When it comes to point-and-click adventure games on Xbox One, I think we can safely agree that Artifex Mundi dominates the space. However, although they release a new adventure every month or so, there’s not a wide selection of heavy hitters to choose from. That being said, it’s not every day that we see a point-and-click game take the form of an episodic adventure, in fact, there’s really only King’s Quest that stands out as an example. Until now, that is. The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle is finally upon us, and follows a similar structure.
The game wastes no time at throwing you into the thick of it. The first area serves as a means to feed you into the basics of play. With this being a point-and-click game, and seeing as there’s barely any mechanical depth, it’s very easy to gel with overall. Here, you’re placed into the role of the titular Bertram Fiddle. Following a quick browse of some home paintings, it becomes immediately clear that Bertram has been on quite a few adventures in his time. Now, however, he’s a glorified gofer, and has a growing hunger for excitement.
During an errand, Bertram gets knocked over in the street by a stranger running by, and during the collision, Bertram’s bag is taken, and the stranger’s bag left behind. Following a few interactions with some notable characters, Bertram soon discovers that the stranger’s bag is holding a severed head. Furthermore, it’s relayed to Bertram that the handy work is that of a serial killer, and so off Bertram goes to get to the bottom of things and put a stop to the murderer once and for all. What ensues is a dark, yet surprisingly comical affair.
I’ve kept the story here relatively vague, because in truth, there’s really only an hour of play to soak up and it would be unfair for me to spoil much of the plot. The game plays out just like any bog standard point-and-click ordeal. You’ll control a cursor on the screen and must guide Bertram (and his one-eyed friend Gavin) to and from place to place as you interact with characters, items, and environmental set pieces. There’s a small inventory present that serves as a means to store objects you’ll pick up along the way, but that’s as deep as it gets.
You’re free to merge some objects together to makeshift other objects, but this only really happens a handful of times throughout. The majority of play here sits with exploration more than anything else. The game’s locations house a few puzzles, but none of them are particularly all that challenging; feed a cookie to a parrot, use a bath as a boat, and so on and so forth. That’s really the sum of the game’s difficulty. I found it to be borderline insulting to those that relish the intricate puzzles that games of this type tend to relay.
I only hope that subsequent episodes put forward some form of innovation on this front, because as it stands, it’s a walk in the park. Not once did I find myself stumped due to how obvious the solution to each problem is. Puzzles here tend to revolve around finding an object to use elsewhere, or freeing up an object that someone is occupying by giving them another object. It’s as simplistic as that. That being said, the game does attempt to spice things up a bit by throwing the odd curve-ball at you, but even then it’s still far too easy.
Gavin, for instance, is a lot stronger than Bertram, and houses the ability to move heavy objects that Bertram cannot budge. Whilst that could have been an interesting mechanic, it’s, much like the above puzzles, lost in the face of obvious problem solving. Outside of that, you’ll find two segments of play that require you to guide Bertram along a pathway whilst he’s running either to or from something. This amounts to just dodging people and structures that sit in your path via moving up and down across three lanes of movement.
Where’s the challenge? For a game as dark as this, however comical it is, you would expect a difficulty that sits inline with the capabilities of its audience. Sadly, that just doesn’t pull through. With its short length and its lack of difficulty to the side, there’s still a lot to like about this game. Throughout my hour-long time playing The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle, I’ve met a range of unique and wacky characters, characters that will stick with me for a good while yet to come, all of which tend to provide distinct, whimsical personalities.
I have to commend the writing here. Whilst it can be a bit goofy at times, and indeed some jokes can miss the mark, overall, it does well at maintaining its funny stance. Everything here is very tongue-in-cheek, and it’s executed with such style and quality that it’s hard not to appreciate. There’s plenty of dialogue to work through, and heaps of characters of varying importance to toy around with as you move deeper into the story. The banter isn’t overly deep, but deep enough to ensure that the chatter remains interesting from start to finish.
The game’s locations vary quite nicely too. Sure, the bulk of play will consist of simply moving from area to area, chatting, and item grabbing, but if this game is anything, it’s intriguing and stunning. The artwork is outstanding, and packs quite a lot of detail across the board. Everything from the game’s sharp presentation, right up to each and every animation is remarkably well executed. I can say the same about the audio work, being that the soundtrack, the cues, and the voice overs, are all sensationally well delivered throughout.
The bottom line in all of this is that The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle is not going to test you in the way that any of its contemporaries do, and that’s a huge disappointment. However, it’s still got enough charm and offers enough enjoyment to warrant a light recommendation. I only hope that future episodes improve where this episode falters, because if they all follow the same structure, this will be one of the biggest wasted opportunities of its genre. Should you pick this game up? Yes, you should. Just be prepared to be a little underwhelmed.
When it comes to episodic games, first impressions are everything. Sadly, The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle’s opening episode is a mixed bag of pros and cons. Whilst the art direction is outstanding and the story remains humorously dark, there’s very little complexity on show as far as the game’s puzzles are concerned. Further to that, it’s a relatively short experience that lasts little over an hour. Subsequent episodes certainly need to pick up the slack.
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.