Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It

by Jeff O'Neill

Wordplay
1987

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Number of Reviews: 8
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Some Fantastic Highlights and Regrettable Lowlights, August 20, 2021
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

I desperately want to love this game, but sadly I can only sort of like it. I'm obsessed with words, odd phrases, and idioms, so I went into this game with quite high hopes. Broken up into a series of 'interactive short stories,' a few of the stories are fantastically fun and pull off the wordplay game mechanic marvelously. A few of the stories are confusing and confounding to the point of being unplayable.

The stories that really shine -- "Shake a Tree," "Buy the Farm," "Shopping Bizarre" being the main highlights -- integrate wordplay like spoonerisms and taking idioms literally in truly inventive ways. As your playing with words often alters the game world, there are many opportunities for surreal, odd, and plain funny happenstances (Spoiler - click to show)like when some locks on a door become smoked salmon lox...that need to be 'unloxed' . O'Neill's writing in these sections is superb, conveying the strangeness of some surreal transformation caused by you invoking a bit of word play.

If this had been sustained for a full game (a la Counterfeit Monkey), I would easily give this game a 5 star review. However, the short stories that fall flat fall very, very flat. At least two of the stories almost certainly necessitate using the (fortunately built-in) hints, as the 'puzzles' involve guessing at some joke or bit of cleverness that you have only some vague idea of. This is essentially the same driving mechanic in the stories that work well -- except you are able to arrive at the right conclusions by playing around with the words in the text. For stories like "Manor of Speaking" and "Act the Part," there is very little actual wordplay involved, and few other clues in the text as to how to make progress.

Although I absolutely love the parts of the game that work, the fact that I was forced to heavily rely on hints and walkthroughs for nearly half the game seriously soured my overall experience.