Monday 9 October 2023

Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit Review (Switch)


Of all the retro revivals happening at the minute the beloved point and click game is still somewhat underutilised on consoles. There have been some highlights of course with Broken Sword 5, Monkey Island and Roki being particular favourites, but compared to Metroidvaias and Rogue-likes there isn’t the strength in depth you might have hoped for. This is changing though, as the original Broken Sword and a new sequel are coming. Speaking of Broken Sword, here we have Crowns and Pawns which is a game clearly inspired by it and a title that should keep you busy until the triumphant return of George Stobbart.

Crowns and Pawns follows Milda, a girl with Lithuanian heritage who inherits a house from her grandfather which sets in motion a chain of events that sees her exploring the lesser highlighted areas of Europe and European history. The setting is a nice change from the norm as countries such as Lithuania offer a rich cultural and historical heritage to explore which will likely be less familiar to players. It’s something more developers should think about when choosing the settings for their games.

Of course, as soon as Milda touches down it becomes obvious there is much more going on than simply sorting out her grandfather’s house and soon, you’ll be caught up with the KGB and looking to uncover a long-hidden secrets and mysteries. This does play out in a way similar to the Broken Sword games with a lot of historical researching and visiting of churches and other cultural sights. But Revolutions game certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on churches so while it feels familiar it never moves into full copying territory.

There are two main processes to solving puzzles. The first will be familiar to point and click fans in that you move around areas picking up objects, combining when needed and then using them to solve a location-based puzzle. An early example of this is needing to figure out how to get a key from between a crack in the floorboards which requires magnets and string.

The other thing the game has you doing is combining notes in Mildas phone. For instance, when reading a book, she will often mark down important things such as locations or dates. You may then need to combine these with a note which says something like “My grandad was looking for treasure at a church”. Matching the two things will then normally give Milda a revelation leading to a new line of enquiry or a new location to go to and explore. The system itself is not particularly complicated but we did find ourselves stopped in our tracks a bit too often with this and starring at notes in her phone is far less interesting than interacting with the world.

Being stopped in our tracks is a bigger issue with the game as well. You’ll always get those moments where you aren’t quite sure how to solve a puzzle in point and click games but the clue giving in Crowns and Pawns is slightly off and not quite good enough too often. A lot of the time we didn’t have any idea what our goal was even when we asked what we should be doing, or we felt we had already done it. When you have a clear thread of what to do the puzzles are very good but too often, we found ourselves wandering aimlessly.

Overall, Crowns and Pawns is a fun and worthwhile game for point and click fans. It may be a bit unrefined in terms of its dialogue, but the puzzles, locations and general story are interesting and engaging. If you can get over the stop start nature of the game, then it is well worth playing as there is a lot of charm here and it’s clear the developers had a lot of passion for the project.

Overall 7/10

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