Review: Weird Park: Broken Tune Collector’s Edition (PC)

Weird Park: Broken Tune Collector’s Edition
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Diesel Puppet
Genre: Adventure/Hidden Objectives
Release Date: 11/10/2011

That’s right. I’m back for more. I had a fun enough time with both Mountain Crime and House of 1000 Doors, that the prospect of reviewing yet another adventure title from the same people seemed like something I couldn’t pass up. These games aren’t very long, scratch my puzzle solving itch, and are addicting.

Weird Park is probably the strangest of the bunch. It seems to have been tailor made to mess with those who are afraid of clowns. The whole schtick is a haunted carnival. It had all the look of a cheesy eighties horror flick. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s enough to get me interested.

Story

A local amusement park has become a bit of a legend. After the star clown is pretty much murdered by angry/bored customers, (I guess juggling whilst riding a unicycle on a tight rope without a net isn’t hardcore enough for these people.) things start going quite badly. A series of disastrous accidents close the park down, and anyone who enters the park disappears, never to be seen again. As a private detective, your job is to find the latest person to vanish.

Beyond the original setup, the game’s plot goes nowhere. You’re terrorized by a ghost, and what turns out to be the physical incarnation of the god Loki, yet your character seems to take all of this like a normal day. Most of the plot points were revealed in the intro, so all of the clippings and notes you find reinforce stuff you already knew. Even when the big mystery is revealed, it’s kind of dealt with in a matter of seconds, leaving more than a couple of plot holes behind to leave you scratching your head in confusion.

There is plenty of atmosphere in this game, but poor characterization, illogical moments, and a lack of motivation derail right out of the gate. Someone clearly put a lot of effort into the setup, but dropped the ball on the execution.

Graphics

Most of what makes the atmosphere effective are the creepy visuals that permeate the game. The art style is like a John Wayne Gacy painting turned into a full park. I can’t imagine what person would ever bring a child there, and the clown is likely to live in the nightmares of coulrophobes. (Those who fear clowns.)

If there’s one mistake to be found, it’s in the sole regular looking human in the game. He simply looks unnatural. He’s got bizarre proportions, poor animation, and some of the worse hair since the days of the original Playstation. Thankfully, his appearance in the game is brief.

Beyond that slip, I found the graphics to be quite enjoyable. The strong art style sells the game better than any other single element. In face, when I saw screens of the game, it was the art style that got me interested.

Audio

If you don’t know what calliope music is, it’s that cheerfully creepy music they play at circuses and carnivals. This game takes that style of music and adds in a creepy piano hook to create a theme that one of those cheesy horror movies would absolutely love to have. It isn’t great, but it’s fitting. The only issue, and it’s a big one, is that you’ll hear it over and over again throughout the game. It’s pretty much the only song.

The voice acting, of which there isn’t much, is pretty bad. I’ve come to the conclusion that quality voice acting is a pipe dream when it comes to this publisher. I’m OK with that I suppose. These games are great reminders of how bad things used to be, and helps me appreciate the modern standards we enjoy. Still, there’s not much of the stuff, so it doesn’t last long enough to be a real issue. There’s pretty much an annoying bit at the middle and end.

Overall, I found the audio lacking. Sure, the music fits, and there are plenty of solid sound effects. However, there’s only one tune that plays constantly, and the voice acting is bad. It just didn’t satisfy. I quickly found myself not caring whether or not the sound was on. That’s never good.

Gameplay

By now, I know the drill. The point-and-click aspects of this game are pretty straight forward. If you want to move somewhere, you need merely click that area. See an item of interest? Click on it to add it to your inventory. Oh no! That mechanism is missing a gear! Good thing you found one in that pond earlier. All you have to do is click and drag it to that mechanism to set things right. Most of the game is exploring, collecting items, and using them on the environment to move forward. It works fine.

There are more basic puzzles as well. These are rarer, and can be skipped, but they attempt to tax your brain. A couple examples are rearranging pictures to open a lock and shooting a correct symbol out of a bunch of choices. Normally these puzzles can’t be solved until you find a missing part. These aren’t something that will stump you often, but they serve as nice breaks from all of the wandering.

There are two types of hidden object puzzles as well. The first is the standard variety. You’re given a static screen of a pile of junk and and a list of items to find. Scour the screen for those items, click on them, and cross them off your list. The other kind gives you pictures of parts you need to find. If you get them all, they’ll combine to create an item you need. These range from putting together a ladder, to reconstructing a set of dynamite. You’ll visit such locations multiple times to get the goods.

