Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Original Release: May 25, 2021
Developer: Wormwood Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG)
Played on: Steam
Back during my review of Dread X Collection III, I mentioned that I grew up loving point-and-click games like Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish, and Putt-Putt. It’s been a while since I played one (since I first started this blog with 2064: Read Only Memories just about two years ago at time of writing. At least if I’m remembering correctly) and after seeing screenshots of Steam reviews that were negative simply to balance out the positive ones (the logic there is beyond me, but here we are), I decided to check out Strangeland and on doing so I almost immediately fell in love. The artstyle, the themes, the fact that it was a point-and-click game, all of it. In fact, I got so enthralled that I didn’t end up taking a lot of notes or screenshots throughout, so this may also be a shorter piece since I don’t like to drown the reader in walls of text or spoiling story beats. Call me crazy.
Anyway, Strangeland is a strange place. Apropos, no? You take on the role of the stranger, shown above, as he explores the only thing in front of him: the titular carnival. There he sees a golden-haired woman who throws herself down a well in the middle of the park entrance. He soon learns that this isn’t the first time it’s happened, that something is keeping her from dying for good. Similarly, it isn’t the first time that the stranger has found himself exploring the carnival. Before long you’re into the grand tradition of exploring everywhere you can to collect an esoteric assortment of items that can be used in a number of ways. Fortunately, the items you find are sensible enough that you can figure out where to use them with just a little bit of careful thought.
Something that I really like about Strangeland is that they tell you right out of the gate that key information will be repeated so you don’t need to worry about missing anything. There’s also a built-in hint system if you get absolutely stuck so that you don’t fall into the old trap of trying every item on every object hoping to move the story along. In fact, they encourage you to use the hint system so as not to detract from the experience as a whole. I only ended up using it once toward the end and the solution was right in front of me, I just overthought it enough that I couldn’t help but laugh a little when the hint put everything into perspective. Furthermore, there’s no way to get a game over like you might in King’s Quest. Instead, some deaths will move the story forward and others will just send you back to the start. At worst, you just have to listen to another of the entrance gate’s jokes before you head back in and keep puzzling out the way forward. Sadly, this deprives you of amazing moments like King Graham’s death scream when he falls in King’s Quest V.
That’s not to say there’s a dearth of ways to die. Far from it! Most anywhere you go, you can find some way to die. Falling, picking a fight with a particular character, or just ignoring some plain warnings. But it’s really nice that dying serves as a mechanic beyond the usual punishment that players want to avoid. It’s clever, really.
Strangeland is also filled to the brim with literary references. Poe, the bible, Norse mythology, and so many others just to name a few. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought it was neat that I was able to pick up on as many as I did. They even poke fun of it at one point!
That’s about as far as I can really go with discussing Strangeland without spoiling anything. It’s weird, it’s macabre, and I loved every moment of it. I’ll need to replay it sometime soon and go for some different choices to see how they played out, but I’m not in any real rush to do so. Still, it was fun and memorable, and that’s what I look for in games. Well, that and it’s rare that a game leaves me so immersed that I don’t stop to take notes or write down my reactions anymore. Thus, I feel happy giving it my seal of approval. Welcome to the family of recommended games, Strangeland.
Don’t just take it from me though, PushingUpRoses also covered the game, and she’s very well-versed with point-and-click adventures as well as classic TV. Seriously, go watch her Murder, She Wrote videos sometime.