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Freeware Garden: Mudlarks

Every day I'm mudlarkin'.

Regular nine to five office jobs, well, those that still exist, have never been good enough for Winston. He always wanted to be a mudlarker and, thus, he took it up as a hobby and promptly became the star of Mudlarks. A lovely point-and-click adventure game about mudlarkers larking in the mud and the debatable joys of scavenging the shores of the Thames for old things that glow.

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But, and this wouldn't have been much of an adventure otherwise, when meteors fall and strange golden lockets are uncovered, mudlarking can become rather dangerous and people like Vincent, Winston's friend and scavenging partner, can go missing. Point-and-clickers, on the other hand, can quickly escalate into supernatural mysteries with sci-fi elements.

Now, I wouldn't really call Mudlarks a horror game, despite its overall spooky atmosphere and thriller-esque plot, but I would easily call it a great, pure adventure with a distinct focus on satisfying, old fashioned and tough adventure puzzles.

Despite the irritation of generous amounts of pixel-hunting making everything feel a bit more difficult than it is, Mudlarks is a game that's aiming to please purists. People who'll savor picking up a stone then painting it black using coal, then putting it into the water so that glitter will stick on it and finally bribing a policeman with it. Yes, it's true, bribing the police really is that easy and this puzzle made perfect sense during the game.

As do the rest, mind you, though you will have to pay attention to all sorts of details and, when stuck, consult a walkthrough. Chances are you've missed something tiny.

If all this lovable use object on object on object, combined with an inventory the size of China, sounds like something from the '90s, wait till you see Mudlarks' graphics. The game looks exactly like an early FMV adventure sans the lengthy FMV sections. Scanned in locations, digitized people, endearingly choppy animations and a lovely scan-lines filter almost had me shedding a single nostalgic tear, even if the thing reminded me more of a Gilliam animation than Gabriel Knight 2. Still though, I loved it. I really did.

And I deeply appreciated Mudlarks' commercial-sized length and impressive content. Solving the mystery will have you visiting dozens of generally excellently realized locations, meeting an amazing variety of NPCs and even crashing a paranormal seance.  If you love your classic adventures you'll be really happy with this one.

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