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



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.

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SteamWorld Quest Review — Full Steam Ahead



The SteamWorld series has a habit of refusing to be confined to a single genre. The first entry in the series, way back on the Nintendo DSi, was a simple tower-defense game. That title was followed by procedurally generated platformer SteamWorld Dig, and then came strategy action title SteamWorld Heist. Now, developer Image & Form has dived into the turn-based RPG with SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech.

SteamWorld Quest is set in the same universe as the previous SteamWorld games, featuring a cast of steam bots who speak in a rapid, chattering language, helpfully translated for the players by subtitles.

As usual for a SteamWorld title, the first thing to draw the eye is the lovely hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds. The game has a surprising amount of detail in these 2D sprites, and players may find themselves suddenly noticing a detail that previously escaped attention.

The first characters to be introduced are Armilly and Copernica, a wannabe knight and alchemist, respectively. The animation provides great hints towards the character personalities before they even speak, showing Copernica as being quiet and introspective, but with a strong will, while Armilly puts up a brave front to cover deeper insecurities. This depth continues through the game, with subtle character tics betraying plot hints and nods to backstories.

Players pick up new party members as the game progresses, first running into Galleo, a big green bot who acts as party healer. Other characters can also be recruited, adding their own skills in combat to the roster. Only three party members can be active at once, so getting the balance right is important.

Combat itself is handled by a card system. Each character has a deck of no more than eight cards, three of which can be played each turn. By using their entire deck, players utilise effects such as attacks, defensive spells, healing, buffs, debuffs, and so on. Pleasingly, the combat system is complemented by a captivating sense of style, with each card channelling old-fashioned computer punch aesthetics.

The developers are clearly fans of collectable card games, as cards can also be chained together into combos, which provide an extra effect on the completion. This effect is not as easy to achieve as it might sound, however, as some cards require ‘Steam pressure’ to be played. This mechanic brings in an element of deck building and strategy, as players balance building steam pressure with spending it. Therefore, players can spend a significant amount of time agonising over new strategies, trying to decide on an effective build for the limited deck size.

Getting card game elements in a video game wrong is easy, by having the mechanics too complex or unwieldy. SteamWorld Quest avoids the pitfalls experienced by games such as Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories by making the card-based combat relatively simple. New twists and complexities are added gradually, thus giving the player several ways to build a deck to suit individual play style.

Cards can be crafted at the travelling merchant, providing a use for the various materials players pick up on their travels. Cards can also be upgraded to increase their effectiveness, preventing useful early cards from becoming obsolete later. Players can add to their decks by finding cards scattered about the world, along with weapons and accessories to make characters more effective, emphasising the importance of exploration.

SteamWorld Quest is more story-driven than its predecessors, and a lot of time between battles is taken up with talking. The conversations never outstay their welcome, as the plot moves along at a pleasing pace, and the characters are engaging enough to keep the player interested. As players progress, more backstory is uncovered, and some scenes can be surprisingly emotional, with the fluid character animations underscoring the dialogue in a believable way.

The writing uses consistent characterisation that is happy to show the player about the world and the characters instead of spilling everything in a massive information dump. This writing style serves the pacing well. The only real issue is that while the game allows skipping of dialogue, entirely skipping a scene is impossible, so when players are re-exploring an area for hidden secrets, the same scenes keep playing out, even if they have been seen before.

The game has frequent nods towards world-building and backstory, which serves to draw the player in. Progression reveals that the problems in the world of SteamWorld Quest go deeper than invading Dark Lords and evil magic. The first time the player notices that the language the steam bots speak is like a more pleasant version of modem noise, implying that the characters are speaking in binary, is a nice touch. Other geeky references are scattered around, including an equippable book called an Octavo, a sneaky reference to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Despite the cartoonish artwork and often light-hearted dialogue, hints at darkness are ever-present in the universe of SteamWorld Quest—something that is underscored by the music, which starts off pleasant and whimsical. However, as players progress into more dangerous areas, the mood of the soundscape also shifts, providing a counterpoint to the action and dialogue while never being obtrusive.

The gameplay flow is easy to get into once the basic controls have been established, though toggling the ‘speed up’ option in the menu is a good idea, as otherwise players need to hold down the right trigger to speed through enemy turns during combat. SteamWorld Quest shines when showing off the amount of depth that it offers in crafting cards, building suitable decks, and deciding on party composition for each area, with each enemy encounter tip-toeing delightfully between the exploitation of strengths and weaknesses. Boss battles, in particular, can be challenging unless chain combos have been mastered, which can itself be tricky if the character decks do not have the right balance.

SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech is a wonderful, fun RPG adventure that has a lot of depth to delve into, secrets to explore, and story to uncover. The game looks beautiful, sounds brilliant, and has a smooth and absorbing gameplay flow. SteamWorld Quest, is surprisingly easy to get completely sucked in to, with the card game elements providing an impressive amount of complexity to the combat. Any RPG fan should give serious consideration to adding the title to their Nintendo Switch library and fans of previous SteamWorld games will find a lot to enjoy in the art and lore, too.

OnlySP Review Score 5 High Distinction

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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