Editors’ Choice Games
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow
Review by Angie Kibiloski
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, by Cloak and Dagger Games and Wadjet Eye Games, is a classic point-and-click adventure game, done in a throwback pixel art style, available on Steam or Nintendo Switch. The setting is a quaint little English village called Bewlay, surrounded by misty moors, and steeped in local folklore. The time is the Victorian era, and the arrival of Thomasina Bateman, an antiquarian in search of material for her book on ancient English burial mounds, isn’t met with a warm welcome. Not only is she a woman, unaccompanied by a man or even a servant, but she speaks her mind, and has a penchant for walking around in trousers. Thomasina was invited to Bewlay with the enticement of excavating a mysterious, and purportedly unique burial mound called Hob’s Barrow, but the man who invited her never shows up to escort her to the site. The villagers are suspicious of outsiders as it is, and more so of Thomasina. Combine this with strange occurrences and increasingly unsettling dreams, and progress towards her goal becomes a trial at every step. Will she unlock the secrets of Hob’s Barrow, or will she leave Bewlay empty handed…or will she never leave Bewlay at all?
Everyone knows I love this type of game, and I hold them to a certain standard. I’ve rarely met a point-and-click adventure that I won’t try, but they don’t always keep me playing, and some have actively turned me off. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed this title. It had a satisfyingly nostalgic aesthetic, with retro pixel animation right out of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The soundtrack was simultaneously relaxing and eerie, the perfect combination for a sleepy little village that’s hiding dark, ancient secrets. The voice acting was surprisingly good, and each character had a distinct personality. I quite enjoyed conversing with each of the villagers, from the very courteous innkeeper, to the standoffish farmers, to the slightly unsavory, yet harmless local inebriate. The controls were convenient and intuitive, providing easy-to-access menus and inventory, and all the hotspots were clearly labelled when you rolled over them, for helpful and thorough item hunting. As other titles have proven recently, ease of play and user-friendliness of the interface can make or break a game.
The story was interesting, especially for someone who’s always had a little regret that I didn’t go into archaeology in college. The thought of discovering what mysteries are buried beneath moldering dirt and crumbling stones is delightful. The narrative may seem slow to players who are used to action or survival adventure games, where instant decisions mean life or death, and monsters may be waiting to jump out of every shadow. However, the seasoned point-and-click gamer will relax into the familiar pace of meticulously exploring each scene for useful items, finding locked doors or inaccessible pathways to remember to come back to later, and having sometimes exhausting dialogues with every villager you meet, prodding them again and again for pieces of helpful information. There are the obligatory animated cut-scenes, which add even more mystery to Thomasina’s adventure, and arrive as little interludes between days or chapters. You’ll slowly peel back the layers of the story with each conversation, collected item, and explored location, all in the comfort of knowing you won’t be dying if you don’t button mash fast enough at the sight of a monster.
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a fun, narrative-driven point-and-click adventure, combining interesting story elements, cool pixel graphics, in-depth dialogue that’s well acted, and a good horror-leaning mystery. If any of these points sound intriguing, then this title will be right up your alley. I’d recommend it, and I fully intend to go back and finish the game. I can’t wait to see what Thomasina unearths…or possibly wakes up, inside Hob’s Barrow. Released on Steam back in September, this game just made its debut on Nintendo Switch this past week. You can download your copy for either platform for just $14.99, on Steam or the Nintendo Store, then check out the other titles from publisher Wadjet Eye Games, and developer Cloak and Dagger Games.
Minimum System Requirements:
- Disk Space: 883 MB
- OS: XP or higher
- Processor: Pentium or higher
- RAM: 1 GB
- Graphics card: 640×360, 32-bit color, 700 MHz
- Disk Space: 2 GB
- OS: 10.11
- Processor: Any
- Graphics card: 640×360, 700 MHz
- Disk Space: 2 GB