Review – Baobabs Mausoleum Episode 1: Ovnifagos Don’t Eat Flamingos

The indie games market isn’t what it used to be. What once felt like a thrift shop bin full of knickknacks and other oddities is now more similar to a dumpster. If you wade into it, you might find some hidden treasures, but you’ll more likely emerge with a bad smell and a strange disease. We now largely rely on indie publishers and other unknown forces to push the more delectable morsels to the surface where we can sample them.

This time, I was invited into the dumpster by a friend of mine who stopped short of recommending Baobabs Mausoleum Episode 1: Ovnifagos Don’t Eat Flamingos. He suggested I look at it, which I did, and then I decided that, what the heck, okay, I’ll try it out. Take a look yourself, it’s hard not to be intrigued. It’s gloomy, it’s weird looking, and it’s difficult to place what it’s trying to be.

So, there’s only one way to find out.

Flamingo’s Creek (Population: 64) is a creepy but colourful place.

CRACKING EGGPLANTS

The game follows (hold on… I have to look this up) FBI Agent Watracio Walpurgis as he finds himself stranded in a strange town called Flamingo’s Creek (Population 64) that only appears once every 25 years. While he’s only interested in using the phone and leaving, the town has different plans for him and he finds himself completely incapable of finding a soul who’ll offer him help.

It’s like something out of the Twilight Zone, only it stars a chain-smoking vampire eggplant.

The game itself does its best to defy description. It’s an overhead adventure game, for the most part, where you solve puzzles to advance. Oh, you know, the basic stuff, like feeding a trucker gasoline so you can move his truck or engaging in simple RPG combat with a head chef. There are sections that are closer to a dungeon crawl, and even a pretty clever 3D first-person section that turns out to be janky but satisfying.

AESTHETICALLY MOUTHWATERING

It’s readily apparent that Baobab’s Mausoleum Episode 1 tries its best to get by on personality alone, which is something that’s going to go farther with different people. For me: yes? It’s complicated. Baobab has a certain something that ties everything together well.

The humour doesn’t try too hard, which is refreshing when it comes to off-brand indie games. It’s absurd, it’s referential, but it isn’t shoved into your face. The dialogue is succinct, never diving too far into exposition. The story isn’t anything too special, nor does it really seem to go anywhere, but it leaves enough unanswered questions to be involving enough. Watracio is an endearing enough character with his palpable frustration. Reading his lines, my mind envisioned him with the voice of Jack Nicholson.

The graphics are ridiculously uneven, but for the most part they always manage to convey the surreal, creepy atmosphere that the game pushes to the forefront. Everything looks horrific and off-putting but in a light-hearted sort of way. The music enhances this. Each track has a surreal quality to it, whether it takes an odd sci-fi tone or leans heavier into organ-driven horror. The title track has a weird, jazzy quality to it that blasts you with its tantalizing weirdness. Overall, it’s an aesthetically mouthwatering game.

Yes, I played with the VCR filter on.

DON’T KILL THE GOLDEN FLAMINGO

The gameplay is more negatively uneven. I’m typically a fan of the situation rush style of design — something that Baobabs Mausoleum subscribes to — but too many of its chosen gameplay styles are a letdown. The game works best when it’s trying to be an adventure game. Flitting from person to person, solving puzzles works well, even if it’s not the most captivating. This is, fortunately, the primary mode that the game takes, however it does dabble in sub-genres like dungeon crawling, which is where things get a little dicier.

Most of the weirder elements only happen once. There’s a weird rowing game that feels pointless, an RPG battle system where attack is your only real avenue for success, and the aforementioned 3D section that is pretty rudimentary. Everything caps off in a dungeon crawl, and that’s easily the most frustrating section. Like everything in the game, it’s brief, but it has annoying platform crossing sections and, unlike everywhere else in the game, gives you a health bar. So if you die, you get to watch a game over screen slowly fade in before you’re sent back to the beginning.

Nothing you’ll find is truly egregious, but the game is made up almost entirely of these moments, and they’re all pretty weak. It’s better than the sum of its parts, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that its parts are covered in rust.

WHAT THE HELL IS AN OVNIFAGO?

As much as I’m not all that enthusiastic about the gameplay, I still came away satisfied. That’s weird. It’s the aesthetic that carries the weight of all its flaws, and it carries it well, but it’s hard to ignore the elephantsized backpack. I still think it’s worth it, but you really need to keep in mind when going into this one, it’s a style over substance approach.

Baobabs Mausoleum is ambitiously pegging itself as the start of a trilogy, and I am interested in seeing where it goes. If the gameplay can somehow catch up to the aesthetic, then we’re in for something special.

6/10

This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using a digital version of the game. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 161 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.