Developer: Rumpus Animation
Publisher: Deck 13, Deck 13 Interactive
Genre: Point and Click, Adventure, Casual, Indie
Comedy, mystery, and adventure, strung together by a curious plot and charmingly whimsical art; this seems like a game that possesses great potential for the interactive point-and-click genre, I thought to myself when I first saw the trailer for The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle. And upon playing the game, I found to my delight that I had been right. There’s a good deal more to it, too.
Our protagonist is the slight and spare, inquisitive Bertram Fiddle, a leading Victorian explorator. He has the most peculiar nose. In fact, everyone you come across in the game is characterized by the rather remarkable shape and appearance of their noses. But the amusing oddities of the game doesn’t resolve itself into this single feature. The game is set in fictional Victorian London, nothing like we read in the classics. Its streets are imagined anew with a series of oddballs, bizarre and exotic creatures, strange foods, and mysterious magical and supernatural elements.
The town is being terrorized by Geoff the Murderer, which I suspect is a reference to the infamous Jack the Ripper. Mr. Fiddle in the meantime, has grown weary of the lack of opportunity: “What can I do, if I can’t do my adventurings?” he despairs. With news of Geoff’s wrongdoings giving rise to panic, Bertram sees his chance not only to put himself back in action, but also to do good and raise his reputation. The chance switch between his fretful wife’s dog Foofy and the serial killer’s briefcase (containing his latest victim’s head) makes him even more determined to bring the tiny, silhouetted killer to justice. The victim’s features have been “sliced off expertly” and distributed about town, dropped in the murderer’s haste to escape Fiddle. Fiddle’s primary quest is to find each of these features, which will lead him to Geoff’s location and capture.
Bertram is always accompanied by Peruvian Cyclops Gavin, his manservant and companion – “strong as an ox, but terrible depth perception.” And on hearing this description spoken by Bertram, I smiled to myself wryly. He speaks in a high-pitched querulous voice, which I initially found irritating, but later became accustomed to as I gradually became immersed in the weird and fantastic world of the game. Bertram is a likeable fellow on the whole, because he’s entirely unique. His lines are bristled with wordplay, wit and puns that might often make you suppress a grin and roll your eyes. The voice acting is marvellously in keeping with the barmy inhabitants of the town. I would suggest keeping the subtitles on, just in case you find the accents difficult to follow or the speech too fast to keep up with. With the subtitles visible, the wordplay becomes a lot more obvious and upon sudden recognition, there’s a very slight sense of guilty satisfaction, dismissed with either a snigger or a chuckle, though inwardly charmed all the same. Oh Fiddle, you silly, silly man, you. Being a point-and-click game, it’s reasonably paced, so you’re not missing anything while you read the subtitles.
Fiddle also sets himself apart in being more genuine about his good intentions in finding the serial killer than his vainglorious colleagues we meet at the Adventurer’s Club, including Sherlock Holmes and his well-known “trusted ally” dearest Watson. The game sheds an entirely different light on the relationship Holmes and Watson share. Holmes makes no bones about treating Watson like a degenerate lowlife: “I win again, Watson. You really are a dolt.” Watson appears to have grown awfully sullen and while he remains exceedingly polite in his manner, he expresses a subtle bitterness and loathing for Sherlock’s constant self-puffery (as the game would say). When Fiddle makes a special blend of tea that induces Sherlock to fall asleep, Watson squints, and then widens his eyes in horror: “What have you done? Is he… dead?” “Don’t worry, Watson, he’s just sleeping,” Fiddle assures him. Watson then lowers his eyebrows, “Oh, uh… I mean good,” he says with a hint of dismay.
I realize I’ve spent a greater part of this review talking about the narrative, but as a point-and-click game, its driving force is the plot. The quality of its storytelling then, is determined by the characterizations and atmosphere, as well as the logic and creativity of the puzzles we encounter in the game. Each character is uniquely insane; their queer personalities are complemented by eerie shifting tunes (the accordion is a real nice touch) and exceedingly quaint animation.
Understandably, it’s only upon solving the puzzles that Fiddle can carry on sleuthing. The puzzles are largely dependent on the items you collect and place into your inventory, some of which can be combined based on their function to be used at the appropriate time. You may initially narrow your eyes in confusion and wonder about the relevance of many of the items, till you explore further to establish their connection and use. The puzzles are not too difficult, and rightly so, but they certainly get your brain cells going. If you do get stuck somewhere, retrace your steps to look for objects you might’ve missed, explore further for more clues, or check which objects in your inventory can be combined. Don’t worry, you’ll definitely figure it out. To move Bertram, you simply point and click on the spot of your choosing. ‘Hotspots’ are indicated by the white outline of a small circle that appears when you mouseover certain objects and people in the environment that you can interact with. The more laborious actions are carried out by Gavin. With a click on his chest, you carry over the symbol of his itty-bitty round hat to the object and click again to trigger Gavin into action.
There are a couple of fast-paced chase sequences, where you break off from pointing and clicking to use the arrow keys instead. Move Bertram up and down the width of the street/cemetery to avoid being slowed down by obstacles and people in your path. When this first happened, I was unsure how to proceed, because the game didn’t prompt me with a message in text. Then I noticed the arrow signs on the road, that seemed much too conspicuous to have no bearing on the situation at hand. If you have trouble running after Geoff, just mimic his movement and direction. It’s during these chase sequences that the fluidity of the animation becomes even more apparent.
The game is lined with some popular fiction references. Ms. Ravisham who uses a gramophone as a hearing aid is, no doubt, a reference to the rich, lonely and eccentric Ms. Havisham of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The pale and hollow-eyed Wilford and Wilicent are reminiscent of the haunted twins that appear in many horror films. Lovecraftians, including myself, will be particularly pleased that the game shares some elements of the Cthulhu mythos.
Rumpus has built a reputation for making bold, distinctive moving pictures full of fun. Working across platforms, both independently and in collaboration, Rumpus devote themselves to ideas, taking them from initial concept through to design and animation. Whatever the weather Rumpus creates vivid, memorable content, characterised with love.
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle is a fascinating episodic 2D point-and-click adventure infused with Rumpus’ ideals. As Bertram Fiddle, you’ll employ approaches to mystery solving that are off the beaten track. The game gains its appeal from its cheerfully dark humor and the surreal London town, characterized by the delightfully kooky. Episode 1: A Dreadly Business takes about 2-3 hours to complete and it has been a thrill. I eagerly look forward to more witticisms, extraordinary noses and further adventurings in Episode 2!
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle released on April 2, 2015 and is available for iOS and android devices as well as PC.
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A freelance writer and editor with an appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, all things Lovecraftian and retro-electro-disco-pop. A (day)dreamer – maladaptive almost.