There’s a curse in Brawsome’s MacGuffin’s Curse all right: Once you start playing, you’ll not want to stop. There’s a MacGuffin too, in that there’s just enough plot—and comic writing in the snarky style of old LucasArts adventure games—to string you along through well over 100 rooms in which your magician turned thief, Lucas MacGuffin, must find ways to push a battery onto an electrical outlet. His goal is to restore power to a city under lockdown by the villainous Alphonse Connell, so that he might confront the dastard and break his curse.
Standing in the way of his progress from museum to streets, gardens, city hall, library, junkyard, and mansion—as is usual for these sorts of games—are an ever-growing series of obstacles: pressure plates, crates (both free-moving wood and un-pullable steel), whirlpool warps, laser-shifting switches, and one-way doors. Oh, and MacGuffin’s “curse,” the purloined Lupine Twine Amulet, which “allows” Lucas to change from human to werewolf whenever he stands in moonlight. While the feral strength comes in handy for pushing and pulling objects, those paws can’t activate switches nor swim across water; that, as they say, is the rub, or real challenge, of the game.
It’s also, unfortunately, the real tedium of the game: There’s no option to speed up Lucas’s movement, and it takes a long time for him to move objects. (Shades of a far-less serious Catherine come to mind.) This grows increasingly frustrating for the more complex late-game puzzles, in which you’ll often have to drag objects from one side of the screen to the other, and then back—i.e., using the battery to weigh down a switch that opens a path to a wooden crate that can weigh down another switch that unlocks a metal crate that can replace the battery so that you can move the battery to the goal. In other words, executing the puzzle isn’t nearly as satisfying as figuring it out. (And while the game offers a much-needed reset button, a far more useful tool would have been an option to undo your last move.)
As if anticipating this, however, Brawsome has filled each room with a variety of objects that you can comically examine as you push and pull your way through. (A piece of art: “They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s ’Square. Square. Square.’” A plaque: “’Winner: Best City Hall Prop: Wall Division.’ Man, that ceremony was rigged.”) There’s a sparkling bon mot for just about everything and it’s both onerous and humorous—service with a smile. Nor is the game just about pushing and pulling objects: Like Legend of Zelda, there are various subquests in which you trade objects with the denizens of the city, follow a fortune teller’s cryptic clues to discover hidden rooms, and use the “loot” you find hidden in safes or in sparkling objects to purchase art, music, and furniture for your home. There’s also a quick-travel feature that allows you to instantly teleport between previously discovered hubs, so at least you don’t have to continue to walk through rooms that you’ve already solved. (If you do, however, you’ll find that the reset button now offers “Notes” instead: commentary from the small, independent production team.)
Brawsome has gone out of its way to ensure that these top-down adventures never grow too wearisome for the player, and to allow for bite-sized or full-length play sessions. There’s a robust hint system, which offers scolding suggestions or flat-out unlocks a door for you (though until you manually restore the power, you’ll have to do this every time you pass through a room; some have multiple exits). At the same time, an always visible progress meter encourages you not only to solve it yourself, but to go out of your way to find the various Easter eggs, like scraps of a comic book that fill in the backstory, that have been tucked away. For that extra bit of encouragement, the game also comes with achievements, and unlocks bonus scenes in the ending if you’ve reached 100%.
For those experienced with logic puzzles (or those quick to hit the hint button), it takes slightly under 10 hours to do absolutely everything. Still, it’s mostly time well spent, and those who start playing in the morning may find themselves changed into a were-gamer come moonlight, standing up and walking away in triumph.