Lord Winklebottom Investigates Review
A murder mystery where you play as a giraffe assisted by a tea-addicted hippopotamus? Count me in. I first encountered Lord Winklebottom Investigates back in 2018 at AdventureX and was immediately enamoured by its antiquated aesthetic and ridiculous British charm. It’s a point-and-click where all of the characters are animals with various UK accents. It’s also fully voiced, to varying degrees of success — but I’ll come onto that later.
In an anthropomorphic twist on an overused trope, the titular giraffe and his sidekick Dr. Frumple have been summoned to an island by an old school friend, an axolotl named Gilfrey. Once there they discover a problem: Gilfrey has been murdered. Cue the search for the rotter in question, involving lots of good-bad puns and Monty Python-style silliness.
The first point of order is this: Lord Winklebottom Investigates is not a particularly tough adventure game, if you can switch your brain into the right gear. The locations are compact (in some cases, there are only three or four per area) and the items you’ll stumble upon, borrow or downright steal are reasonably obvious, which makes solving puzzles far simpler than some recent releases.
Yet, there are some odd choices with the game mechanics. Sometimes you have to try and interact with an item twice before you can pick it up. Why? It isn’t clear, but it will certainly bamboozle the novice adventure gamer. This is a recurrent problem with the game; you often need to first examine an item, then try to obtain it, then repeat that action until it lets you pick it up. Sometimes the interact icon doesn’t appear until you’ve first examined it. If you’re used to playing by the standard rules of point-and-click games, be prepared to rewire your synapses. As an example, an axe you need for a puzzle doesn’t become available to you until you’ve completed a different task — something which is far from obvious, given the game doesn’t suggest you can pick it up. And occasionally, objects you’ve used before which have left your inventory will need to be reused in other puzzles, a rare thing to see in the genre.
As for the voice acting… well. When I said it was varying in quality, this may have been generous. Our protagonists — Winklebottom especially — often rush through their lines in an entirely unnatural way, almost like they are reading a script without the pauses needed for organic conversation. Maybe the studio only had a recording booth for a limited period of time, or perhaps their cars were on a parking meter. Either way, many of the lines which could have been funny fall flat due to a complete lack of breath between sentences. That said, the script itself isn’t really designed for laugh out loud moments. The humour is bone dry and much of it arises from the banter between Winklebottom and Frumple. If you share the same love of sarcasm that developer Cave Monsters clearly does, you’ll have a great time.
The mystery is filled with unexpected turns, but knowing who to go and question next can be slightly confusing given that the suspects move locations but rarely have new dialogue options to explore. However, if you get stuck you can ask the good Dr. Frumple to point you (vaguely) in the direction of your next lead, which is a boon. And the cast do sound like they’re having a fun time, despite the unevenness of some of the voice acting. The characters — all animals, for reasons that become apparent later on — include a sloth butler, a goat maid and a llama medium. They stand out from the lovely hand-drawn backgrounds, and the whole parcel is wrapped up in delightful music which is engaging in a jolly sinister way: a vibrant and ominous kaleidoscope of woodwind, piano and strings which fits perfectly into the 20s theme.
The story arc does feel like it meanders into a slightly unsatisfying ending with a rug pull that requires a huge leap of logic to get on board with. But at that point you’ll have been spending six hours with a giraffe who wears a monocle and a top hat, so any credulity will need to have been left firmly at the door. Quirky, charming and very, very British, Lord Winklebottom Investigates checks most of the boxes needed for a good point-and-click. Tally-ho!
You can subscribe to Jump Chat Roll on your favourite podcast players including:
Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this podcast, and if there are any topics you'd like to hear us tackle in future episodes!