Remember back when Nintendo censored crosses on tombstones and changed blood from red to green? How times change. While blood and gore have been fair game for a while now, religion has remained a sensitive area until relatively recently, as evidenced by The Binding of Isaac’s long journey to Nintendo platforms. Mango Protocol’s point-and-click adventure Agatha Knife debuted last year on PC and arrives intact on Switch, but despite touching on some provocative topics with black humour, there’s nothing much here for anyone to get their knickers in a twist over.
You control the eponymous Agatha, a seven-year-old who works in her mother’s struggling butcher’s shop. She rears animals as friends, playing games and caring for them dearly until the day when they must be butchered – a task she performs with equal care and relish. However, the sight of her coming at them with a big knife elicits fear from her furry pals and it’s getting her down. Upon witnessing the transformative power of faith at her local church, Agatha employs a local company to help craft her own religion. ‘Carnivorism’ is soon conceived and Agatha must gather the accoutrement necessary to launch a full-blown cult, hopefully convincing her lambs to embrace their own slaughter.
It’s a screwy, macabre story which works by the quality of its writing and art style. You’ll meet a diverse cast of characters up and down Agatha’s street, from builders to burger bar owners, each with a clear personality and some cracking dialogue. Agatha herself is equal parts spiteful and loving, and much humour comes from her bluntness or the juxtaposition of the cutesy art with a bizarre story or some good old-fashioned cussing. Text boxes enable you to click through conversations at your leisure and there’s a welcome option to toggle between dialogue fonts to suit your eyes – the default option can be difficult to parse, especially at a distance.
While the writing is amusing, the game’s position on the subject matter gets a little confused after the opening. The narrative of Agatha forming a cult to maintain the status quo for personal gain is ever-present, but there’s little commentary beyond ‘yeah, organised religion is for suckers’. Anyone of a spiritual disposition may balk at the matter-of-fact dismissal of all aspects of faith, but beyond cynicism and the occasional emotional beat, the game doesn’t say a whole lot. If you’re expecting a skewering of the establishment or a treatise on the merits of vegetarianism, you may be left a tad disappointed. Agatha’s journey is enjoyable, for sure, but you’ll find more succinct, biting criticism in a good episode of The Simpsons.
The game looks lovely, with a line-drawn, comic style following closely in the footsteps of 2015’s MechaNika, the first entry in Mango Protocol’s Psychotic Adventures series. Everything’s wonderfully readable in both TV and handheld modes. Control-wise, the right stick operates a chunky cursor while the left moves Agatha directly. It works as well as can be expected, but this game joins the ranks of point-and-click titles on Switch where, frustratingly, pointing isn’t an option. On the plus side, touchscreen controls are fully implemented and represent the smoothest way to play. Touching a character or object brings up large interaction icons and tapping Agatha herself accesses her backpack inventory, enabling you to rifle through the objects you've collected and save your progress on her piggy pen drive. Agatha walks where you tap (double tap to run) and, while you’ll be backtracking a fair bit, nothing ever feels too far away.
By adventure game standards, the puzzles are straightforward and veterans of the genre will have no trouble finding and combining the objects they need. You’ll visit a few different locales, but you’ll spend most of your time exploring Agatha’s immediate neighbourhood, so you should never be stuck for too long. There’s certainly nothing as obtuse as some of the old LucasArts point-and-click adventures to worry about and the character dialogue is diverting enough to make getting clues from townspeople a pleasure rather than a chore. The soundtrack isn’t bad either, with the main street theme being a particular earworm.
Agatha Knife tackles vast subjects with surreal humour and delightful style but when it comes to the big questions, it doesn’t offer much beyond sarcasm and a shrug. Fortunately, the writing is entertaining enough to make the adventure worthwhile regardless, and the comprehensive touchscreen execution on Switch makes it an ideal candidate for anybody wanting to dip their toe into the point-and-click pool, provided you’re not put off by bad language or the odd splash of blood.