I did have a couple of problems though. Early on, I came to a part of the game where I knew I needed some solvent. During a hidden object section, I saw a can of the stuff. I had to wait about half an hour later before I could replay that section and earn the solvent. It felt contrived and overly linear. Also, the hint button is a bit glitched. On several occasions, it would lead me to an area where I couldn’t do anything. Using the in-game strategy guide that comes with the collector’s edition, I was able to determine that I had missed a few objects. The hints just wouldn’t lead me there. To those without the strategy guide, this can quickly become frustrating.

Despite those hiccups, the game is solid and plays well enough. It’s a pretty standard point-and-click adventure game. Fans of the genre will be able to play it with no problem.

Replayability

Like the other two games I reviewed, this game is awful in terms of replay value. You have two difficulty options that affect how often you can use hints, but don’t affect the puzzles. They will be the same every time, meaning subsequent playthroughs will be boring.

This game is also the shortest of the bunch, clocking in at three to four hours. That is just a bit too short for my tastes, and didn’t leave me with a sense of satisfaction.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for those who opt for the CE. It adds an extra chapter to play through. While not connected to the story in any tangible manner, the bonus chapter adds over an hour of gameplay. This helps make up for a lot. As such, the game is saved from a bottom of the barrel score here.

Balance

Once again, I compare this game to the other two Alawar games I’ve reviewed recently. This game is as hard as you make it. Using hints and the strategy guide, you’ll never get stuck for more than the time it takes to seek help. If you forgo this option, you’ll find plenty of places to get stuck. However, these moments amount to nothing more than having to backtrack and find whatever object you missed. It boils down to clicking on everything.

I also found the hidden object sections to be the easiest I’ve ever played. The objects you need to find are often very large and stick out like a sore thumb. I could often clear the list in less than thirty seconds. That just doesn’t leave one with the sense of being challenged.

Originality

While I can’t say I’ve played too many games with this particular aesthetic, that doesn’t mean this game has an original bone in its body. Everything you’ll find here is standard for the genre. The controls are what they’re supposed to be, and the puzzles aren’t anything fans haven’t seen before. This isn’t a bad thing really. If you like this kind of game, you know what you’re looking for and this game offers that to a tee. It just doesn’t win any extra points.

Addictiveness

Just like other Alawar games, I finished this game in a couple of sittings. Even after beating the game, I immediately went to the bonus chapter and played it straight through. Despite Christmas games to play through and a Gamefly game I needed to finish, I pushed on.

There’s just something intrinsically addicting about this kind of game. Solving simple puzzles delivers a satisfying feeling. Also, with all of the help available, frustration is near impossible to achieve. This makes it easy to play through the game and to play it in long bursts. It’s simply hard to put down.

Appeal Factor

I feel like a broken record, as I keep saying similar things about all of these adventure games I’ve been playing. The genre doesn’t have the biggest fanbase, and an even smaller subset of them like the budget priced titles you find online. This game has a niche audience.

That being said, the game is accessible and that makes it an easy sell for someone looking for a random game to play through. I’m also sure the unique setting will help it appeal to those tired of searching sunken ships and haunted houses. That gives the game a slight edge over a lot of its competition. It’s not much, but every bit helps.

Miscellaneous

The collector’s edition comes with a few extras for those willing to spend a little extra.

Firstly, there’s that whole extra chapter I mentioned before. This is easily worth it, as the chapter adds significant amount of time to your game. In fact, I’d say it adds about a third. This alone should be enough for most players.

Secondly, there’s the strategy guide. For those pesky moments when the hint system isn’t working well or you simply want to breeze through a section, this can prove invaluable. However, using it invariably kills the challenge. Be warned.

Finally, there are several pieces of concept art to unlock once you beat the game. These are pretty nifty to look at, especially since the game’s art style translates so well to this kind of thing.

Apart from the extra chapter, the additions aren’t much but are certainly worthy of the extra money.

The Scores
Story: Very Poor
Graphics: Enjoyable
Audio: Poor
Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Awful
Balance: Below Average
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Decent
Final Score: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Weird Park: Broken Tune is pretty typical among point-and-click adventure games. It plays well enough, has a nifty sense of style, and will keep players playing until the end. Where it really stumbles is the story, which is a huge letdown. If you’re playing just for the puzzles, you’ll likely enjoy your time with this game. If you’re looking for a quality tale, then look elsewhere.

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