There’s not a lot I haven’t seen in the point-and-click genre, with experiences often featuring the likes of alien planets, devious sorcerers and a whole ton of clever puzzles to tax the old grey matter. Which begs the questions, what can Rumpus Animation conjure up to stand out in the ever-crowded market for such games? Well, we’re about to find out as Adventures of Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business has released on Xbox One and it’s taking us to Victorian London for a super serious adventure.
Did I say serious? I meant super silly crime caper/murder mystery involving the most posh chap you’re likely to ever encounter, Bertram Fiddle. Quite honestly, it’s rather spiffing for an opening chapter.
Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business tells the story of a keen explorer who happens to also dabble in a spot of detective work here and there – basically doing whatever he can to keep Worth, his wife, off his back before she makes him get a proper job. It’s a dangerous time to live in Victorian London though, with the notorious ‘Geoff the Murderer’ roaming the streets. By chance, Bertram gets caught up in the hunt for Geoff after they accidently mix up their bags, seeing Bertram’s dog Floofy taken whilst he’s left with a dismembered head. With his man-servant Cyclops Gavin in tow, they’re off to solve this mystery and put an end to the murderous swine.
The strongest area of this point-and-click adventure is undoubtedly the narrative, which is infused with a shed load of very British humour. Even the character names are naturally funny, such as Lord Arthwipe and Count Fulchmuckle, and that’s built upon wonderfully in the way that the personalities are in-line with an accentuated representation of the rich folk as well as the poor. Sometimes the outlandish vocabulary and use of made-up words is enough to cause a giggle, ensuring there’s something that’ll tickle your funny bone. The character design is so on-point too, capturing the upper class look whilst adding silly features to their faces that immediately grab your focus.
To be fair to Episode 1 of Bertram Fiddle, the gameplay holds up pretty darn well too, ensuring some classic point-and-click inventory puzzles are commonplace. You have to move a cursor around each area to send our enthusiastic explorer to interact with anything worth picking up, or to strike up a conversation. When items are needed from the inventory, you just drag and drop said item into the desired place. Alternatively, items can be combined in order to create the necessary solution for the problem at hand.
Whilst the solutions aren’t going to have you tearing out hair in sheer frustration, they won’t be too easy that it’s not enjoyable either. What helps to keep the interest levels high, aside from the eccentricity of proceedings, are the ingenuity of the puzzling moments. This sees you bribing a set of twins that wouldn’t look out of place in The Shining, bartering with a homeless man who doesn’t value much in life, and trying to outwit a certain famous detective named Sherlock, amongst other things. The trusty servant Gavin is also of use, with anything that requires pure strength left to him. Our Bertram is a bit weedy you see.
Usually in these types of adventures, one can expect to delve into a selection of challenging mini-games to break up the constant barrage of inventory-based conundrums. Unfortunately there’s no such thing here, instead there’s a double dose of action which sees Bertram chasing after Geoff and fleeing some ghastly spirits. Essentially you’re just navigating the main character up and down to avoid obstacles that could slow him down, so it’s nothing spectacular, but still a decent change of pace.
In terms of the visuals, the environment has been designed incredibly well to fit the time period and there are plenty of little details within the old houses, the ‘gentlemen’s club’, the sewers and even just on the street. It’s all very suited for the tale and having a decent amount of locations to traverse through helps stave off any monotony. As for the audio, and whilst the background music is quite convincing enough to complement what’s occurring, a bad word cannot be said about the delightful performances by the voice artists – they really bring the characters to life.
Adventures of Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business only clocks in at less than two hours for completion of all four chapters, which is a slight disappointment, but the time spent is sure to bring plenty of humour. There’s a cracking cast of characters, a decidedly British script and some truly wacky moments as you delve into the lives of Victorian London’s residents. The inventory puzzles are rather fun and the action parts are a little different, but the lack of mini-games is disappointing.
With Episode 2 just around the corner, it’d be an absolute travesty not to check out Adventures of Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business as soon as possible.