Christmas games are in short supply, which is surprising because it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. In reality, very few developers really embrace it. Dionous Games are one of the few however, with their most recent title being a Christmas themed point-and-click adventure. It’s called Watch Over Christmas and you’re going to have to perform a Christmas miracle, but is it an adventure that’s worth embarking upon this festive season?
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and little Cisco is preparing to go to sleep in anticipation of old Saint Nick delivering a sack full of presents. Suddenly, a voice emerges from his radio requesting urgent help in order to save Christmas. The fearsome Krampus has kidnapped Santa Claus, which means every kid around the world is about to wake up to empty stockings and a tree bereft of presents. It’s a lot of pressure for a twelve year old, but he’s been chosen and now Kosmos (the teddy bear possessed by the Christmas Spirit) will guide him through the night.
From the very first moments, Watch Over Christmas captures the essence of the annual holiday brilliantly. The snowy setting, traditional decorations adorning the family home and an excited child who believes wholeheartedly in the existence of Santa – it’s exactly what you’d expect. Even the music is full of jingles to deliver a suitably whimsical soundtrack for the most part, with added doom whenever there’s a perilous segment.
Throughout the slowly unravelling narrative, spanning six chapters, it introduces a whole host of beautiful hand-drawn environments too, depicting the wondrous places Cisco winds up visiting like the elf village and the residence of Jack Frost. Despite the icy backdrops, there’s a genuine warmth to be felt from the artistry and overall atmosphere.
As a protagonist, Cisco has a sense of wonderment that’s perfect for the role he must play in an adventure where exploration and a yearning for answers is a critical aspect. Naturally, Krampus is a menacing looking villain and his devious ways will push you on to save the day. In terms of other characters, there are a lot of memorable encounters to be had, which is mainly due to their designs and text dialogue interactions. Not so much the voiceovers though, as a few come across as quite annoying and not very convincing.
There’s very little else to criticise on the storytelling front however, except for a strange diversion early on where an entire section is set within a funfair involving weird merchants and Wiccans. It may make you doubt proceeding onwards due to the less-than festive aesthetic, but trust me it’s a mere tiny blip.
So, how exactly do you save Christmas? Well, much like every other point-and-click adventure, there are numerous problems and puzzles to solve along the way. Scouring locations for items using a Christmas tree cursor is a regular activity as you attempt to fill up your inventory with potentially useful things. I appreciate the sheer logic behind every single inventory-based solution because it saves you thinking outside the box.
Literally, everything is straightforward as long as you pay attention to the dialogue and take note of the items you find. Even in situations where you must create something complex – like a rocket – by using a myriad of objects, there’s a handy guide lurking within your inventory. It’s an excellent way to ensure the player is invested and digesting all the information and goings on. There are occasions when you find yourself ahead of the curve by looking for solutions that aren’t available yet as part of the story, or back-tracking between areas due to missing a dialogue option that holds an answer, but the problems are still very enjoyable to solve.
And then there are the mini-games. Gosh, the variety is spot on here and the frequency in which they occur is just enough to break up the rest of the gameplay. Whether it’s the sudoku style placement issue involving keys, the light reflection conundrum, or the testing of plants in a mini-lab, each poses a different task for your brain to work out. Other types include mixing colours to form new ones (a surprisingly educational activity), deciphering a code via the recital of a poem, and navigating a maze-like trial.
The diversity of mini-games is great and there’s real delight upon completing them, apart from a sole exception. During the climax of the final chapter, success relies upon a Christmas themed Rock, Paper, Scissors game. Given the choice between three items that counter each other and two special options that are of limited use, it’s essentially luck if you win enough rounds to progress. While this doesn’t cause too much hassle, I just feel it’s a bad call to have the worst puzzle left until the biggest moment.
Aside from the grey matter being tested, a series of presents are hidden within the many environments you’ll traverse. If you love a good collectable hunt, then this will be right up your street. At any point, you can open up the presents and inside is a gift that could be considered an easter egg. They’ll bring back memories for sure, with some rather obscure gifts reminiscent of Mighty Max and Dragon Ball toys.
Watch Over Christmas is a lovely, engaging, point-and-click adventure that’s full to the brim with all things Christmassy and more. You’ll encounter lots of interesting characters such as Santa, elves, magical entities and carny folk, which keeps your attention in-between the problem solving. And it’s the solving of these puzzling mini-games, as well as the logical item-based problems, that will bring utter delight. The only real drawback is how meticulous you need to be in order to get clues and solutions, but surely that’s not too much to ask.
Go on, treat yourself to Watch Over Christmas during the festive season and have a merry old time.
Watch Over Christmas is now available on the Xbox Store
- A fantastically Christmassy adventure
- Excellent logical puzzles
- Enjoyable mini-games full of variety
- Beautiful hand-drawn environments
- Easy to miss solutions if not meticulous
- Funfair seems out of place
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Dionous Games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PC
- Version Reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 30th November 2022
- Launch price from - £14.24