The WarioWare formula may seem so absurd as to be difficult to replicate, despite its extreme simplicity, yet every now and then some cases come out in which the crazy mini-game rises to state of the art and in this Spookware review let's see how Beeswax Games has come very close to this concept, at least. The ingredients are all very interesting: the sudden flashes of gameplay given by the mini-games launched between head and neck, a setting that starts from the classic horror styles and builds on it a hilarious parody and a real story to be discovered through different acts, which stages the adventures of three skeletal brothers struggling with different situations. All this creates a very particular amalgam that has practically no equal in the videogame panorama and it is no small thing nowadays, although the gameplay always remains extremely simple.
It is difficult to find a precise location for Spookware in the system of videogame genres, being something even more particular than WarioWare, given the presence of further hybrid elements to build its structure, but we can consider it a sort of adventure with mini-game integrated.
The result is quite interesting because it creates a constant variation between different situations, with a base focused on exploration and dialogues and the frequent takeover of mini-games to provide sudden blows of extremely elementary but also decidedly hilarious action, above all thanks to the demented characterization adopted for represent the different situations in which we have to act.
The game was released last summer, but we recover it now, with this review, because it can be particularly suitable for Halloween, especially for those who are inclined to a decidedly humorous interpretation of it.
Story: three happy dead boys
The game starts off strong, proposing a tight series of 9 mini-games to be completed in sequence before you can even see the start of the history, just to make it clear what we have to deal with during the adventure. Three rather funny looking skeletons watch the action on an antediluvian TV comfortably seated on a sofa, which suggests that the theme of the game is actually a sort of "classic horror movie" marathon that the three brothers are carrying out. for who knows how long now, inside a typical American home basement. At the end of this first section, the three finally decide to go out and get some air and from here the story actually starts, revealing how the basement is actually a tomb from which the three brothers emerge to try to recover some 'of time lost in their long stay underground.
Lefti, Midi and Righti, these are the names of the three skeletal figures, therefore decide to face the wonders of the outside world, taking part in different adventures within separate sections characterized by specific scenarios. For example, we start from a typical American high school and then move on to a cruise ship and then to a neighborhood of a big city where our people have to take care of the management of a restaurant, with a quest main to be faced for each level.
It is easy to understand how each section represents, in effect, the discovery of a typical component of normal life, which is faced by the three brothers as a sort of "first time", in fact rediscovering life after death, or at least this is what it looks like at first glance. Among the light-hearted and humorous tones that characterize dialogues and game situations, a sort of underlying disturbing element can be glimpsed, which emerges during the dreams of the protagonists and in other situations, making it clear how everything can only be "an illusion", waiting to discover the truth hidden at the end of the path.
Gameplay: WarioWare with the dead
From the point of view of the gameplay, the game is configured as a sort of adventure in which the interactions with characters and scenery are limited to dialogues and mini-games in the style of WarioWare: Get It Together !. During the exploration phases we are free to move the three characters within the settings, in search of locations and to discover the main missions to complete, but once these elements are defined, the mini-games become the fundamental moments of the game. Essentially, the real moments of the game are made up of these blazes of gameplay in which we have to understand what to do and perform simple actions but without being able to make mistakes, all within a minimum amount of time. THE mini game they are many and varied, offering a variety of absurd situations as the Nintendo series taught us, but in this case with a tone tending to the gloomy and grotesque: reassemble a skeleton, cut off a head, defuse a bomb, escape from ghosts and many others game micro-structures to be executed correctly in a few seconds.
Compared to WarioWare, in Spookware there is a certain contextualization of these mini game, at least as regards those sections that are more specifically about progression in history.
In the first level, to give an example, we find ourselves having to assemble a band for the school concert and to do so we have to win various musical challenges: all of these take place as a kind of rhythm game that requires the correct pressure of the keys in time to play the percussion correctly. In the next level, set on a cruise ship, we have to solve an alleged murder case by trying to counter the testimonies by presenting evidence that could frame the suspects (in a very similar way to Phoenix Wright), while in the one after that the games have to do dealing with running a restaurant. In practice, the most disparate mini-games are inserted within game sequences more rooted in the narrative, which act as a common thread as regards the individual levels.
It should also be noted that the control system is a bit confused: the game itself reports that it is preferable to use the keyboard, but in some cases the mouse is preferred, with the need to switch from one to the other to control the characters. in the adventure stages and in the mini-games.
Graphics between 2D, 3D and reality
The solution chosen for the graphics, with a truly unique aesthetic that mixes 2D, 3D elements, drawings and real images. As for the relationship between 2D characters and 3D environments, the effect closely resembles that typical of the Paper Mario series, with the various skeletons appearing "flat", but moving within a three-dimensional space. The mixture of real life photos and drawn elements is rather unique, with a remarkable impact that seems to be based on real dioramas to which some "low-fi" filters are applied that can distort the image, also applying a vintage effect. in line with the slightly 90s style that characterizes the whole. This effect is valid both in the exploration phases between the environments and in the single-screen mini-games, where the use of photomontages reaches the maximum humorous / demented effect.
This style leads to a truly unique characterization and represents a good part of all the charm of Spookware, but also involves some somewhat problematic elements: the clear and clean graphics of WarioWare immediately make it clear what needs to be done within the various mini-games , which are always immediate but difficult to perform perfectly and in the minimum time available. Spookware often lacks this clarity and immediacy, so we may find ourselves losing lives (we have three available, before the game over) just to try to understand not only what to do with the mini-games, but also simply what is happening and what are the elements of interaction. The soundtrack, for its part, manages to perfectly accompany the action with the right bizarre style that is perfectly associated with the game.
CommentTested version PC Windows Digital Delivery Steam Price 10,79 € Resources4Gaming.com
WarioWare has become a myth for its particularities, including the fact that it is essentially devoid of a real videogame form. Spookware tries to provide an alternative and a sort of solution to this "problem" by placing the mini-games within a more structured context, with a real narrative, a progression between levels and elements of exploration, discovery, interaction. and dialogues. Basically, a real adventure on which mini-games are grafted: if we also add to all this a unique characterization and an equally strange graphic style, the result could be explosive. Spookware does all this really well, the problem is that the lack of depth typical of the mini-game collection remains, and is perhaps even accentuated by the attempt to elevate it to a component of a more structured adventure, especially if these little flares of gameplay they are also tainted by a seeking lack of clarity and immediacy. It remains a very strange and fun game, perhaps suitable for having a laugh in the Halloween theme, but it is possible that it will get bored quickly.
- Very unique and very pleasant style, between graphics and audio
- The black and zany humor always has its effect
- Some mini-games associated with the adventure elements work very well
- The mini-games remain very superficial, of course
- Little clarity in the (micro) structure of the games, at first glance
- Confusion in the control system