Melting Pot of Madness
What do you get when you mix the aesthetic of renaissance paintings, the sounds of classical music, surrealist dark humour, the vibe of Monty Python, and optional murder and/or mayhem?
Well for one you get a guaranteed great time. Perhaps more importantly though, you get The Procession to Calvary. A solid entry into the point and click genre.
Please Sir, May I Kill Some More?
You are thrust into the shoes of Bellona, some people may be familiar with her as the Roman Goddess of War. Or maybe you know her from the painting by Rembrandt which the character seems to be directly lifted from. Quite a fitting choice of protagonist, as the game opens with her on a killing spree as part of a holy war. Not long after this montage though, she’s interrupted by a holy man telling her the North has won the war against Heavenly Peter. Unfortunately for her this means she may no longer kill with reckless abandon.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that she’s not very impressed. In the mere seconds we’ve been following her it’s been made clear that murder is her one true passion in life. And now she’s been told that’s not allowed anymore. As luck would have it though, the Immortal John (the leader of the new regime) has one more reluctant task for her. Although Heavenly Peter was defeated, he is still alive in the South. And that’s one murder that the new benevolent leader could turn a blind eye to.
Journey to the South
So off you go to a boatman, who will take you to a lugger, that could take you to a brig, which could take you to a full-rigged pinnace, that just might be able to take you to the South. Easy. But of course it isn’t. First the boatman needs his oars back, which he gave to a man lacking a pair of crutches. And thus you have your first puzzle. Find the man, and figure out a way to get his walking aid.
Puzzles are the backbone of gameplay, you’ll be faced with a number of problems and obstacles that will test your wits and push your ingenuity to it’s limits. At least that’s what it did with my ingenuity, humble as it is. The puzzles range from straightforward, such as the aforementioned oar-crutch conundrum. To complex head-scratchers such as finding three pieces of jewellery across the map in order to bribe your way to an audience with Heavenly Peter (Harder than it sounds, I promise).
The Sword is Mightier Than the Puzzle
Something I appreciated was that these puzzles didn’t have to be completed in the set and scripted way. For example, getting the oars could be completed by simply convincing the man to hand them over. The way one might assume they should go about getting them. However, you’re playing as Bellona. Why ask nicely when you have a perfectly good sword at your hip? You have the option of meeting obstacles with violence and getting your way in the worst way possible. Although following this path, may have some unforeseen consequences.
Puzzles will definitely present you with a good challenge, but they’re never impossibly difficult. That being said, there were times when I was well and truly stumped. I found myself on two occasions stuck to the point I had to come back the next day with fresh eyes. And even then I needed a bit of time to fiddle with every interactive object before I finally put the pieces together for that “Aha!” moment. These moments were never really the game’s fault, but my own. The hints were there, but somehow flew over my head. Those moments though, when everything clicked into place was so satisfying I couldn’t even be mad at myself for long.
A Lively One Isn’t It?
This is a game with a lot of character and a very clear idea of what it wants to be. The Monty Python influence is apparent from the get go. From the humour wrought with irony, wit, and the breaking of the fourth wall to the gorgeous visuals that are quite literally paintings come to life. This made it more than a pleasure to play through. I couldn’t wait to meet more people that I could talk to, slap, swindle, or be swindled by. Every single NPC had so much personality, and even when they didn’t speak, they added to the personality of the world itself.
Your journey is humorous and light hearted, even when your objective is murder and the world is filled with people having terrible days. Like a field you come across filled with people being crucified. Dreadful I know, and yet the game remains darkly funny throughout. It can also have rare moments of sincerity. Such as a composer you meet who has reached a low point. Figuring his life’s work and music has no value to society due to the fact that only the rich can enjoy his works. His music doesn’t bring the joy that a wedding band might, or the peace a lullaby provides.
Sights and Sounds of a Painted World
In terms of music, what might one expect from a game, that’s a renaissance painting, that’s a game? Classical music! You have songs from household names like Bach, Vivaldi, and Beethoven. As well as a couple of songs I’d never heard of but almost instantly added to a brand new classical playlist such as Wagner’s Siegfried. These tracks were of course a perfect fit for the aesthetic and time period. However, Procession to Calvary took things a step further and had music actually be played by NPCs in game. You’ll see a group of people playing brass instruments as you enter an area, or a jester going absolutely crazy on a flute. I loved that touch more than I expected.
I’ve used the word painting a good couple of times by now. But for good reason. Just take one look at any still image from this game and it makes it abundantly clear. But it’s not just the look and style of renaissance art. There are literal portraits and other paintings brought to life in this game. The most obvious example being “The Girl with a Pearl earring” by Vermeer as an NPC you interact with as part of your objectives.
Many paintings from this period are rightly hailed as masterpieces, therefore a game with that visual style is bound to look great. And it definitely does. What makes it more unique however, is in the movement of objects and people. They move in a sort of marionette fashion. With elbows, shoulders and knees as points of leverage for motion. This creates a really goofy look in the movement that suits the tone of the game perfectly. Especially in Bellona’s running animation, which is just ridiculous.
Short and Sweet
It’s not the most lengthy game. A quick thinker could probably get through it in around two hours. Yet it took me over three times as long. Thankfully, we’ve already established that I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to this genre.
Overall Procession to Calvary is an easy game to recommend. It’s got a lot of style. A lot of personality. It looks great, has a solid soundtrack, and allows you to be an absolute monster if you’d like.