What is it? A comedy point-and-click game with a Northern flair.
Expect to pay: £4/$5
Developer: Stairfall Institute
Publisher: Green Mesa Ltd
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Intel Core i7-6700HQ @ 2.60 GHz, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 960
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
Despite being set in a world with slug-people, vampires who run trophy shops, and runaway robots, Yorkshire Gubbins depicts a familiar version of The North. If you’re not up to date on your English regional politics, there’s a stark North-South divide, and we make jokes about it to hide the very real underlying socioeconomic disparities. Everyone has strong opinions on exactly where the dividing line is—I’m from the Midlands and even I’m not sure we actually exist—but Yorkshire is definitely Up North, and Gubbins capitalizes on its location with both humor and character.
Steggy, our protagonist, lives with her mother, and all she wants to do is enter the local pie competition. But her plans are derailed when her neighbour and ex-friend Bertrella steals her key ingredient (known only as 'special meat') as revenge because Steggy ruined her wedding. Steggy has to complete various tasks in order to make it up to Bertrella so she can complete her pie and win her best friend back.
What follows is a wholesome hour or two of point-and-click adventure that marries down-to-earth Yorkshire style with a generous helping of the weird and wonderful. This is Humble Pie, the central part of Yorkshire Gubbins, but you also get a bonus episode and a tutorial episode (freely available online) called Verb School that isn’t related to Humble Pie’s plot, but shares the same sense of humor. More episodes are planned, and will be added for free over the next year.
Verb School sees a friendly, fourth-wall-breaking robot teaching a bemused woman how to pick things up, open and close boxes, and otherwise interact with stuff. As well as being a useful intro for beginners, it lampshades a lot of the oddities of the genre for those who are old hands. It culminates in a lesson on the dangers of babies, by which point you should have a handle on both the basics of point-and-click games and the tone you should expect from Yorkshire Gubbins.
On the other hand, I did run into a couple of sticking points while playing Humble Pie despite having played the tutorial episode. For example, I received a box that was described as looking like a robot and knew that dressing up as a robot would help me out, but Steggy insisted that she didn’t want to get into the box. There was no indication of what might persuade her to do so.
Happily, developer Charlotte Gore’s general advice thread proved extremely useful. She notes that it can be easy to miss areas in point-and-click games, and this problem does carry over into Yorkshire Gubbins—one issue with the throwback pixel graphics that are otherwise very charming. Incorporating this advice (which obviously comes from a deep understanding of and love for the genre) into the game itself might make it more accessible to newcomers.
More importantly, Gore recommends: "Do things the Yorkshire way: Get up, have a cup of tea, see if the answer pops into your head," which, aside from just being good life advice, does tend to work. She also points out that, "It's okay to be stuck. The pleasure in these games is sitting down, taking your time, thinking things through and then feeling good because you did." She’s right, and it helps that Yorkshire Gubbins’ little town is a fine place to spend some time even if you don’t feel like you’re making much progress.
Though not large, Steggy’s stomping ground is full of nooks and crannies to explore, whether they be your own spacious kitchen, one of the two separate, competing trophy stores run by each half of an estranged vampire-witch couple, or the secret slug-person speakeasy. And in each you’ll find a host of characters who are strangely relatable despite living in such an eccentric world. It helps that all have excellent voice acting by proper Northerners—except the one token Londoner who’s in town for the pie competition. As is to be expected a lot of jokes are made at the Londoner’s expense, but it manages to be funny without ever feeling mean-spirited.
Steggy is on a mission to make the best pie and win the all-important competition, but other characters have their own issues that need resolving. Steggy’s mother just wants to watch Yorkshire’s Fattest Dogs in peace, and there's a robot hiding in the bushes from the "Spork Joggers" that are after him. It’s a cast full of flavor. And in the classic convoluted way of point-and-click games, Steggy ends up helping a lot of people (and slug-people, and robots, and witches) along the way.
Humble Pie ties itself off nicely, without cliffhanger or sequel hook, but it introduces a wonderfully strange and warm world. The idea of returning to poke around a new story with a nice cuppa is an exciting one.