If you ask anyone to name a famous detective, chances are they’ll say Sherlock Holmes more often than not. So it’s no surprise that an investigative, murder mystery, point-and-click adventure would take inspiration from Arthur Conan Doyle’s finest crime solver, which is exactly what developers Cave Monsters have done. Instead of featuring humans though, the focus is on anthropomorphic animals and the titular character, a giraffe. The game in question is Lord Winklebottom Investigates and it’s time to see whether it stands tall in a genre that’s increasingly overcrowded.
Lord Winklebottom Investigates is set in an alternative version of the 1920s, where Lord Winklebottom (a giraffe) and Dr. Frumple (a hippopotamus) run a fairly successful detective agency together in London. Having been invited to the residence of Admiral Gilfrey for a huge gathering on the Isle of Barghest, they arrive to find that Winklebottom’s pal Gilfrey is unfortunately dead. Could it have been murder? There’s only one way to figure that out. With every suspect now stranded on the island and in this extravagant mansion, the investigative duo must get to the bottom of the matter.
It may seem like the bog standard setup to any of those afternoon crime drama reruns on ITV4 like Miss Marple or Poirot – it even has a soundtrack that would fit perfectly – but that notion would actually be a disservice to Lord Winklebottom Investigates. The story is told with an abundance of dry British wit and dark humour, ensuring the murderous undertone isn’t a depressing cloud hanging over proceedings. As progression is made, the whodunnit nature keeps you guessing throughout and due to your findings, you’ll ponder many culprits. Predictable, it is not. I’ve got to say, while there are slight similarities with comedic point-and-clicker Adventures of Bertram Fiddle, the anthropomorphic element here helps to differentiate it excellently.
While on the subject, let’s address the elephant in the room… well okay there are no elephants, however there are numerous different animals acting like ordinary humans. Expect to see a giraffe, a hippo, a pelican, a seal, a cat, a dog, and many more having a natter to each other. Is it odd? At first, yes. The characterisation of the aforementioned animals is spot on though, with a wide range of British accents given to them that really suits each personality. A favourite of mine is the easy-going Dr. Price, a chameleon with a Lancashire accent who tends to go unnoticed by others. Every single character will be of interest though.
In regards to the gameplay, Lord Winklebottom Investigates is as close as you’ll get to the classic point-and-click problem solving. Everything you need to overcome a roadblock in the narrative will come from using your inventory of items. Like a kleptomaniac, Lord Winklebottom collects almost anything not nailed down, which is handy because you may need to confront a suspect with something, use them to or make a cup of tea – it’s literally the first task, because we all need a good cuppa before anything else. Every solution is quite sensible, meaning logic prevails and as long as you have the items, you’ll work it out eventually.
Navigating the various accessible areas and accumulating said items is easily done using a very well-paced cursor. Clicking on anything interactive – be it an animal or inanimate object – allows you to look at, pick something up, or initiate a conversation. It’s really intuitive, with a pop-up inventory bar when hovering near the bottom of the screen a nice touch. Sadly, the idea falters slightly if your item of interest is in the same area, but that’s infrequent enough to not become much trouble.
I would highly recommend leaving no stone unturned in any of the gloriously hand-painted scenes, because you may miss a gem or two where dialogue is concerned. There are a fair few truly funny one-liners and a whole host of intriguing objects to look at, with the three wise monkey statues, a CD collection featuring Periwinkle Flange and the Crustaceans (I can’t even write it with a straight face), and a risque portrait of a mole-rat amongst the highlights.
If there are any criticisms worth noting, one is that with so many folks to talk to and items to procure, you’ll get ahead of yourself at times. Often crucial pieces of a puzzle are overlooked because something interacted with may not be obtainable until specific points in the plot and you can be on a merry-go-round trying to solve the unsolvable. Unfortunately, when you begin to spiral into madness, Dr. Frumple’s hints rarely help either.
Ultimately though, Lord Winklebottom Investigates is the quintessential British murder mystery; a great addition to the vast point-and-click library. You will chuckle at the dialogue, feel joy at solving the problems, and be surprised as the plot thickens. Sure, you may have moments where a bout of bemusement takes over, but then a gentleman giraffe in a suit and top hat is a pleasant reminder to just lighten up.
Go on, treat yourself to a cuppa and a copy of Lord Winklebottom Investigates. You won’t regret it.
Explore Lord Winklebottom Investigates from the Xbox Store