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SummaryAprès moi, les boozooks
The GoodThe French company Coktel Vision was a fairly prolific adventure game developer during the Golden Era. Though its reputation was questioned because of a few gameplay-poor erotic games, their Gobliiins series has gained considerable acclaim.
Woodruff, conceived by Muriel Tramis (sometimes known as the French Roberta Williams), is one of Coktel's last adventures, and probably their finest work in the field of the pure genre. While Gobliiins games were completely puzzle-oriented, Woodruff offers as much exploration as other classic adventures of the time.
Woodruff is, above all, an adventure game designed for those who like the genre for the challenges it offers and do not shy away from puzzles that may be hard to figure out. Its rock solid, hardcore puzzle design is both inventive and very demanding: the difficulty can border on hair-pulling, but none of the puzzles is really obscure or out of place. You'll need crazy leaps of logic, of course, but that's what makes playing the game so entertaining!
The usual "use this on that" type of tasks is elegantly complemented by unique gameplay elements. Later in the game you'll gain access to the wisdom of the boozooks, and you'll be able to prepare special formulas that act like magic spells. Among them are some very cool ones, such as the ability to levitate, make trees grow, force people to dance, and so on. You'll be collecting "syllables" and composing formulas out of them by yourself, using your newly found abilities as much (and more) as simple inventory items.
This delightfully difficult gameplay comes wrapped in a very original, stylish package. The very crisp graphics are cartoony in their own unique way, creating a weird, at times almost grotesque atmosphere. The game has its own graphical humor, which can get quite bizarre. Seeing some of the creatures perform the most incredible gestures really made me laugh out loud several times.
Another interesting aspect of the game are its sound effects. This is one game that really made me pay attention to its sound. There is no "real" music in the game, but sound effects are everywhere, and sometimes they replace music. Some locations, for example, are accompanied by evil-sounding laughter, nothing else. This can actually get pretty spooky. And the sounds for most of in-game actions are hilarious - take the "voice-overs" for the formulas as an example. By the way, the game has full voice acting, which is quite good.
The story is comically sweet. There is something very charming about the game's hero: it's a kid who miraculously turned into an adult; but in this adult's body there is still a naive, trusting soul of a young boy. Woodruff never does the nasty things some comedy adventure protagonists do. He doesn't cheat or bully weak people - things that pass for humor in many comedy titles (yes, Simon, I'm looking at you).
The BadMany puzzles in this game are really, really tough. They make their own crazy sense after you have completed them, but the solution is sometimes very hard to find. The nut-cracking puzzle is an example of this high difficulty level. Play this game at your own risk: it was designed for real adventure veterans. Or just use a walkthrough, like most people. Okay, okay, like me.
More off-putting than the difficulty level might be a certain ascetic quality of the game, which runs contrary to the lush verbosity of LucasArts' standard. Believe me, the simplified interface is a blessing here, because solving the tough puzzles would have been a very tedious process if the game required you to shuffle verbs for it. But anything not pertaining to the puzzles is sparse in this game - you won't be able to relax by chatting with characters or enjoying elaborate text descriptions. It's a game almost fully dedicated to puzzles and their solutions.