I’ll admit, I’m on a bit of a Cold War kick recently. I’ve been watching the terrifying Chernobyl on HBO, and criminally ignored 1983 on Netflix. So I was naturally intrigued by Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love, a point and click adventure game by developer Artifex Mundi. How does it fare? This is our review of Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love.
Priced at $19.99 on Steam (also available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch), Irony Curtain bills itself as a satirical point and click adventure filled with spy intrigue. You play as Evan, a journalist without much clout who finds himself almost immediately pulled into this spy caper.
Perhaps one of the better game design decisions involved creating an entirely fictional setting for Irony Curtain. As you can probably imagine, Matryoshka is not real. It is, however, a highly satirical exaggerated version of several Cold War era tropes, filled to the brim with secret coded messages, vodka, a Supreme Leader, and femme fatales.
What is most striking about Irony Curtain is the visual design. The game is entirely hand-painted. In fact, from what I was able to gather, Evan appears to be the only 3D model in the whole game given the fact that he needs to move around the screen. The art style is very cartoony, and it’s clear that a lot of love and care went into the design. People who know me know that I prefer photorealism to anything else, but the visual design and obvious care that went into Irony Curtain cannot be ignored.
Given the visual design, don’t expect FOV sliders, antialiasing options or the like. There isn’t even an option to change your resolution. I suspect the game queries your default Windows resolutions and outputs to that when you select “Fullscreen,” but that’s about it. This isn’t necessarily a complaint, rather an observation given the visual presentation of the game.
The audio is actually quite impressive. The voice work itself is astounding and surprisingly lengthy. The conversation options are aplenty, and you can really spend a lot of time just shooting the breeze with an NPC. The excellent writing and voice work do a lot to sell the satirical nature of this game. Irony Curtain is legitimately funny. This is easily the game’s strongest quality.
The music is not bad either. Featuring music composed by Arkadiusz Reikowski, perhaps best known for Layers of Fear, it succeeds in selling Matryoshka as a country set firmly behind the Iron Curtain.
Irony Curtain being a point and click game, one expects puzzles. But it’s here where some of my criticism lies. Some of the puzzles required a lot of back and forth retreading a level to gather the required items. Most of the time, I found this fine because that’s the nature of these games. But on a few occasions, I did find this tedious. In such occasions, the pacing suffered as I found myself distracted by this retreading instead of being immersed in the game.
Overall, however, the puzzles are well-designed and assume that you have the ability to think critically. The well-designed very simple drag and drop inventory system no doubt aids in this. Zooming in and inspecting items up close reveals important information critical to solving puzzles. I’d also get familiar with the spacebar because it is through that where interactive objects are highlighted in the world.
Irony Curtain is a fun game with a lot of heart. You can instantly tell just how much care and attention went into its creation. This ultimately results in a game that’s well-written, well-designed, and confidently wears its satirical tilt on its red sleeves. For me, the brilliant writing was just enough to stave off the tedium of some puzzles. If you are nostalgic for point and click games of old, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love is worth a look.
Compare to: Other point and click adventure games, but with a highly intuitive experience.