UK REVIEW--It's important not to make assumptions. Take point-and-click adventure Hoodwink, for instance. Its lovely art style invites you into the game with open arms. There's a real, immediate charm to its world, which is populated by some thoroughly appealing characters and environments. Unfortunately, these charms are quickly overcast by a plethora of problems ranging from awkward level design to a lack of plot development, banishing that pleasant feeling you got when you started the journey.
You assume the role of Michael Bezzle, a man who's determined to propose to his girlfriend with a fancy ring found under mysterious circumstances. Michael lives in a dystopian world governed by one immensely powerful pharmaceutical corporation. The city is filled with advertisements for various healthcare products. Incidental dialogue sheds light on the world's history as you execute a series of peculiar tasks--like repeatedly arguing with a robot trashcan. In this world you meet human-like animals and animal-like plants, too. It's a quirky setting, one that makes you excited to explore it and learn its history. Unfortunately, you don't really get a chance to do either.
The once charming atmosphere soon goes stale and crumbles around you when the same incidental characters and their singular, one-dimensional conversations are repeated through different areas. The subtitles are also a mess, with incorrect transcriptions, grammatical errors, and a whole range of inconsistencies. Some puzzles force you to utilize shoddy mechanics in order to catch creatures or move objects; in one, you might have to furiously click on a lamp post until it finally shifts into the correct position. Eventually, anything that may have seemed fresh and inviting wears down to be a hindrance, annoyance, or grind.
This hour-long game is comprised of silly puzzles that rarely let you flex your creativity. There are so few ways to interact with a given scene that you rarely feel like a cunning mastermind when you successfully solve a stumper. For instance, if you want someone to give you their chocolate, the solution is to kick a tree so some fruit falls on their head, causing them to spit the chocolate out, wrapper intact and all. Rather than using intelligence and creativity to solve the puzzle, you stumble on the solution to it because there's little else you can do.
For the opening puzzle of the game you must find Michael's soon-to-be engagement ring. The solution lies in lighting a cigar, accidentally setting fire to the trash and activating an extractor fan, which blows away some papers to reveal the prize. Most puzzles are full of this odd, video game logic that makes little practical sense, which makes solving puzzles all the more frustrating. That's not helped by the shoddy hint system, which completely reveals the solutions to some puzzles and offers no help whatsoever with others.
At the start of every new puzzle, Michael talks to himself as if to indicate what you should do next, but often his words are meaningless, obtuse, or contrary to the real goal. A piece of overtly obvious information may flash at you every two or three minutes, telling you what you need to do, and Michael constantly repeats dialogue until you complete your task. Later, even this hint system breaks down, and you end up receiving information on puzzles you already completed, or have yet to reach. As such, you're left none the wiser as to what you should be doing in places. Turning the hint system off poses the opposite problem; there's no narrative cohesion, and no real indication of what you're expected to do. The notebook, which also lists your next objective, often doesn't update in time, languishing one or two steps behind.
It's bad enough that Hoodwink has inconsistent communication, but it's even worse when you run into a glitch that halts your progress. Certain tasks require you to collect a set of items and give them to a specific character. Once you've handed over your items, you might stop to check your inventory and find the items are still in there. Or perhaps, on completion of the puzzle, items were supposed to be swapped for something different, and haven't. You have to actually leave the area, or get to a certain loading screen, before the inventory will update.
At other times, you won't be able to enter an area because there's no clear indication of an access point. Sometimes this is because Hoodwink refuses to allow you to interact with objects before they're integral to a puzzle, causing them to look like pieces of the environment that are otherwise unneeded. Elsewhere, the game has such poor level design that background bits of scenery give the illusion of an impassable boundary. In other places, it's because an area's exit isn't a hotspot, and it's only by walking onto the exact patch of ground the game wants you to walk onto that you find the next area. Not that there are many areas to explore, mind. There are just three meagre places to visit, and just as you're about to start what feels like the game proper, it suddenly ends.
The characters, while vividly imagined and colourfully created in terms of appearance, are nothing more than a series of caricatures, including the hippy stallholder, the greedy German robot, the rude English robot, and the Cuban cockroaches. The stereotypes have some capacity to work in a game world such as this, but there’s no character exploration beyond race, image and thirty seconds of exceptionally shallow dialogue.
Hoodwink doesn't actually have a plot. It's more of a teaser for a plot that does not, and might never, exist. There's an illusion that your actions--from both before the game begins and the duration in which you play--are going to be explained. You find you've been tricked by a world that suggests it has a larger meaning, or tale to tell, when in fact it doesn't. You will never know what led Michael Bezzle to the ring, what any of the (very few) plot points mean, or where the journey is going.
There's no real beginning, or middle, or end. Hoodwink has a jaw-dropping conclusion, but for all the wrong reasons. You're left dazed, confused, and wondering why you've suddenly been dumped at the end credits after an hour of incoherent puzzles and trite, one-dimensional characters. No amount of pretty visuals, or a seemingly cheap £10 price tag can make up for that.'