Videogame (1994; vt The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble in the US). Coktel Vision (CV). Designed by Muriel Tramis, Stéphane Fournier, Pierre Gilhodes. Platforms: Win.
Woodruff is a graphical Adventure with the ambience of a satirical cartoon. Long after a devastating nuclear war, humanity has returned to the surface world from its underground refuges to find that a new intelligent species has appeared in its absence – the wise, peaceful and remarkably stupid looking Boozooks ("Bouzouks" in the original French). Soon the humans have conquered the newcomers and built the City, a gigantic arcology in which the Boozooks are an oppressed underclass. Professor Azimuth, an eminent human scientist, decides that he must help free the Boozooks, and develops a plan to bring universal peace and love to the City with the assistance of the mysterious Schnibble. Immediately before the game begins, a human faction raids the Professor's laboratory, leaving his young Boozook ward Woodruff – the player character – wandering the streets alone and amnesiac except for the traumatic memory of seeing his teddy bear shot to pieces by human thugs.
The resulting game is something of a pacifist polemic, wrapped in a series of bizarre situations and baffling enigmas. Comic moments are frequent, and many of the characters are memorably vivid grotesques; prominent among them is a ludicrously persistent tax collector who stalks the protagonist relentlessly. The visual design is excellent, with many charmingly exaggerated depictions. Some of the puzzles, however, are so difficult as to be almost insoluble; finishing the game appears to require a thought process not so much lateral as four-dimensional. In this, Woodruff is not unique; it shares its quirky approach to narrative and the dream like illogicality of its puzzles with many other products of the Coktel Vision studio. Especially notable is the largely incomprehensible Bargon Attack (1992 CV, Amiga, AtariST, DOS) designed by Claude Marc, Serge Marc, in which Earth is threatened by an invasion of aliens from a Videogame called, inevitably, Bargon Attack. [NT]