Oh no, I thought. A grid-based, cube-pushing puzzler. I’ve played countless puzzle games that force you to push blocks in specific patterns – and then, if you make one wrong move, you have to reset the level and do it all over again. One wrong move. I admit, when I first received MacGuffin’s Curse , I simply assumed that it’d be a charming, Monkey Island-esque point-and-click like Brawsome’s previous game, Jolly Rover. I admit that it does retain a number of elements from this genre – conversation trees, for one. But then I booted it… and… grid-based, cube-pushing puzzles? Oh no.
And then I actually played it. Yes, initially, it is a simplistic, grid-based, cube-pushing puzzler. If it wasn’t for the fantastic aesthetics of the game as a whole, I might have abandoned hope after a couple of minutes. A crime, I know, but it was tempting. The idea is that you’re Lucas – a poor, desperate magician looking after his grandmother and daughter in his decrepit, miserable apartment with no furniture save a sad old couch with protruding springs. In urgent need of some money, Lucas sets out to steal a valuable amulet from a nearby museum. Accidentally putting it on after successfully conducting the heist, Lucas finds that the amulet is stuck to his neck – and he can become a werewolf at will when in a beam of moonlight! This is where the premise of the puzzles come into play – wolf-Lucas can do some things that man-Lucas can’t, such as pushing heavy objects, and man-Lucas can move more swiftly, open doors and operate switches that wolf-Lucas finds difficult with his big, meaty fingers.
That’s how MacGuffin’s Curse pulls you along. By introducing the tried-and-true mechanism of having to utilise two characters’ skill sets together to solve puzzles, you are initially drawn into the cleverly designed puzzles, of which there are many. And yeah, at their core they are grid-based, cube-pushing puzzles, but while the puzzles are an integral part of the experience, equally important is the fantastic dialogue. Truly, the dialogue in MacGuffin’s Curse is among the cleverest, deepest, and most brilliant dialogue that I’ve ever seen in a video game. Every single little item, in each individual room, has a unique line. Every item. Every window, every statue, every box or frame or tree; they all have an individual remark. The amount of time spent writing these lines must have been phenomenal. And who is it on the team writing these lines? The guy with the razor-sharp wit? Introduce me to him. The LucasArts influence on the writing here is strongly apparent, but to be honest, if there was one thing that I’d want my script writer to be influenced by, it’d be Monkey Island. The inherent silliness in the writing is really fantastic. Maybe don’t attempt to destroy the game in one sitting though – it’s long. Very long.
There’s collectables spread around each of the levels, providing an extra challenge to the seasoned adventure game fans who just love collecting scraps of comic book. The difficulty curve of the game is somewhat like a bendy straw – it starts out very easy, then quickly gets hard, then quickly gets easier, then gets much harder. It could be unnerving to some players, but I relish the challenge of a ball-breakingly difficult puzzle, even if it only comes half an hour into the game. Private Inspector Scruff aids you through a walkie talkie, effectively acting as a hint book. As the term suggests, he’ll provide hints if you get stuck on a level, and if you’re really stumped he’ll even solve it for you.
I can just picture screaming “blasphemy! BLASPHEMY!” at the thought of potentially completing a puzzle game without solving a puzzle. And my rebuttal? Well, that just wouldn’t be fun, now, would it? If you’re the right audience for MacGuffin’s Curse, then you’re the kind of person who enjoys the challenge of a difficult puzzle, and aren’t about to resort to having it solved for you every level. The soundtrack is suitably charming, fitting in with the cartoony yet glumly depressing aesthetics of the game. Oh, and for interests’ sake, the curse is a MacGuffin plot device. I see what you did there, Brawsome.
At first, I wasn’t impressed. Everything about MacGuffin’s Curse bored me, to be honest. But after giving it a chance, it quickly grew on me. With its fantastic script writing, absorbing plot, brilliantly dark aesthetics, 10+ hours of content, and cleverly designed puzzle mechanic, it’s absolutely worth giving a second chance if you’re initially turned off by the game’s premise. And if you’re not turned off by it, then play it. Now. Seriously, it’s phenomenally cheap, readily available, and will likely be the puzzle game of the year. And it’s got windowed mode.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of MacGuffin’s Curse by Brawsome.