Watergate: The Videogame is sort of based on All The President’s Men, a book about the investigative reporting that ultimately exposed US President Richard Nixon’s massive Watergate scandal and forced him to resign. Now, I say “sort of” because the game’s about as rooted in true-to-life fact as the concept of Richard Nixon’s honesty – which is to say, basically not at all. Watergate begins as a clunky point-and-click adventure with you in the role of journalist Bob Woodward, but quickly plunges into fourth-wall-obliterating, genre-wire-crossing madness. It’s often silly, frequently dumb, and occasionally educational. I think the best part was when I became Mega Man.
(We are now in SPOILER TERRITORY.)
OK, I lied. The best part was when my boss handed me an Elvin Broadsword at the beginning of a journey to, you know, hunt down sources in the least conspicuous fashion possible. But a Tim-Leary-powered Mega-Man-inspired LSD rainbow explosion trip definitely took second place. Or maybe third. I don’t want to give away everything, but here’s a hint: refuse the Watergate gig right at the beginning. Then watch as magic happens.
Watergate goes off the rails pretty much from the word “go” and looks back only to stare so deeply and awkwardly into your eyes that you begin to feel self-conscious about your eye stalks. It’s impressively packed with gags, too, even if a few of them are rampantly un-funny and far too reliant on easy lowball punchlines. Still though, the number of wacky “Hmmm, I wonder if…” actions that actually prompt results is admirably high, and they frequently result in your vividly described death. Hurrah!
It is, however, also often quite obtuse, and I definitely got stuck more than once during my hour-and-a-half-long playthrough. I imagine it’d have taken half the time if I didn’t encounter a couple total stumpers, but the ending was worth the frustration. So yes, give Watergate a go if you always felt like US history needed more comically out-of-place retro game references and stifling item puzzles. Or if you just want to get your day started off on an exceedingly confusing note. You really can’t lose, unless you value your sanity. And what kind of silly person does that?