Over the past few weeks, I’ve been pining for a good point-and-click. It’s something to do with the nostalgia element. I grew up with the genre so when things are getting heavy in the real world (and let’s face it, things are pretty heavy right now), they’re the games I usually turn to.
The problem is that I haven’t been able to find one which has held my interest. The last release I played and enjoyed was The Blind Prophet by ARS GOETIA after the Digital Dragons Indie Celebration demo in May persuaded me to buy the full game. Since then, nothing seems to be scratching the itch; I’ve spent hours staring at my Steam wishlist or installing a title only to put it to one side an hour later, when I realise it’s not giving me that true point-and-click vibe that I’m searching for right now.
The thing is, I know there are some good titles coming soon and I had the opportunity to try a few demos during the Steam Game Festival last month. Mutropolis by Pirita Studio seems like it’s going to be a science-fiction tale which isn’t as dark as some of the other titles out there and Papetura by Petums is a hand-crafted game which looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s also Whateverland by Caligari Games, a project I found out about when a fellow member of a Facebook group posted a link to its Kickstarter campaign.
The story begins when protagonist Vincent, an engineer by profession and thief by trade, decides to steal a precious necklace from the mansion of an old woman named Beatrice. The task seems like an easy job for a master such as himself but what he doesn’t realise is that she’s actually a witch – and a vindictive one at that. Dismayed by Vincent’s behaviour, she sends him to a parallel world called Whateverland where people are compelled to languish indefinitely while they reflect on their poor life choices.
After installing the prologue a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in what looked like a scrapyard where I was introduced to the controls. Clicking on an object reveals icons representing verbs which can use used to look at or interact with, picking up an item stashes it in your inventory, clicking on a location causes Vincent to move to it and double-clicking will make him run. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a point-and-click and it will all feel rather familiar if you’ve played any classic entries in the genre.
What isn’t so familiar however is how players are able to tackle the game in two different ways. You can either be helpful, finding out what’s troubling other characters and then dealing with their problems, or you can steal what it is you need from them to move the plot forward. You don’t have to pick a ‘side’ at the beginning of the game and stick to it because every chapter can be completed in whichever way you choose, and each path offers a unique gameplay experience and ending which can’t be accessed otherwise.
My first choice came up in the next scene where I found someone trapped in a wardrobe with a chain and padlock. The voice promised to tell me all about where I was and how to escape but only if I got him out of there, and for that I’d need the key held by a weird inventor called Harold. As is my usual way with video games, I opted to be good and completed a task which involved getting rudder from a talking crow, who wanted something French and smelly, so Harold could finish his helicopter and fly away from Whateverland. Strange.
The person inside the cupboard was my future sidekick Nick, a guy with a pointy moustache who floats. He tells me that place brings out the worst in people, causing them to transform in different ways when they give into their vices and this explains his own predicament: slowly turning into a ghost from the feet upwards. All is not lost though because he knows of a way to summon Beatrice so they can graciously ask her to let them both out. We just need to find the seven parts of a spell scattered across world so how hard can it be?
The Kickstarter page for the project explains that the title will feature around 20 minigames including giving a tattoo to a mermaid, making top-notch ramen and fleeting from hostile communists. You’ll also encounter a variety of locks which need to be opened if choose the path of the thief. On top of that there’s Bell & Bones, a turn-based strategy sports simulator popular among the inhabitants of Whateverland which is like ‘a particular card game in a certain well-known project about slaying monsters and picking up sorceresses’.
I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with mingames. I enjoy them when they’re optional and the bartender job in Fable II or the lockpicking in The Elder Scrolls Online are good examples; but I hate it when they’re mandatory and you can’t progress until you’ve won. Minigames are the reason why I never completed The Feeble Files (those stupidly difficult games in the arcade section) or Final Fantasy X (Blitzball really wasn’t fun at all) and haven’t gone back to those titles since my first attempts at them.
I also struggle with non-linear storylines sometimes. As I’ve written before, they induce perfect-ending-pressure for me where I look for the best decisions rather than simply having fun with the game I’m playing. So with its minigames and multiple gameplay options, why on earth have I chosen to become a backer for Whateverland? Well, there’s just something about it which reminds me of older point-and-click titles and I like the vision the developer is trying to achieve. If my pledge can help them get there, then I’m happy to get behind the project.
Why not try the prologue for yourself and find out if Whateverland is your kind of thing? All the details can be found on the Kickstarter campaign which is running until 15 July 2020, and you can also follow Caligari Games on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.