Lord Winklebottom Investigates proves that if you need a mystery solved, you probably shouldn’t ask a giraffe detective.
By the time you’ve hit the halfway point of this 1920s-themed point-and-click adventure, it’s clear that, while he has a hippo Dr Watson in tow, Winklebottom is no Sherlock Holmes. Tasked with solving the murder of Winklebottom’s Axolotl friend, Lord Winklebottom Investigates sees the pair blunder around an island mansion, adopting a scattershot approach to mystery solving.
But it’s their borderline incompetence, their interactions with the other animal characters and their wry asides that makes Lord Winklebottom Investigates such a joy to play. It’s loaded with humour that nearly always hits the mark and yet rarely comes across as overly full of itself.
It’s also fantastically absurd, without feeling the need to mine Monty Python. The art style is a real treat, gorgeously portraying a world where animals wear clothes and walk about on their back legs – less anthropomorphism, more Animal Farm. We couldn’t help but grin when we entered the mansion bathroom and discovered there was a stack of toilet seats, each adjusted for different animal bottoms.
As suspect as Winklebottom and friend Dr Frumple’s skills may be, that doesn’t stop them from trying. That’s where you come in, interrogating suspects, solving puzzles and the like. The good news is that most of the puzzles, silly as they sometimes are, steer clear of cat moustache territory and give you a fuzzy, satisfied feeling when you solve them.
The bad news is that there are a few puzzles which are either ridiculously obtuse or which rely on obscure triggers. When you’re unfortunate enough to bump into them, they can be infuriating.
At one point you have to gather a particular substance, but Winklebottom refuses to do so until you’ve researched it. So, remembering where the research books were, we wandered off, feeling a little smug that we’d figured it out. Two minutes later, we were frantically clicking on the bookshelf, sure we’d hit some kind of bug because Winklebottom refused to do anything other than comment on the tomes. It turns out you need to complete a wholly unrelated event before the book trigger activated. Frumple can tell you what you should be doing next, but that doesn’t help if you’re trying to complete the game without assistance.
Another frustrating puzzle, when concluded, had Frumple sarcastically remark, “there’s literally no simpler way we could have done this.” We felt like booting our monitor into orbit. Why? Because Frumple was the one who denied us the “simpler way” by refusing to let us pick up a specific object.
Still, Lord Winklebottom Investigates is so charming that it’s hard to be angry with it for long. There are a couple of sections where Winklebottom’s voice performance dips in quality, which is strange, since the same actor delivers a flawless performance as Dr Frumple. But for the most part, the voice acting is top notch and helps bring a world of oddly enchanting characters to life. Characters, who we should add, aren’t just lazily based on their respective animals.
There are times when the story seems secondary to the silliness but, even so, there’s the ever-present pull to figure out whodunnit and why. We had a hunch where the story was going, and were proven right (though we didn’t guess the identity of the murderer), but even so it was a great ending the story.
Lord Winklebottom Investigates isn’t perfect – the arbitrary order of some of the puzzles in particular is bothersome, and some of the solutions are too obtuse for their own good. But despite its rough edges, we’re glad we stepped into Lord Winklebottom’s weird, wonderful world. And if there are further adventures on the cards, you can count us in.