The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble
First posted on 08 December 2008. Last updated on 13 August 2009.
The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble (also known as Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth) is among the last adventure games created by Coktel Vision, a French game development company acquired by Sierra On-Line in 1992. Though not part of Coktel Vision's Gobliiins trilogy, The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble has the same graphical style as the better-known Gobliiins series, as well as the same eccentric humor.
The story of The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble is considerably different than those of the Gobliiins games, however. The game begins with an introduction describing how humanity has finally returned to the surface of the Earth after living near the planet's core for centuries following a nuclear war. The narrator describes how the humans discover a peaceful race of long-nosed, pointy-eared mutants called Boozooks living at the base of a towering hill in the middle of the jungles that now cover the world. The humans attack and easily overpower the Boozooks, killing many of them while enslaving the rest, and then build a towering city scaling the sides of the hill.
Jumping ahead to the present, the story switches to a scene inside a small house, where Woodruff—at this point in time just a toddler with spiky yellow hair and a long, pointed nose—is shown playing with a teddy bear on a table, while another man presumed to be his father is working on a contraption that resembles a pair of headphones. Suddenly, someone pounds on the door, and Woodruff's father hurriedly jams the contraption onto his son's head and stuffs him into a nearby box. The door is broken down, and the father is knocked out and dragged away. A menacing man in a dark coat then steps into the house, pulls out a gun, and blasts Woodruff's teddy bear to shreds, all the while Woodruff watches in horror from his hiding place.
After the chaos has ended, the contraption on Woodruff's head begins to glow and make loud beeping sounds, and within moments, it transforms him into a teenager. As the game commences, this gangly, barefoot young man with the mind of a child staggers out of his father's house, unable to remember who he is or what has just happened. The only thing clear in Woodruff's mind is the word "Schnibble", which he is determined to find the meaning of. However, with no shoes and an inability to read, Woodruff's road to success slopes steeply uphill.
The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble is an unusual adventure game in many respects. When it begins, the player probably feels just confused and bewildered as Woodruff, and even as the mysteries of Woodruff's world are solved and his various goals become clearer, there is virtually no end to the unexpected and the bizarre. In his travels, Woodruff must locate and reunite the 7 Boozook wisemen, avenge his teddy bear's murder, escape from an asylum, confront a mysterious, destructive beast, and discover what the Schnibble really is—not an easy task, with obstacles in his way such as giant pixels, mutant bullies and aggressive tax collectors popping out of trash cans.
The game has a very basic interface: left clicking the mouse cursor on a hotspot will make Woodruff look at it, talk to it, manipulate it or pick it up. The inventory is easily accessed by a right clicking the mouse, and though there are many inventory items in the game, some are automatically sorted into various "boxes" that only appear if you move your mouse over their box. If there is no way Woodruff can interact with or use an inventory item on a person or object, he will perform an action to convey this message to the player. He will typically wag a finger or shake his head, but occasionally he will do something much more unusual, like stretch his nose several inches before letting it snap back or pull a Walkman out of his pocket and listen to it for a few seconds. These actions are humorous for a short while, but they quickly become annoying.
The vertical city where the game takes place in is quite large, and for most of the game, a lot of walking is required. Woodruff is eventually given a "Transportozon", which allows him to teleport himself to any region he has visited before; unfortunately, this does not happen until the player is about two-thirds through the game. Many of the regions are not available at first, and quite a few puzzles need to be solved in order to reach them.
Speaking of puzzles, there are a lot of puzzles in this game, and though a number of them are fairly straightforward, they can be frustrating at times. While none of them can be considered truly unfair, it is likely that beginning adventurers will find themselves stuck several times. Some of the puzzles require remembering various sequences of symbols, but since the game keeps track of all of them in various ways, this does not pose much of a problem. The non-linearity of the game also has the potential to confuse players, since it is easy to lose track of the many tasks that have to be accomplished. There are also a few places where you can lose in the game, though most of them are near the finale, where it is quite obvious that Woodruff is about to get into a dangerous situation and needs to be careful.
The many screens in the game are populated by characters that stand perfectly still until you initiate a conversation with them, and with the exception of various background animations like a bug scurrying across a street or bubbles floating out of a acidic pool, there is virtually no movement in each scene. However, the parts of the game that are actually animated more than make up for this minor flaw, as does the unique, whimsical yet slightly twisted style that the scenery and characters are drawn in.
The audio is memorable as well. The sound effects are similar to those heard in classic cartoons, but they have an offbeat style that suits the visual look of the game perfectly, and at times it is almost impossible to describe them. The sound of a scratchy violin is played when the Boozook king rubs his finger between his toes, there is an odd squeaking sound whenever Woodruff steps up to a character and turns to face them, and there is a drum roll followed by what sounds like someone tapping on a cowbell as the bureaucrat feverishly stamps the gaps in between his fingers.
The game's dialog is also entertaining, though like most other games from Coktel Vision, there are many minor translating slipups. For instance, when you make Woodruff pick up a bag of garbage, he asks, "You really want to pick up this trash can?" and the Health Wiseman is once called "Wiseman of the Heal". Fortunately, these errors usually add to the game's quirkiness rather than annoy the player.
The characters in The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble all have their own unique voices that match their personalities perfectly: a mad scientist has a squeaky German accent, the heavily built woman at the recruitment center has a gruff, domineering voice, and the ineffectual President, eerily enough, has a Texan accent. All the Boozooks have voices that make them sound as if their sinuses are plugged up, which makes sense, given their enormous noses. Strangely, Woodruff's voice varies considerably throughout the game, as if the voice actor has great trouble sticking to any particular tone.
Oddly, though there is a plentitude of sound effects and dialog, there is virtually no music. What little ambient music there is occurs randomly and stays the same even if you move to a different scene in the game. Like some of the sound effects, it is difficult to describe the game's music. At times it is a series of quiet, ominous, vaguely futuristic sounds linked together, at other times it sounds like maniacal, distorted laughter.
The game also suffers from minor bugs and glitches, none of which render the game unplayable, but many of which can confuse the player. For instance, you have the Word Wiseman's code in your Tobozon before it is even given to you, and the first time you meet Ernst Blintz he yells at you for meddling with his sandalwood chest although you have not done anything with it yet. There are also a couple of cases where a character starts repeating what has just finished saying, and if you teleport yourself to the prison tower before reaching the first prisoner's window, you appear right at that window, enabling you to skip a puzzle.
The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble is designed for Windows 3.1; there is no DOS version of the game.
Despite its cartoon façade, The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble has a surprisingly deep and complex plot, and several parallels can be drawn between Woodruff's world and today's world, such as the unfair enslavement of a peaceful race, a society being controlled by a all-oppressing government, and the use of a fabricated religion to gain money and control people's minds. Still, the game can be enjoyed simply as a zany animated adventure as well. There are not many games comparable to The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble, and it is not too hard to see why: both Woodruff and the world he finds himself in are not only unique, but twisted and charming at the same time. It may be frustrating and cryptic at times, but after you have finally finished it, you may find yourself wanting to play it again, just to see what you may have missed.