Sometimes a game will completely defy genre, and occasionally that means that the game ends up creating its own genre. Of course, just because the game has created a genre, that doesn’t mean other developers will be rushing to make similar games. That was sort of the case with the Warioware franchises for the longest time. While mini-game compilations have certainly been a thing, the idea of creating microgames that you’re done within a few seconds hasn’t been attempted by anyone other than Nintendo. Until now, thanks to Spookware, a new microgame compilation from Beeswax Games.
Spookware tells the story of the Skellibros—Righti, Midi, and Lefti—as they go about their daily lives being happy-go-lucky skeleton brothers. As the game starts out, it pretty much continues exactly where the Spookware entry of Dread X Collection II left off, with the three bros sat down to binge some of their favorite horror movies. After they get up from the sofa to take a break from the TV, a series of wacky random adventures unfold that lead you everywhere from a speedy high school graduation to your own five-star restaurant, and I can’t even tell you that the journey between those two destinations made any sense.
Not that we’re really here for the actual depth and nuance of the storyline. Far more important is the gameplay, as well as the overall tone and style of the game. As you can probably expect, there are plenty of different microgames to sink your teeth into, spread across the prologue and 3 chapters available in the first episode of the game. Each segment is broken up by different styles of microgame. The first collection is a standard bundle of d-pad games, the second some rhythm games, the third use a mouse, and finally, the last collection features a combination of microgame collection and restaurant management.
Overall, the microgames in Spookware do a decent job of keeping the game interesting. There’s a nice variety of different playstyles between the collections on offer, and if you’re already a fan of the style of Warioware, then everything should feel pretty familiar here. Having said that, the microgame variety is all well and good, but much like the series it’s inspired by, Spookware isn’t always exactly clear with what you’re supposed to be doing. In literally each microgame collection, I ended up getting a game over on my first run, before getting it finished on my second run once I’d learned what each microgame was asking of me.
The issues with unclear instructions are minor, but it's also certainly exasperated by the insanely tight time limit that you're given in most games. A lot of the time I'd only figure out what I was doing just as the clock was running out and would have to wait for the game to come back up again to complete it properly. There are also only 3 lives per attempt, rather than the traditional 4 that you get in Warioware, which means that you're much more likely to get a game over. On the positive side of things, there are only 9 minigames per marathon, with a boss level thrown in for good measure, so it's not much of a chore to get them finished.
The microgames also aren’t the only string to the game’s bow either. Between marathons of microgames, there are adventure-game-like sections that task you with exploring the world, solving puzzles, and interacting with various characters. These sections are a surprising amount of fun, mostly due to the world, characters, and writing, rather than the actual gameplay itself. Some of the interactions that you have in the world are hilarious, and if you came away without feeling charmed by the main characters (even Righti), then you may need to see a doctor because you’re clearly legally dead.
Part of the reason that Spookware has so much charm and energy is the visual design. The world and objects are rendered in 3D, while the characters are all hand-drawn cartoon skeletons. It’s really the style when you get into a microgame that makes the game. If you’ve ever seen the animation work of Stan Vanderbeek or Terry Gilliam, then you should be familiar with how most of the microgames work. They’re all collage animations, featuring a mixture of real photographs and stills taken from famous movies like Nosferatu, with the occasional clip art or drawn piece thrown in there.
Spookware | Final Thoughts
All-in-all Spookware does what it sets out to do. It gives you a decent amount of microgames to enjoy, a nice world to explore, and fun adventure-game elements to tie it all together. There are even some nice little secret hints and tidbits in there if you look hard enough. Even when you take into account the fact that some of the microgames are unclear or just don’t give you enough time, this is still a great game. While there are only a few hours of content here, it's enough to whet the appetite for Episode 2, and personally, I can't wait for more of this weird blend of Warioware, Tim Burton, and Terry Gilliam.
TechRaptor reviewed Spookware on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Visual style is excellent
- World and character are endearing
- Microgame collection has decent variety
- Very tight time and life limits
- Some of the microgames are confusing