Publisher: Frima Studio
Developer: Frima Studio
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista, 1.0 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, 40 MB hard-drive space
Release date: Available now
In Big Brain Wolf you follow the adventures of a bipedal, humanoid wolf who, unlike other wolves, is a vegetarian, a nerd, still lives with his mother and is studying to become a genie. Unfortunately for him, mother, who also happens to be the leader of the local wolf pack, gets framed for murder, and it falls upon her son’s scrawny, incapable shoulders to find the real killer. The fantasy kingdom where the events transpire is chock full of familiar fairy-tale characters cast in “modern” roles. Pinocchio is a trial attorney, Tom Thumb is a “gangsta,” Spock from “Star Trek” is tending bar for some reason, and the whole thing is ruled by a morbidly obese Little Red Riding Hood.
The game uses a point-and-click interface reminiscent of many adventure games. There is, however, no inventory, since none of the puzzles are item-based. Instead, you progress by conversation and by solving logic puzzles, which open up when you click on certain objects in the scene. Since some of them can be quite difficult, there is a hint system in place that allows you to buy hints with the points you earn by doing six different types of “brain training” exercises. Completing the puzzles allows you to move on. There are four chapters, with four scenes in each chapter, and you can return to a particular scene or puzzle at will.
Before I begin criticizing the poor Big Brain Wolf, I’d like to do something a bit unusual: I’ll give you statistics. According to online retailer Steam, in the three months that this game has been available, only 71.8% of those who’ve played it have completed the tutorial, 39.8% have completed Chapter 1, 24.1% have completed Chapter 2, 15.3% have completed Chapter 3, and only 11.5% have completed Chapter 4. This could mean that people are generally unintelligent and cannot solve the puzzles, or that the game is too long and few people have the time to finish it, or that it’s a poor game and players didn’t want to waste time on it once they saw what it was about.
Sadly, I tend to think it’s the latter explanation. The game falls flat on so many levels that its only redeeming quality, the pretty visuals, cannot save it. The first thing that stands out is that your character is moving at a very slow pace. This becomes very irritating after a few hours of play. As you continue on, you quickly realize that the puzzles have nothing to do with the plot. Sometimes an attempt is made to tie a particular puzzle to what needs to happen, but the results are unconvincing at best. More often than not, a puzzle is given to you only because you happened to click on something. Since solving puzzles is usually required to proceed, you end up clicking on everything just in case.
What’s worse is that the attempts at humor outright fail as far as I’m concerned. The “fantasy-but-modern” concept that was done so brilliantly by “Shrek 2″ is completely butchered. It’s easy to see what the jokes are designed to do, but it’s absolutely impossible to laugh at them. Let me give you an example. The Three Little Pigs are greedy corporate land developers in this game. That’s because they build houses. Clever, eh? Oh and don’t forget the “Black Sheep,” a militarized group of dark-colored ovines with afros who are breaking the law in their fight for civil rights. Someone at some point must have thought this was hilarious. Lastly, and I do realize this is rather anecdotal, it seems nobody even bothered to run a spellchecker. “Sheep” is “sheeps” on the official site, and “exercises” is “exercices” on Steam.
So, what we have is a game that lost 30% of its audience before they ever finished the tutorial. It’s great that the puzzles were designed by neuroscientists, and music was done by a jazz quartet. Really, it is. But fun and playability were never included, which makes all of the above irrelevant. With so many excellent games out there that don’t cost a dime, I don’t see why anyone would pay $10 for Big Brain Wolf.