Professor Elwood's Castle of Oddities: The Broken Bottle

@ifcomp Ooh, Unity progress bar. TAKE ME INTO THE FUTURE OF IF. Magnificent book simulation. 8 beautiful page turns, 12 pages of text and 3 facing illustrations to get to the first interaction. Now I gotta read this…

‘Professor Elwood’s Castle of Oddities: The Broken Bottle’ by the Affinity Forge Team - Review

‘Professor Elwood’s Castle of Oddities’ is an in-development episodic game intended (I think) for commercial release, at least regarding the framing story, which has the player investigating a collection of items belonging to the eponymous Elwood, though we don’t meet him in the The Broken Bottle. The Prof. apparently collects mysterious artefacts, and each one is linked to a story. Hence the case of The Broken Bottle, the title of which is otherwise mysterious until the last 20% or so of the tale:

The Oddity…
Elwood has collected a broken bottle from Romania. You must unlock the story and make it whole again.

This mention of Romania perhaps unfairly primed me to expect a lot of tailored, location-specific folkloric content in The Broken Bottle, whereas in reality it’s a very straightforward rescue quest involving gypsies and magic wolves, with some atmospheric music.

The reading text/decision-making ratio is high here, and you can go for pages and pages (as many as 20) without encountering any page that your current viewpoint character can interact with. The first time I encountered a binary-choice page - a decision to buy either food, or supplies to make repairs - I got the niggling sense that it made no difference what I picked, and so it proved: if I chose food, the kindly seller also gave me wood and nails, and vice versa.

There are (I think) seven binary choices in the game, and as is my habit on a first play-through with a game that offers these, I tried my best to pick the dumb/cowardly/selfish path each time such a decision presented itself. I think you need to pick the Obviously Noble and Brave Choice every time one presents itself - ie, one the last four occasions - to unlock the ‘best’ ending, but apart from this your decisions seem to make little difference to the NPC’s involved, only on whether or not they’re motivated to help you during the final showdown.

A Page Curling gripe by someone with absolutely no background in graphics:

Because this is a team effort by people who are dreaming big and want to release it commercially, I went through the game once more with a stopwatch, playing as fast as possible and reading nothing, just turning the pages. The page-turn animations take a total of 3 minutes and 30 seconds to complete, and in practice that definitely feels like a lot of time spent watching the same thing. I just can’t think of a game I’ve played that has benefited from the notion that to convey a sense of age and/or mystery, the game has to simulate a book. The right font and illustration style can take the player there by themselves.

I’ve posted a review of the game on my blog.