Occasionally, the absurdity of life can be used to make some interesting ideas. Today’s topic, a game featuring words like “Edgar” and non-words like “Bokbok” in its title, seems to take pleasure in playing the fool. If one has consumed a fair amount of media, the stereotype of the crazy outcast in comedy stories is not uncommon. With tinfoil hat in tow and an acorn around his neck, Edgar fits the physical bill of insanity. What’s the punchline? Everyone else is crazy, and he’s the most rational character; at least that’s how it seems to him.
I’ve played kooky point-and-click adventures in the past—take the charming Clam Man or spirited Chook & Sosig games for example. This genre has given me some entertainment in the past, though nothing so extraordinary that I’m willing to scream from the rooftops about them. Edgar gave similar vibes to the aforementioned titles, while sporting a distinctive visual style to make it feel more professional. Still, the challenge of making a point-and-click game both fun to play and fun to experience can make even the most rational irrational. Does this squash its competition? Or is it squashed by the pressure? By the way, Edgar is a squash farmer. Kind of important to know.
To provide full transparency, Edgar’s bokbok journey is a game of “How weird can things possibly get?” On a quest to obtain razidium from the town of Boulzac (to use as an insect repellent), he will come across mighty amounts of over-the-top dialogue and scenarios. Chasing down cats that travel at lightning speed. Zombified townsfolk used for slave labor. Stealing candles from a birthday cake to stick into an old dude’s ears. If nothing else, the story will provide a memorable assortment of moments to make you think… perhaps not deeply, but think, nonetheless.
With this desire for the strange comes the title’s first essential issue. Something to note about the adventure is that there is no opening cutscene. No background information or context is given—one simply boots up the game and is transported into Edgar’s house, completely blind. I believe this to be a missed opportunity, as some sort of introduction of similar absurdity could set the mood for what’s in store for the player. Without it, there was a sense of emptiness in the first hour or so of gameplay, with only a flimsy sense of immersion. One simply walks around and talks to people, who generally give Edgar judgmental remarks or unprompted information.
Playing this game through to completion, Edgar: Bokbok in Boulzac should set one back between 2-3 hours. A rather succinct game, which is unfortunate considering the story only gets intriguing about halfway through. Those keen on odd conversationalists and wacky back-and-forths should find no trouble talking to every possible townsfolk. If not immediately hooked, players won’t grasp anything worth paying careful attention to until things get “real.” The game provides many opportunities, too, notably with a historical store and lingering irony to NPC dialogue. Yet the absurdity that serves as the main source of comedy (outside the on-the-nose social commentary) occasionally undermines any serious symbolism and takes one out of the situation.
Pacing also seems to be a trouble area here, especially near the end. With the relative shortness of the game, a lot of the beginning segments seem bloated, while the ending bits feel rushed. There was only one section I felt was sufficiently balanced, which involved some neat-looking glowing goggles. Some of the more “serious” (relative term) sequences Edgar will find himself in seem thrown in at random, without much build-up prior. Almost like an isolated incident of coincidences, perhaps this is actually to the benefit of the aloof narrative structure. Still, when running around each area doing whatever was tasked, it was never something I personally cared to do. My attachment to Edgar’s motives or the story’s deeper justice was never comfortably set, which sullied most emotional impact.
For a game categorized as a point-and-click game, there isn’t a lot of it. The controls to Edgar: Bokbok in Boulzac lend themselves to the standard game set-up, with basic movement and interaction keys. About 90% of the game simply involves moving and using one interaction button, as that is what is most relied on. And said one interaction button will be used to talk to people and collect various items. With Clam Man and Chook & Sosig, they had puzzles and additional variety to interactions that ensured one wouldn’t get too bored with the walk-and-talk method. This… doesn’t have much. Many objectives simply involve finding things and talking to the right people, which leads to much of the same. Occasionally, it will ask the player to do more flexible orders, though I can only recall two or three times (in a 2-3 hour stretch) where that occurs.
I’m all for experimentation in video games, though some transparency in what’s available to the player is appreciable. There were occasional points in Edgar where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing, only to find out that by randomly interacting with an object in the background, I did what I was supposed to do. The adventure here seems a tad too comfortable with leaving one’s possibilities very vague, perhaps to inflate time spent? Should one miss the prompt to interact with something/someone (which can be finicky), they’re out of luck. Circling every area over and over, glomping every bit of space available until something happens isn’t my type of fun. This wasn’t a case often, fortunately, as doing a trick called “paying attention” will often point the player in the right direction.
One more small tidbit will relate to the game’s functionality. While generally smooth and bereft of slowdown, there were occasional instances of glitches. Sometimes I would get stuck on an invisible object, but never more than about half a second. Other times involved said “finicky” prompts, which only appear at a certain distance… and angle… and some luck. However, there was one point when I was travelling through a factory and decided to explore for theoretical secret items. Going into the bottom-left corner of an empty space, Edgar straight-up disappeared. The camera would move along with the movement, but Edgar was invisible and couldn’t interact with anything. I had to reload the file to fix it, and out of curiosity tried it again, with the same result. Exploiting glitches can be fun for a player, though it can also damage the reliability of the game’s “armor” when considering overall quality.
Graphics & Audio
Far and away the best quality of Edgar: Bokbok in Boulzac, and what led me to play the game, is its visual design. Very hexagonal, cartoon-ish, and vibrant in its colors. Some subtle hints of absurdity come forth in the character designs alone. Look at the store attendant in the cover image of this review. Her eyes… so blank and expressionless, combined with the cheery dialogue given to her, creates an image of disparity. Certainly not to everyone’s tastes, it should at least provide a sleek and professional feel to an otherwise random product. And the quantity of odd things that occur will only heighten the memorability already attributed to the dialogue alone. Very solid—any interpretation of that word would suffice.
How can one critique what is hardly present? The musical score of Edgar is almost as aloof as the structure of the story. Lots of sound effects, definitely, which provide life to a town full of lively little lubbers. But as for background tracks and general music, there’s hardly anything, at least from what I can recall. The more serious moments of the adventure incorporate a higher emphasis on immersive ambience, which perhaps would have helped had it applied to all else. When the sun sets and the drowsiness kicks in, I won’t remember this for its musical score, which is probably all that needs to be said.