Developer Rumpus • PRICE US$15
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: A Bleaker Predicklement is a second episode for the series, but it also works as a standalone game. Successful sequential adventures, like Nelly Cootalot and Edna and Harvey, often rely on a distinctive charm that has resonated with players and will again. I like this formula because it combines familiarity with unexpected new situations, while allowing your lateral thinking muscles to get a workout. Set to evocative art and detailed music, this is a challenging and generous experience.
It begins with Fiddle selling Mr Dulsworth’s Adequate Soap by cold-calling a surprising number of people. It’s gutsy to ask the player to perform so repetitive an action, but I found that being rejected by a string of silly voices kept me playing. We then learn that a lack of murders has ruined the economy for the people who rely on them; detectives, journalists and so on. Concurrently, Dulsworth’s mother asks you to follow him and your adventure will take you through the city and out into the charmingly named Piddle-by-the-Sea.
Many puzzles are straightforward, taking place over a small area, with a few items. Others require exploration, manipulation of the environment and keeping track of multiple goals. Some are fourth wall breaking, like how The Franz Kafka Videogame was built on noticing and reorganising visual elements. While the variety is nice, I wondered if designers lost a little confidence in the player and the integrity of their puzzles. Often, dialogue provides unnecessary and dissonant clues like, “This is not working. That’s con-fuse-ing.”
Still, there were moments in the game which were highly imaginative. I’m sure I’ve never used a donkey bladder in an adventure game before and there’s a jailbreak sequence which was extremely satisfying to solve. And, just when you’re sick of an area, the next chapter takes you to somewhere new.
I spent a surprising amount of time just staring at the thoughtfully ominous Victorian environments and exceptional animations. In one scene, a fishwife bounces just slightly out of time with the music. It’s truly mesmerising.
A lot of attention has also been given to the musical composition, although any score involving unusual instruments like bass clarinet and oboe automatically gets my thumbs up. Similarly, the voice acting is exceptional and I heard the word, “whisking,” in a British accent in my head for many days after the puzzle involving the whisk. If I have one criticism, it’s that the secondary characters were so good they almost overshadowed Fiddle, who ended up being entirely functional, if not an incredibly sympathetic main character.
With the ending strongly suggesting more episodes are to come, and a dedicated community of Kickstarter backers, classic adventure fans could confidently add Bertram Fiddle to their collection either now or at a later stage. The story is silly in a way that allows for whimsical puzzling and I really appreciated the opportunity to exercise my brain. Comprising around five hours of play, I was pleasantly surprised by how much content was provided. It is both “more of the same” and an enjoyable game, in and of itself.