When it comes to point-and-click adventures, anything with Artifex Mundi attached to it is generally, at the very least, a worthwhile trek, and Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love, is by no means an exception. In fact, I daresay that it’s one of the most original outings we’ve seen in the genre for a good while. Still, with that in mind, there’s issues to be mindful of, but the game does go on to get a lot more right than it gets wrong. If you’re looking for a unique point-and-click puzzle game that’s unlike anything else, this may just be for you.
Players take on the role of Evan Kovolsky, a low-ranking, somewhat simple minded journalist that’s found himself thrust into becoming a pawn in a spy war between communistic forces and a powerful capitalist force. What ensues is a tale that’s chock-full of all sorts of twists and turns, and although predictable from time to time, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a few shocks from the adventure at hand. It helps, of course, that the whole affair has a well set dark humor to it, taking a layer off its rather heavy handed theme.
I wont spoil the story outside of that, because in truth, this is one of those games that drip feeds you the plot; essentially meaning that I could spoil so much with even a smidgen of intel. What I will say, however, is that its story ticks many of the boxes that it needed to, and although quite serious by structure, it’s one that knows exactly when to be firm, and precisely when to be funny. It’s wacky, it’s neatly written, and above all else, it effortlessly manages to take a tried and tested concept and make it fresh, interesting, and exciting.
Now, due to the fact that it’s unbound by history (given its alternate reality setting), the game is able to take a great many liberties in regards to being fantastical and outlandish. Whilst it manages to achieve that exact result, there’s a few drawbacks with its logic at times, but we’ll get to that in due course. First and foremost, the game doesn’t house a traditional tutorial, but instead, Evan will periodically explain the basics of play to you as you start out. It’s a decent twist and one that prevents the game from feeling like it wastes time.
Of course, those familiar with point-and-click games will feel right at home, on the basis that Irony Curtain doesn’t stray too far from the formula we all know and love. Essentially, you have no direct control over Evan, and will instead control a (rather loose) cursor to guide Evan around a range of interesting and diverse locales. When doing this, you’ll be free to investigate points of interest, interact with specific objects, and indeed, chat to the game’s large cast of witty characters. Like I said, it doesn’t step too far from the concept we know.
Naturally, some characters are vastly more interesting than others, but they do all come together in a really well rounded sort of way, ensuring that dialogue repetition is kept to a minimum. In fact, I found myself going out of my way to soak up as much of the script as possible, and although the game encourages such behavior, you’ll find more than meets the eye if you spend time soaking up the game’s narrative. Furthermore, it’s nice to have a game from Artifex Mundi that actually excels in this regard, to be quite bloody frank.
In regards to the game’s puzzles, these vary from overly simple, right through to outright brain twisting. Whilst the game does a great job of feeding you into the fields of play, before long, and once it’s let go of your hand, you’ll come across some puzzles that not only defy logic, but defy much meaning at all. The one major gripe I have with the game is that there’s a few puzzles that are just so far out, they’re silly. I get that games of this kind are supposed to make you think outside of the box, but some of them go far beyond even that realm.
Mercifully, there’s a generous hint system in place that allows you to get back on track, but this almost feels like cheating due to how descriptive it can be. Still, when all is said and done, I wont totally nail this against the game, because for the majority of play, Irony Curtain offers up some very intelligently designed puzzles. There’s also a bulk of non-linear puzzles included, meaning that you’ll find more than one solution to overcome a problem throughout; ultimately throwing in a decent degree of replay value as an overall result.
The puzzles consist of what you would typically expect from a point-and-click adventure. You’ll chat with folks, pay close attention to your surroundings, interact with scenery, and slowly piece together what you’re expected to do to move forward. It all comes together like a hand to a glove, and to its credit, they all (when you’re not hinting it) make you feel like you’ve accomplished something; a rare occurrence for a game like this. What’s more, most of the puzzles are actually that, puzzles, not just mindless progression blockers.
I found myself generally intrigued by the game’s complexity on this front, despite its harsh difficulty at times. Far too often do we see games of this kind just expecting us to be content with finding solutions to problems that a monkey could overcome, so it was a refreshing change of pace. Sure, you’ll still throw the controller in disbelief at some of the tasks you’re given to remedy, but when the dust settles, Irony Curtain achieves much of what it set out to accomplish, and then some. It’s a memorable journey, marred only by mild setbacks.
The bottom line in all of this? Irony Curtain will no doubt go down well with fans of the concept, and it serves as a great place to start if you’re looking to get into the whole scene. It’s got a brilliant blend of dialogue, puzzle solving, and mechanical depth, and whilst far from the greatest point-and-click in the market, it’s certainly fairly high up there. I’ve grew fond of watching Evan grow as a character as he engages with his surroundings and all that entails, and being one that actually feels in place rather than just that of an avatar.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, Irony Curtain gets a thumbs up. The game’s locations are gorgeously drawn, with a wonderful blend of difference between them to produce the game with variety, style, and freshness. I’ll say as much about the audio presentation, being that the game houses a soundtrack and audio cues that are not just fitting to the journey on the whole, but memorable. When all is said and done, this adventure is one that will please just about anyone that appreciates a point-and-click puzzler.
Whilst Irony Curtain doesn’t stray too far from the expectations of its concept, it certainly excels as a fun, humorous, puzzle-filled adventure that balances its mechanics well. My only gripe with the game is that some solutions to the game’s many problems are perhaps a bit too outlandish for their own good, ultimately presenting moments of sporadic guesswork. Still, that one flaw does little to pull the game shy of well deserved greatness.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.