Comedy in video games can be hard to execute. Point-and-click adventures have been experimenting with humour since their inception, and The Mystery of Woolley Mountain is a great example of how to do comedy right. The game brings brilliant characters to life through witty jokes and dialogue that always maintains a sense of silliness. Sadly, for all of the game’s narrative accomplishments, severe bugs bring it back down to earth.
In The Mystery of Woolley Mountain, the player takes control of the Helmholtz Resonators, a band of time-travelling misfits who must rescue the stolen children of Woolley Mountain from the tyranny of an evil witch. The game begins when Van Damme, one of the Resonators, travels to Woolley Mountain on his own to save the children and ends up captured. When Garland, the leader of the group, finds out, he gathers the remaining misfits together to save Van Damme and the children. As the game progresses, unforeseen twists and turns create an unconventional and unexpected story, which is a refreshing change in an industry focused on remakes and sequels.
The tutorial does an exceptional job of welcoming the player into the wonderful world and mechanics of Woolley Mountain. Through the scottish stylings of Van Damme are introduced the point-and-click controls and the notion that not every puzzle will have an immediately obvious solution with the tools at the player’s disposal. The defining characteristic of this opening level is the sheer amount of laughter that ensues whilst playing it. The combination of Van Damme’s accent and the simple, yet clever dialogue results in laugh-out-loud moments that are never crude or offensive and set an endearing tone that pervades through the game’s three acts.
Woolley Mountain’s mechanics follow those of traditional point-and-click adventures, requiring the player to select an item from their inventory and drag it to the desired location. Occasionally, some targets require very specific placement to enable the action to trigger. On the Switch, the joystick works well for the drag-and-drop controls when the console is docked, but can become fiddly and oversensitive when in handheld mode. Alternatively, the touchscreen can be used when playing as a handheld device, which alleviates this problem.
In light of the simple plot, The Mystery of Woolley Mountain features delightfully quirky characters that bring the world to life. As Garland desperately tries to bring the team together in the opening act, the player gets an insight into the obsessions of the crew, sparking curiosity as to how these individuals will be of any use to Garland in rescuing the children. Manrose loves acting, Frithel loves science, Chladni loves women, Carlton loves moonshine, and Auto loves Carlton. Each of these conflicting personalities creates unique puzzles throughout the game, which allows the humour of their stereotypes to thrive.
The 2D artwork compliments the basic controls and simple storyline, enabling the distinctive characters to shine. More consideration for the colour palette would have benefited Woolley Mountain greatly, as the game often has a lot of objects that can be innocently ignored due to the overuse of bright colours on screen; this can be overwhelming at times, and distinguishing what the player should be focusing on can be difficult. Highlighting interactive objects using the right trigger button makes this issue less concerning, though more subtle colour choices might have made the puzzles more intuitive and visually engaging for the player.
For those inexperienced with point-and-click puzzle adventures, Woolley Mountain can be challenging at times. Some of the solutions require very abstract thought, which could be difficult for a newcomer to the genre. However, this difficulty does not detract from the overall comedic joys of the experience, particularly when burning obscure objects and using talking sea urchins to solve science puzzles are involved.
Woolley Mountain’s successes in character and narrative design, however, are let down by some unfortunate game-breaking bugs. In two separate instances during OnlySP’s time with the game, the storyline could not be progressed at different stages. The first instance was due to a character not being in the right location to trigger a cutscene, and the second was due to an NPC not registering that correct items were already in the inventory.
What makes these bugs so infuriating is the fact that they prevent the completion of such a wonderful narrative. You genuinely want to uncover The Mystery of Woolley Mountain, and to have that opportunity taken away is truly disappointing.
The characters of Woolley Mountain possess such an endearing quality that to stay angry at the game’s flaws is difficult, as disastrous as they can be. You desperately want to keep playing for the funny dialogue and charming puns. The only criticism of the narrative elements of Woolley Mountain is that it lacks even more opportunities to interact with other characters and their hilarious dialogue.
Once these issues have been corrected, Woolley Mountain will be a fun, if short, experience worth playing just for some quick laughs. As frustrating as the title can be, it is shining example of how to do comedy in video games without ever being offensive. If puns and light-hearted silliness are your style, then you will adore what The Mystery of Woolley Mountain has to offer.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.