by John Hellier
It’s like raayyyiiiaaannne on your wedding day….but unfortunately no free ride this time. Irony Curtain is an adventure game brought to us by Artifex Mundi, and is heavily inspired by old school (skool? Or is that showing my age again?) point and click adventures.
Now, these games were a staple when I was growing up, I can’t even remember how many times I’ve played through Monkey Island and Full Throttle (Hey, I liked it, even if the motorcycle combat was terrible…). So it stands to reason I’d like Irony Curtain too right? Yeah, about that…
You play as ideological journalist Evan Kovolsky, proud communist living in the decadent west. Upon being contacted by a spy for the communist country of Matryoshka, you are tasked with making your way past the iron curtain and into the beautiful communist utopia of your dreams and meeting with the Glorious Leader.
Needless to say, the utopia is a fantasy, and obviously, there are twists and turns with the story as Evan gets drawn into a plot to take over Matryoshka from the inside. Sounds like your standard cold war spy movie so far, but let’s not forget Irony Curtain is a spoof, it’s clear from the subtitle (check at the start of the article if you don’t believe me, I’m not sure I need to pad my word count by copy-pasting the whole thing every time) and as a spoof we are introduced to many over the top caricatures and increasingly outlandish situations.
Oh, and who could possibly forget the absolute gem that is adventure game logic… I think by now it should be becoming clear that I didn’t have the best time with Irony Curtain. That is not to say the game is terrible, but the small things (and large, we will get there in due time) add up.
Now for a game that is going for the spoof angle, we have a problem right off the bat because I didn’t laugh once. Not a giggle, chuckle, snigger, guffaw or even a wry grin. Now comedy is obviously subjective, but with so many comic things going on, both subtle and obvious, at least something should have hit home.
My second issue is the issue all adventure games have to some degree or another, the puzzles. Now I’m not about to claim that adventure games from back in the day used flawless logic or anything, but they at least had the decency to be brief. Brief might be the wrong word there actually, it’s more like old adventure games tended to be a lot more free roaming, with more areas to visit at a given time, making puzzle solutions feel less repetitive because you didn’t trudge through the same 3 areas trying to find which things you need to rub together to progress the story.
One memorable example from Irony Curtain was early on in the game, where you need to access the sewers. This devolves quickly into a long chain of requests, give thing to person A, receive thing to give to person B, who will reward you with the item for person C…you get the idea, a lot of padding. Like I said this would be less annoying if the people weren’t all in the same area, to at least give the fetch quest some variety.
Now I don’t want to give you dear readers the impression Irony Curtain is awful, the art style is reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons, I suspect in order to appeal even harder to nostalgia, but I am a hard-hearted cynic. Also, there are a nice number of dialogue lines, so you have multiple different ways to hear that what you tried to do wasn’t the correct solution before repetition burns them into your brain.
Anyway, I’d gotten through most of Irony Curtain (I assume) when I hit the wall. Well, technically it was a ladder. Upon descending a ladder, I tried walking down the screen whereupon I got caught on the scenery and couldn’t move. After several minutes of fruitless stick flailing, I quit and restarted…only to find myself saved rooted to the spot. Well I thought, I could play through the entire game again until this point in order to finish the game, like a professional, or I could just write a review of my experience to this point. Take a wild guess which I picked…
Overall Score – 5/10
Exactly average, which for a game about communism might be the highest praise…