I’ve spoken several times on the site about my adoration for adventure games so I don’t feel the need to re-tread that in my setup for the new 8-bit point and click title, Tick’s Tales: Up All Knight. I will concede that if you look at my scores for previous adventure titles I’ve reviewed you certainly wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that I actually didn’t like them all that much. Being a big fan of the genre has also made me a rather difficult to please critic and alas Tick’s Tales doesn’t seem any closer to winning me over than any of the other point and click games I’ve covered for Enemy Slime.
Our hero the titular Tick isn’t exactly a beloved person in the small village where he resides. Instead he’s a notorious troublemaker, and a particular nemesis for Gandarf, a powerful wizard who resides in the village and whose life is constantly being ruined by Tick’s shenanigans. One night after a vivid dream Tick awakes with the grand aspiration to become a knight and win the heart of his crush Georgia McGorgeous. This task can be achieved by pulling the legendary “Sword of Blergh” from the stone it’s sealed into, a mission that brings with it a huge host of problems for Tick including the presence of an evil goblin by the name of Bloodclot.
The game’s story is told across five brief chapters that span a relatively small map. The puzzles contained within will range from somewhat clever to downright nonsense. Many of our classic adventure game sins make appearances here, starting with the game’s relative lack of feedback. Using an item incorrectly will typically result in Tick issuing a generic “there’s nothing to do with that” statement. The issue of feedback is exacerbated when viewing items in the inventory. I actually spent a good chunk of the early game thinking I would never need to combine items since the game does absolutely nothing when you click items together that aren’t compatible. In fact even just examining items in my inventory took some figuring out (you have to drag the item out of your bag and onto Tick himself).
Some of these woes stem from the game’s minimalist control scheme. Gone are adventure staple actions like pick up, talk to, look at, or use. Instead there are simply objects that you can click and objects that you can’t click, indicated by your cursor shrinking when hovering over something you can interact with. It’s a small complaint but I would have at least liked to have seen the cursor change to indicate what exactly you’ll do when clicking something. A hand to represent something you can pick up, a mouth to represent someone you’ll talk to, that sort of thing could go a long way in making it more clear just what you’re doing in the game world.
There’s more badly designed puzzles to be had of course. Several moments in the game can only be triggered by navigating dialogue trees in a particular way, a particularly annoying one with Gandarf will force you to exit and re-enter his house should you answer a question incorrectly. There’s also a nice homage to Monkey Island in a moment where you can beg someone to give you an item (pretty pretty please) but unlike Monkey Island that dialogue can’t be skipped and will have to be endured to its end. We also have the classic “find the small, hard to see object on the screen” puzzle everyone loves so much.
Graphically the game leaves something to be desired. To start everything is delivered in a 4:3 aspect ratio with no resolution settings in sight. I know it seems odd to complain about graphical fidelity in an 8-bit game, but it’s 2016 there are ways to make a project feel retro without sacrificing screen real estate. Characters are somewhat inconsistent, with some designs looking much better than others. Tick himself might actually be the worst looking character, featuring a design that’s a weird cross between generic child and Jimmy from South Park.
Tick himself has some additional animations thrown in for flair, for example seeing something gross will make him throw up in his mouth, eating something hot will turn his face bright red and make him spit fire. It’s cute the first time you watch Tick make himself sick or imagine Georgia McGeorgious’ disembodied head cheering him on, but the animations can’t be skipped and they get very old with repetition.
The game runs on the shorter side, and even after getting stuck for what felt like an eternity I found myself with credits running just a little past the three hour mark. Even at its budget pricing of $7.99 it’s hard to enthusiastically recommend Tick’s Tales. There are plenty of other adventure games that are probably worth your time first. Having said that the game is an impressive feat for a one man team, and I look forward to seeing what lessons they learn for their next title. The stream of point and click adventure titles isn’t exactly gushing, so if you’re a die-hard fan of the genre and have exhausted all your options there might be something to like here, everyone else can likely afford to pass.
This review is based on retail PC code provided to us by the game’s publisher.