Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth

Developer:  Coktel Vision
Publisher:  Sierra
Year Released:  1994

Review by Gordon Aplin (April, 1995)
wood.jpgThere are some games that get a lot of fanfare then ultimately disappoint you through their failure to live up to expectations. Then there are those few, rare games that arrive unheralded and unanticipated that have the happy knack of striking just the right chord at the right time. Woodruff and the Schnibble is such a game. It's from the French team at Coktel Vision (now part of the Sierra stable) who brought us Ween: The Prophecy and Lost in Time and no doubt the word 'quirky' will be much overused in descriptions of it. (So I thought I'd get mine in early!)

This is certainly a game that most adventure gamers will love, and let me say at once that I was hooked right from the start. It tickled my funny bone to such an extent that I was prepared to forgive some of Woodruff's mannerisms and antics that are sure to annoy the pants off many gamers.

Complex plot
Woodruff and the Schnibble is more than just a humorous game. Beneath the seemingly frivolous plot is a complex and convoluted adventure that will test even the most experienced players. Don't be fooled by the exaggerated cartoon-like graphics, it's no walkover. The humour merely beckons, the story draws you in and the puzzles entrap you.

Briefly, the story takes place after the last atomic wars when humans fled underground only to emerge some time later to find a green and pleasant land. Actually, it's a jungle, with one spot inhabited by a race of peaceful, gentle creatures called Boozooks. Needless to say the humans had to conquer this non-aggressive race and did so in what became known as the Last Battle after which they erected monuments to their glory and proceeded to exploit, degrade and subjugate the Boozook survivors. All that occurred years ago, however, but now there is one human, Professor Azimuth, who is something of a radical and a threat to the established order, who wants to do something about the plight of the Boozooks. As well as conducting experiments with time he has made it known that a mysterious creature called the Schnibble will soon come to liberate them. This, of course, seriously annoys the ruling powers led by the President and his evil adviser, the Bigwig.

A rude awakening
At the beginning of the game Professor Azimuth is captured and imprisoned by the Bigwig who mercilessly shoots Woodruff's teddy bear. Woodruff himself is only a child at the time but, thanks to the viblefrotzer placed on his head by Azimuth as he hides the boy away, he emerges fully grown but with no memory apart from one word - Schnibble.

As Woodruff, you must find out what has happened to Azimuth, learn about the Schnibble, help the Boozooks, and overthrow the Bigwig. A pretty tall order for someone who can't read yet. Fortunately, you are not completely on your own. Within the game world Azimuth has left messages for you and devices that may help you to progress. Outside the game world, help comes in the form of the manual, which I recommend that you read before starting and re-read periodically throughout the game. Also, a very useful hint sheet will get you started.

You will meet lots of strange and interesting characters some of whom will speak seemingly unintelligible gibberish at times, but never fear. Once you find your tobozon all will be revealed. You do know where to find your tobozon, don't you?

Catch the syllables
This is a game where you really must pay close attention to everything that is said because there may be clues in what people tell you - there are certainly syllables and powers and digicodes lurking in the most casual conversations. It is just a pity that the game doesn't allow for on-screen text. Fortunately, the voice acting is very good with only a few conversations where you must strain to make out what is being said. Though this is of little comfort to gamers who may have a hearing impairment.

Whilst on that note the Boozooks all speak as if they have a heavy cold thus a minor limitation becomes a binor libitation and you will need to attune your ears to this. And I do wish that the game would allow you to click through conversations that are repeated so that you need not be held up waiting for them to finish. Though, to be fair, Woodruff is far from alone in this respect.

Tough, logical puzzles
The puzzles are pretty tough but, on the whole, logically solvable within the context of the game. The key to completing them is to immerse yourself in the plight of the Boozooks and to find the lost syllables that have been erased from the seven wise men's bebories, er memories. (Boozook society, apparently, is as sexist as ours and doesn't allow for wise women). You will have to wander far and wide to find the syllables and other objects needed to complete this game. You will even have to get a job - simply read the advertisement and apply. Oh, I forgot, you can't read.

Actually, I fibbed. To get this far you must have learned to read and getting the job is not that simple, but it is a lot of fun. First you must make yourself look presentable, and then you must get a certificate from the bureaucrat. In the meantime there are a hundred and one other things you could be doing like checking out the weather, chatting with a game show host, gambling, or taking a virtual reality trip, not to mention helping the Boozooks, travelling in time and the list goes on. If you can imagine a game that is a cross between Day of the Tentacle and Gobliins, then this is it.

Easy-to-use interface
The interface is intuitive, click on the characters to talk to them, right click to bring up your inventory and left click to use an object. Nothing could be easier. Woodruff and the Schnibble is a windows game that really only suffers from the slight delay in accessing the next locations from the CD and, of course, once you find your transportozon moving around is easy. It's finding your transportozon that may prove tricky.

I particularly loved the wacky humour, from the send up of a popular shoot-em-up game to the hard-to-crack bluxtre nut that won't stand still. Woodruff too, rarely stands still and if you try to do something that isn't going to work he has many ways of ridiculing your efforts. It is these antics that may annoy some, especially if you are reduced to trying everything on everything in sheer frustration. The graphics are a delight and the backgrounds are far from static but are populated with numerous animations. The sound effects also are effective and entertaining contributing greatly to the overall package.

What more can I say? This is a game that will appeal to most adventure gamers and it deserves to be an instant success.

See the Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth walkthrough. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1995. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486/25 or higher, 4MB RAM, 5MB hard drive space, 2xCD-ROM, Win 3.1, SVGA, mouse.