Review: Nicolas Eymerich The Inquisitor
The saga of Bad Rats has taught us that even the worst game can find success in how hilariously bad it can be. It’s a tough balance to find, where the game has to be terrible in a darkly funny or endearing way while also being mechanically sound enough to get through. Our new friend Nicolas Eymerich has the makings of such cultish appeal, but sadly never quite reaches that far into hilarity or awfulness to make the cut. Aside from the obvious bits he isn’t even that bad at first, but once the puzzles start cropping up his adventure screeches to a very unwelcome stop.
The title tells you everything you need to know up front, really. Nicolas Eymerich is an inquisitor serving the Catholic church in France sometime in what feels like the Dark Ages. Trouble is brewing in a small town called Calcares, and our friend is tasked by the local abbot with uncovering the cause. Before he departs on his quest though, there is a wealth of information and secrets to gather in the abbey. I’m not sure it’s enough to fill an entire game, but that’s all the ground that this title, Book 1, is going to cover here.
You may notice when you start the game that the title screen depicts Nicolas glaring at you from behind burning menu buttons as DOOM-style programmer metal plays in the background. This is what you’re getting with this title, not a faithful depiction of the 14th century clergy but an impossible badass battling heretics and the supernatural forces of evil with naught but his acerbic wit and withering disapproval. Nicolas is like a badass elemental, completely incapable of speaking above a menacing whisper unless he is shouting, glaring at literally everything in existence, and assuming that all people, creatures, and inanimate objects are in some way sinning against God Himself.
Amazingly this never really gets old, and in fact makes the game pretty funny as you start rolling through the ridiculous puzzles. Despite being confined to the dozen or so scenes that comprise the abbey, there are pagan talismans to make, secret libraries to reveal, and foul heretics to drive out before you even start your quest to Calcares. Nicolas reacts with acute distaste to nearly everyone in the abbey, and is given some pretty colorful ways to insult people’s heritage or threaten them with damnation. And to be fair most of the locals ARE degenerates, like the abbot who couldn’t be more Palpatine if he tried and the cursed fellow who can’t stop thinking about ladies’ bottoms.
Since this is a point-and-click adventure you’re going to find plenty of items to use, most of which you won’t know what for when you first find them. This one also has the unfortunate habit of not letting you take some things you’ll need later until you know what you need them for, but obviously does not do this consistently. Items can also be hard to pick out from the game’s weird mix of decent 3D and incredibly low-res 2D. There’s a particular puzzle in the library about collecting scraps that’s nigh impossible without looking up where the last piece is. Honestly, most of the puzzles are going to trip you up due to either vague instructions or finicky interfaces.
That’s one big knock against The Inquisitor, that a walkthrough (or liberal use of the built-in hint system) is going to be necessary despite the postage-stamp-sized scope of the game. Your journal is almost worse than having none at all due to some very, VERY rough English. And then when you find what you need to do, Nicolas is going to give VERY unhelpful feedback unless you’re already clicking the thing you need to click. That’s not real likely either when you need to take a specific paving stone out of many or highlight some text you can’t even read. You’re going to face plenty of frustrations trying to puzzle through this one yourself, especially with how slow Nicolas is getting around and how he can get hung up on walls and stairs.
Ultimately it’s just not a very polished game, and despite the hilariously over-wrought dialogue and interesting glimpses of plot the shortcomings pull it down too far. The puzzles are more irritation that challenge from start to finish, in part because of the muddy graphics that are going to get on your nerves eventually. The interface is awkward and ugly, and just getting around the abbey is a pain even with fast travel between rooms. And if you can somehow overlook all this it’s only Book 1 of a two-book tale, with very little to inspire carrying on to the meat of the plot in a second game. I wish I could recommend this one for its so-bad-it’s-good elements, but there are too many just-plain-bad elements heaped on top of them.