Woodruff and the Schnibble—the box art specifies The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble, but the title screen touts Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth—was lovingly localized and published in 1995 as YASA.
Oh, I like that acronym! I just made it up: Yet Another Sierra Adventure. I can’t be the first person to think of YASA, but let’s keep using it.
Woodruff looks like a Gobliiins game because—unofficially, anyway—it really is a Gobliiins game. Like the rest of the Gobliiins series, Woodruff was designed by the mad geniuses at French developer Coktel Vision, where artist Pierre Gilhodes first developed the series and its distinctive style.
Let us revisit history: in the Gobliiins games, a little clan of goblins works among themselves through the world’s puzzles, very much like—to use a contemporary example—Erin Robinson’s Puzzle Bots. (I can’t prove that the imps of Overlord were Gobliiins-inspired, but I’ve certainly wondered.)
Woodruff, however, is a point-and-click adventure, plain and simple. Starring Woodruff, our young amnesiac hero, and set against a dismal, post-apocalyptic landscape, many of the game’s jokes are about religion and existentialism and Terry Gilliam -style bureaucracy. It’s a perfect mishmash of Fallout and the movie Brazil. The game makes exactly one allusion to Dystopian Future Cinema, in fact, and it is when Woodruff ventures into a bar in search of J.F. Sebastian.
There’s no real musical score at all, giving the play experience an uncanny oppressiveness. The art, too, is so strangely stylized, and the Boozooks’ made-up language so disorienting, that all elements reinforce Woodruff’s stranger-in-a-strange-land amnesia that drives the game.
I remember the in-game puzzles being difficult—if infuriatingly nonsensical—but in this information age, all the Internet is a walkthrough, righting the injustices of frivolous game design. Now, instead, the biggest bummer about Woodruff is just how difficult it is to get the CD-ROM running on a modern computer.
During the 1990s heyday of adventure gaming, Sierra published plenty other weird NASAs from Coktel Vision. There’s Inca, a genre-mashup that bends the space-time continuum. And Woodruff’s own project lead, Muriel Tramis herself, also designed the dreamily wonderful time travel odyssey Lost in Time (highly recommended!).
Unhappily, the annals of French game design might remember Tramis best for the FMV thriller Urban Runner, which received extremely polarized—though never lukewarm, I guess—reviews. Urban Runner’s commercial failure made for an unhappy endcap to Coktel Vision’s marvelous oeuvre.