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SummaryOne of the most underrated adventure games around
The GoodI'm very surprised to see that this game has never won the popularity it certainly deserves. Maybe it was the fault of its misleadingly childish title, or its hard puzzles. It is not an adventure "for everybody", but its superb qualities cannot be denied.
"Woodruff" is, first of all, a highly original game. It offers a brilliant blend of bizarre looks and deep content. It may look like the famous Gobliiins puzzle games developed by the same company, but it is much, much more than just a serious of puzzles. It has a surprisingly serious, strong story line, that deals with such issues as genocide, corrupt politicians, and even love. The mixture of grotesque style, bizarre humor, and perfectly serious plot is a bit similar to Zork: Grand Inquisitor, another underrated adventure game.
There is a lot of bitter irony in the game: the humans, once they gained control over the earth one more time, repressed and exterminated most of the peaceful boozooks. The boozooks, by the way, are interesting and amusing in their own way. They have ancient traditions, are much more skilled in rituals and debates than in defending themselves, tend to reflect too much, have a bit too many "wisemen" and rather big noses... Maybe I'm imagining things, but if the creators of the game really had certain parallels in mind, I applaud them for implementing such serious topics in a video game, even in such a humorous form.
There are more interesting topics in the game: for example, the protagonist actually falls in love, a rare occasion in comedy adventures, if we ignore the famous Secret of Monkey Island. There is something very charming about the game's hero: it's a kid who miraculously turned to be 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 as humor in many comedy titles (yes, Simon, I'm looking at you). He does noble things and in the end becomes a true hero.
Those serious aspects come wrapped in a very original, stylish package. The graphics are deliberately simple, sometimes even simplified, to create a grotesque atmosphere. There is a definite cartoon-like edge in the graphics, but they look different, quite unlike other generic-looking cartoon-style games. The game has its own graphical humor which at times gets quite bizarre. Seeing some of the creatures perform the most incredible gestures really made me laugh out loud several times.
Another very original aspect of the game are its sound effects. This is one game that really made me pay attention to the sound. There is no "real" music in the game, but the sound effects are everywhere, and sometimes they "replace" music. Some locations, for example, are accompanied by evil-sounding laughing, nothing else. The sounds for most of the game's actions are hilarious. Take the "voice-overs" for the formulae as an example. By the way, the game has full voice acting, which is quite good.
"Woodruff" has more than good story and stylish design. It also has excellent, hardcore puzzle-solving gameplay. It is a very challenging game, some of the puzzles are very difficult to figure out, 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! Later in the game you'll have access to the wisdom of the boozooks, and you'll be able to prepare special formulae and mantras that act like magic spells. Among them are some very cool ones, such as the ability to levitate, to make trees grow, to force people to dance, and such.
The BadSome puzzles are really, really tough. They make their own crazy sense after you have completed them, but the solution is very hard to find in some cases. 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.
The title is really stupid. I'm sure many people won't even consider playing this game because of this title. Even the US title sounds like a fairy tale for five-year-old kids. The original European title is even worse. I'm sure people would be more interested in this game if it were named more appropriately, like "Love Drives You Mad" or "The Seven Elders of Boozook"... okay, at least giving titles to games is not my job!
Most of the names in the game are also too silly. Why "Bigwig"? Is this a good name for such a sinister character? I think not.
This game was released only for Windows 3x platform, which means it will work only under Windows 98 only if you change your desktop resolution to 640x480, which is uncomfortable to do every time you want to play the game.
The Bottom Line+ Unique style and design
+ Has its own sense of humor
+ Surprisingly good story
+ Challenging, interesting puzzles
- Silly title and names
Don't let the silly title and the cartoony look fool you: this game is anything but harmless fairy tale for children. Its serious content, original style, grotesque humor, and hardcore puzzles make it one of the most overlooked adventure games in history.