Review: The Mind of Marlo

Every time it seems like every storytelling format and every plot idea has been exhausted, a game like The Mind of Marlo comes along to remind us that there still are wildly clever and original stories waiting to be told.

A traditional point-and-click adventure game presented as an interactive mockumentary, The Mind of Marlo documents the woeful tale of Marlo Davenport, a poor chap born with a rare affliction known as Spontaneous Silly Head Syndrome. As its name makes explicitly clear, SSHS causes a person’s head to spontaneously morph into all manner of silly entities. Seemingly intensified by the tragic breaking of his heart, Marlo’s ailment has become so debilitating that he has decided to seek help from specialist Dr. Waddle.

Allowing Point Bleep Studios to film his battle with SSHS in hopes of raising awareness, Marlo returns home and proceeds to follow Dr. Waddle’s suggested remedy: To find household items that his different transformations will hate, and then use them to scare away his demons of sudden transformation. This is where you come in, using simple point-and-click commands to poke about Marlo’s abode in search of key objects to solve the conundrum that is his disease. In a nod to mockumentary TV sitcoms like The Office and Modern Family, every item you click on triggers a close up on Marlo as he breaks into a monologue, describing into the camera the item’s significance as it relates to his beloved Linda, his relationship with his dad, and his ongoing life crisis at large.

During play, Marlo’s avatar randomly morphs between his human self and four other forms, including a cat, block of ice, slug, and shark. The main puzzle hook involves collecting the proper items and combining them through the inventory bar located along the bottom of the screen, at which point they need to be used directly on Marlo, but only while he is in the targeted form. Not to give too much away, but a quick example is putting batteries into a hair dryer and then using the hair dryer to melt away his ice head. Once a silly head puzzle has been solved, that head will no longer appear. The story concludes once all of the heads have been eliminated and Marlo feels comfortable leaving his apartment, back into the world.

Marlo’s apartment consists of only a few different rooms, and the puzzles, like the one mentioned previously, are exceedingly easy. While more elaborate and mentally stimulating puzzles would have been appreciated (especially by a seasoned point-and-click player such as myself), the straightforward nature of the solutions does keep the pace flowing, while also avoiding the common genre pitfall of illogical item combinations and obtuse puzzle sequencing.

Start to finish, the game only lasts about 45 minutes to an hour tops. Brief and easy-peasy though it may be, the runtime feels right-sized for the story being told. Once it was over, I felt completely satisfied that I had experienced Marlo’s oddball tale to a proper resolution.

In addition to the main puzzles, a number of optional/hidden interactions can be discovered, so it’s worthwhile to click on everything possible and savor every moment you spend tickling your funny bone inside Point Bleep’s world of random goofiness. My favorite moment is getting Marlo to break into a freestyle rap number on his stereo, recalling the character Michael Bolton from Office Space and the extra layer of comedy provided by that movie’s unexpected gangsta rap soundtrack.

It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the dry British humor hits all the right notes here, with deft writing and a monotone delivery to the voice acting that so perfectly complements the absurdity of the plot with this nonchalant attitude as if what’s happening isn’t silly or at all out of the ordinary. The music is suitably understated, a tune of slowly keyed piano notes paired with long, wailing wind strokes evoking a melancholy mood to further sell Marlo’s depression and the faux seriousness of the documentary subject matter. The blocky, lo-res pixel art also adds to the overall charm, with an optional film grain effect, as well as a fast forward button, available to carry the interactive, filming-in-progress mockumentary theme that extra mile.

The Mind of Marlo is over before you know it, but it’s a chuckle a minute while it lasts. Even though the gameplay is rooted in nothing but the most basic fundamentals of point-and-click adventure design, the game still manages to stand out as one of a kind.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Dry, monotone British humor and voice acting
+ Charming, well-realized mockumentary storyline and presentation
+ Novel silly head puzzle mechanic

Cons:
– Exceedingly easy puzzle solutions require little thought or effort

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Flying Interactive
Developer: Point Bleep Studios
Release Date: 10/19/2017
Genre: Point-and-click Adventure
Players: 1

Source: A Steam code for The Mind of Marlo was provided to VGBlogger for review purposes by Flying Interactive.

Buy From: The Mind of Marlo is available on Steam for $2.99, itch.io for $1.99, and FireFlower Games for €1.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!