one of the objects will be placed in a ridiculous location. Breaking the linearity in this way is incredibly frustrating and forces the player to backtrack and find hidden paths that are not immediately obvious. As for the puzzles, they take seconds to complete even without searching for the striking blue solutions on the walls of the level. Such a simplistic and unoriginal gameplay loop makes the incredibly short game boring to play through.

The environments are genuinely fun to look at and do a brilliant job of capturing the mayhem inside the mind of a man whose memory is failing him. Disappointingly, the game has no interactive elements within the environments beyond the key items, toilets, and plush toys. Even then, interacting with these objects requires specific mouse placement, which is almost impossible to predict as a cursor has been omitted for the sake of immersion. The game has many quirky assets, yet the lack of interactivity makes them feel worthless.

Eagre Games tries to create an immersive experience, though falls flat for a number of reasons, the most annoying of which is the load screens. The player progresses the story by unlocking doorways to reveal the next scene. However, after getting this glimpse of art, the player is thrust into a brief black loading screen which ruins the point of revealing anything at all.

The narrative is told through voice-overs that belong to the protagonist’s daughter and two different sides of his deteriorating mind. Subtitles are turned off by default, yet, without them, the player has no way of knowing that the artist’s voice is represented as a dual identity. What is being said makes little sense as is, let alone without the context of a warring ego and id.

By the end of the game, the player just wants to see the result of this painful object search and, surprisingly, the conclusion is overwhelmingly touching. Against all odds, ZED somehow manages to finish on a high that acts as a reminder that anything is possible if you chase your dreams.

The ending is the only redeeming feature of this boring experience. ZED is short, uninspired, and disappointing. For a game that sounded so promising, weak gameplay prevents it from having any real emotional impact. Hopefully, the strong development team at Eagre Games will learn from its mistakes to create something that is as fun to play as it is to look at.

OnlySP Review Score 1 Fail

Reviewed on PC.

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