Developer: Madison Karrh
Release Date: March 17, 2021
I am pretty much always down for a game that is An Experience – something short and oh-so out there. Landlord of the Woods is certainly an experience, although the story it tells is not one I can entirely relate to.
I’m not sure I’m buying into the whole idea of “you’re 25 and already you think, is this it?” but y’know, considering the state of everything, it might be more of a universal feeling than I realize. For me, twenty-five was a long long time ago, and while I’m not sure I’ve ever been the type of person that could be described as “optimistic” or “hopeful”, I’m fairly sure at that point I felt like the best was still to come. Anyway, the protagonist of this short tale is bored, and feeling a little disillusioned with the day to day. I guess I get that. That is, until you stumble across a job opportunity while surfing the internet.
And thusly, you apply to be the new landlord of the woods. When you get the letter at the end of a day of puzzling through the mundane tasks of your life, you leave all that behind to start over.
Your new job, collecting rent from an odd assortment of characters, doesn’t feel all that different from your old job, at least as far as game play is concerned. In fact, some early puzzles almost exactly duplicate puzzles from the beginning of the game. As the entire game took me just under an hour to complete, I have to believe the choice was a deliberate commentary – no matter the task, you’re still just going through the motions.
And make no mistake, it is bleak. The soundtrack is pleasant enough but a bit bland, the color palette is subdued, and the tasks are tedious. You need to collect four items from each of six tenants, and there isn’t a puzzle in the lot that you can’t solve by just blindly clicking on everything to see what does something. Once you solve each resident’s problem, you can move on to the next, but you should make sure you have all the rent items entered into your ledger before moving on (although it appears the game will allow you to collect partial rents or even no rent at all, there’s no compelling reason to skip out on the collection aspect as far as I could see).
I didn’t exactly dislike Landlord of the Woods, but it felt a little more heavy-handed and darker than I was expecting. The developer’s other title on Steam, a free to play puzzle game called Whimsy, is also described as macabre, so maybe that’s just her style. It’s not a terrifically complex game, but the manipulation of objects just feels good, and I didn’t encounter any significant glitches. As long as your comfortable with the subject matter, it’s a dark but charming way to spend an hour of your time. Just make sure you play all the way through to the very last puzzle for a somewhat unexpected ending.
SteamDB estimates that Landlord of the Woods has sold somewhere between 2,500 and a 6,900 copies on Steam. It’s rated Very Positive, has garnered only three negative reviews overall, and is ranked 486 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.