Strangeland (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 19.08.2021

Review for Strangeland on PC

Releasing nearly a full decade since Wormwood Studios' inaugural point-and-click adventure, Primordia, Strangeland is a truly chilling successor that trades the post-apocalypse for a surreal carnival straight out of Hell. While Primordia dealt with heavy themes, while carrying an oppressive tone, Strangeland is considerably more unsettling, and seldom shies away from grotesque, or deeply mature themes like suicide. Haunting pixel art sets an unnerving atmosphere that never goes away, a deeply symbolic script keeps the narrative engaging from start to finish, and puzzles are designed to keep audiences thinking laterally. Strangeland is an intense experience not for everybody, but one every horror or point and click aficionado should play at least once.

Arguably Strangeland's greatest strength is how immediately compelling the title is. The story opens with the player waking up as an amnesiac in a straitjacket near a sign, pointing to the titular land. From there, you are immediately thrust into the main game; set free to explore the carnival at your leisure. The intro is akin to waking up disoriented in the middle of the night, barely remembering pieces of a nightmare; but in this case, the nightmare never actually ended and comes rushing back at full force.

Gameplay is standard point-and-click fare. The protagonist moves wherever the cursor points to, and there are always objects or characters on-screen to interact with. Dialogue is fully voiced, and while some performances are on the awkward side, this actually lends the atmosphere an almost b-movie-esque quality that feels very appropriate. The voice direction is also consistently strong, and plays up an eerie tone where few NPCs come off friendly.

Strangeland's imagery is visceral, featuring stylized depictions of gore, and genuinely creepy character designs. Most of the setting is coloured in intentionally dull tones of grey and brown, with a neon purple occasionally shining through. Soft yellow lighting also helps set the mood, while flexing some aesthetic muscles. Throwing in some occasional weather effects and close-up character shots for emphasis, the art style on offer borders on mesmerising.

Screenshot for Strangeland on PC

The gameplay loop juggles a solid mix of exploration, conversation, and puzzle-solving. Visual cues and dialogue offer all the clues necessary to get through a play-through, but well-read audiences will get far more out of the story. The script is loaded with symbolism, along with references to both philosophy and religion. For those who just can't parse all the metaphors present, the title features an Annotation Mode that helps explain the narrative's finer details. Annotation Mode does take some of the fun out of analysing the story, but it's also a magnificent tool for better understanding authorial intent.

Puzzles aren't too demanding, but they are thought provoking, and rarely solve themselves. Players will need to think creatively and use whatever threads of logic there are in Strangeland to their advantage. One of the best aspects about puzzle-solving is the variety that comes with it. Not every pronlem has a fixed solution, rewarding more unorthodox approaches, and encouraging a level of experimentation that's not often seen in the genre. There's also a clear effort being made to ensure puzzles make contextual sense, preventing lapses in in-game logic to hurt the pacing.

Above all else, Strangeland has staying power. The story alone is deeply engaging, but the world design and puzzles make for something truly unforgettable. There's a literary quality to the writing that really helps the plot shine, and the commitment to exploring so many themes in a concise manner pays off, while letting players drive the story. Wormwood Studios has developed nothing short of a horror classic.

Screenshot for Strangeland on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Moody, thought provoking, and chillingly beautiful at times, Strangeland, is a bizarre take on the point-and-click genre that will stick with players long after the credits roll. The story itself is dense with a script layered in symbolism, but never so obtuse where the uninformed can't get by. Thematically, much of the plot centres around the self - self-acceptance, self-doubt, self-destruction, and self-actualization - along with the pursuit of identity. Puzzles lean into the hostile aesthetic to provide a fair degree of challenge, while hints are always available. It all makes for a well-paced, well realized journey that doesn't outstay its welcome. Strangeland is a short adventure, but one of the finest entries in the genre.

Also known as

Strangeland

Developer

Wormwood Studios

Publisher

Wadjet Eye Games

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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