UK REVIEW--It's important not to make assumptions. Take point-and-click adventure Hoodwink, for instance. Its lovely art style invites you into the game with open arms. There's a real, immediate charm to its world, which is populated by some thoroughly appealing characters and environments. Unfortunately, these charms are quickly overcast by a plethora of problems ranging from awkward level design to a lack of plot development, banishing that pleasant feeling you got when you started the journey.
You assume the role of Michael Bezzle, a man who's determined to propose to his girlfriend with a fancy ring found under mysterious circumstances. Michael lives in a dystopian world governed by one immensely powerful pharmaceutical corporation. The city is filled with advertisements for various healthcare products. Incidental dialogue sheds light on the world's history as you execute a series of peculiar tasks--like repeatedly arguing with a robot trashcan. In this world you meet human-like animals and animal-like plants, too. It's a quirky setting, one that makes you excited to explore it and learn its history. Unfortunately, you don't really get a chance to do either.
The once charming atmosphere soon goes stale and crumbles around you when the same incidental characters and their singular, one-dimensional conversations are repeated through different areas. The subtitles are also a mess, with incorrect transcriptions, grammatical errors, and a whole range of inconsistencies. Some puzzles force you to utilize shoddy mechanics in order to catch creatures or move objects; in one, you might have to furiously click on a lamp post until it finally shifts into the correct position. Eventually, anything that may have seemed fresh and inviting wears down to be a hindrance, annoyance, or grind.
This hour-long game is comprised of silly puzzles that rarely let you flex your creativity. There are so few ways to interact with a given scene that you rarely feel like a cunning mastermind when you successfully solve a stumper. For instance, if you want someone to give you their chocolate, the solution is to kick a tree so some fruit falls on their head, causing them to spit the chocolate out, wrapper intact and all. Rather than using intelligence and creativity to solve the puzzle, you stumble on the solution to it because there's little else you can do.
For the opening puzzle of the game you must find Michael's soon-to-be engagement ring. The solution lies in lighting a cigar, accidentally setting fire to the trash and activating an extractor fan, which blows away some papers to reveal the prize. Most puzzles are full of this odd, video game logic that makes little practical sense, which makes solving puzzles all the more frustrating. That's not helped by the shoddy hint system, which completely reveals the solutions to some puzzles and offers no help whatsoever with others.
At the start of every new puzzle, Michael talks to himself as if to indicate what you should do next, but often his words are meaningless, obtuse, or contrary to the real goal. A piece of overtly obvious information may flash at you every two or three minutes, telling you what you need to do, and Michael constantly repeats dialogue until you complete your task. Later, even this hint system breaks down, and you end up receiving information on puzzles you already completed, or have yet to reach. As such, you're left none the wiser as to what you should be doing in places. Turning the hint system off poses the opposite problem; there's no narrative cohesion, and no real indication of what you're expected to do. The notebook, which also lists your next objective, often doesn't update in time, languishing one or two steps behind.