By Marty Mulrooney
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 1 – A Dreadly Business is a comedy 2D point-and-click murder mystery adventure game set in Victorian London, created by Seb Burnett and Rumpus Animation. The first instalment of a planned series, Episode 1 sees self-proclaimed leading explorator Bertram Fiddle and his trusty manservant Gavin hunting down a serial killer called Geoff the Murderer. Originally released for iOS in 2014, the game has since been released on PC and Mac in 2015.
A Dreadly Business is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, a fact which is apparent from the outset. The graphics are delightfully cartoony and the voice acting is delivered with a super-silly glee that makes it extremely difficult not to smile. From the moment Bertram Fiddle awakens and turns off his alarm clock (helping him to do so is all the tutorial you’ll ever need – this is old-school point-and-clicking in its purest form), this comedic adventure will have you chuckling.
Once you’ve released Bertram’s one-eyed manservant Gavin (a quirk which is never addressed or explained) from his ‘room’ under the stairs, a telegraph informs the pair that Lord Arthwipe (in context, the somewhat juvenile humour works extremely well) wants to see them immediately – at last, a new adventure. Huzzah! Their progress is blocked by Bertram’s crying wife, who is used to the finer things in life and simply wants him to settle down and get a real job… at the soap factory. As he has nothing better to do than lie in until 10 o’ clock in the morning, she asks him to take her dog, Foofy, to the groomer.
Finally escaping the house, a shadowy stranger bumps into Bertram and their bags get mixed up… but this is no accident. Geoff the Murderer has struck again – and he’s kidnapped Foofy! Please don’t panic that the game isn’t a ‘real’ adventure when the first chase sequence kicks in. It merely involves pressing the up and down arrows on the keyboard, makes complete sense and doesn’t outstay its welcome (even when it reappears in altered form later on). With the killer managing to evade their grasp – which is a good job really, as otherwise this short game would be even shorter! – so begins an adventure full of intrigue, murder, oddball characters, strange creatures, inventory-based shenanigans and a toilet brush covered in cobwebs.
It’s a short experience as previously stated, but an enjoyable one for the duration of its 2-3 hour playtime. For the most part the puzzles all make sense – a rarity within the genre – and the humour works. It’s childish at times, but in the best way possible. There are also plenty of amusing literary references, such as an old widow called Ms. Ravisham (you end up having to enter her bush…) and Sherlock Holmes, who it turns out is a pretty stuck up and mean-spirited individual whose sidekick, Dr Watson, doesn’t seem to really like him!
The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: Episode 1 – A Dreadly Business is a decidedly short adventure game but a rather splendid one nonetheless. It does everything it attempts to do perfectly well, even if it’s slightly too easy and all too brief. The graphics and voice acting are lovely and the satirical twist on Victorian London is a constant delight. With the second episode currently being Kickstarted – and set to address many of the first episode’s shortcomings – there has never been a better time to familiarise yourself with Victorian London’s leading explorator, Bertram Fiddle.
8 OUT OF 10