Reviewed On: PC
Review code provided free of charge by the publisher.
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 2 might just have the most amount of puns in a videogame ever. Practically each and every sentence somehow manages to contain a pun relating to a nearby item, a name or anything else the writers manage to think of. It’s wonderful. It’s stupid. It’s annoying. It’s funny. God, puns evoke such complex emotions, don’t they?
As you’ve probably already surmised from the title of the game there was a first episode of The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle a few years back that I never got around to playing. Happily, though, this second episode is entirely standalone and like me you can enjoy from beginning to end without ever having touched the first game. There are a few references to the previous adventures of the protagonist, but they’re small and you don’t feel like you’re missing something important.
Set in a heavily reimagined version of Victorian Lond you’ll be stepping into the shoes of one Bertram Fiddle, who is, in his own words, London’s leading “explorator” and a detective to boot. Aiding him on his quest is loyal manservant Gavin, who just so happens to be cyclopes. The story begins with Bertram working in a soap factory because there have been no adventures to go on, but before long he’s employed by his boss’ mother to investigate her son due to weird behavior, although exactly what constitutes weird behavior in a game where every character has a strange nose is hard to say. What stems from this is a yarn that manages to fit in the mystery of Geoff the Murderer, Sherlock Holmes, a demon, a prison break, Dr. Jekyll and a host of other things. If you like your point and click adventures barmy this one has you covered.
The writing is reasonable throughout though some abrupt sentences don’t let conversations flow like they should, but the various characters you meet along the way are a memorable bunch and the sense of humor is on point. It’s not a laugh-out-loud funny kind of game, but I did have a grin on my face most of the way through it. I couldn’t help it, really. Puns are my weakness. With that said the actual mystery itself surrounding Geoff the Murderer and what Fiddle’s boss is up to is…a bit of a letdown. There’s really no mystery as such despite how it initially sets itself up as one, and by the end a few plot threads were left hanging.
There is also a slight issue with the audio where you can clearly hear the recordings start and stop, especially if you’re wearing headphones. When a character speaks a faint background fuzziness that’s a result of the recording method can be heard. It’s not a huge problem and there’s a good chance most players won’t even notice, but it is there.
Gameplay-wise The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Chapter 2 sticks to the established point and click formula, meaning you’ll be picking up every item that isn’t glued or nailed down and chatting to ever character you come across in order to solve various bonkers puzzles, often in equally bonkers ways. The good news is that while the game manages to get you involved in a variety of daft, fun scenarios there’s a solid layer of logic that lets you solve most puzzles in ways that make sense. Even if the way forward isn’t clear the game is good at dropping hints for you via dialogue and its never ending puns. In fact, it’s almost too good at points, giving you clues that are about as subtle as being slapped
On the other end of the spectrum there are a couple of puzzles that may leave you struggling as the way forward isn’t obvious and the hints dry up. Even then, though, I never found myself stuck for too long before finally figuring out what had to be done to progress.
It’s a little inconsistent, then, but for the most part solving the various puzzles that get in your way is very enjoyable. While I don’t believe they ever manage to hit the same heights as some of the best examples the genre has to offer, and the same could be said of the story and characters, it’s still damn good.
I also appreciate the use of the space bar to indicate every intractable object on the screen, a feature that has been quite widely adopted now within the point and click genre. It stops the player from having to waste time patiently hunting around the screen for things that can used or examined or picked up, while at the same time purist fans can ignore the feature entirely if they wish.
On a graphical front, the game has a style that’s likely to be divisive. It’s either a love it or hate it scenario, I feel, with a unique aesthetic that paints the Victorian London setting as a fantastical, ugly place filled with characters who have strange faces.
A couple of issues cropped up during my 6-8 hour adventure, but importantly they were all noted in an Email from the company who promised that these problems would be fixed for launch. These include instances of placeholder voice-work or non-existent character animations, and even a few game-breaking hiccups, one of which I ran headfirst into because despite reading about it in the Email I promptly forgot about it and then did it anyway. Doh. However, while the developers have promised to have everything fixed in time for launch there’s always the chance that they won’t manage so it might be a good idea to check for any patches or chat on the forums before purchasing.
All in all, then, The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Chapter 2 is yet another solid entry in a genre which has seen a powerful resurgence over the past few years. It doesn’t amaze with its puzzles, humor or story, but all three of those elements are done well from start to finish. The characters are fun, the story is light and lacking in mystery yet enjouable and the puzzles will tickle the brain matter just enough to leave you feeling satisfied by time the credits roll. If there’s going to be a chapter 3, and I hope there will be, then I’ll gladly play it.