The Procession to Calvary Review
Rebirth or regret?
Point-and-click adventure games are something of a relic. Once a blockbuster genre, it’s now mostly kept alive by indies. The Procession to Calvary adopts this classic game style to great effect – but if you thought its genre was antiquated, you should see its source material.
You see, The Procession to Calvary bases itself on Renaissance art. It liberally chops up classical masterpieces and sticks them back together to form its zany world. Developer Joe Richardson evidently had a riot of a time stitching together these elements of classic paintings. A crucified man here. A pair of naked wrestling chaps there. Oh, and stick a lute-playing goblin in the corner. Perfect!
Paint me like one of your Renaissance girls
It’s not all just for shits and giggles, however – there’s something at least vaguely resembling a story. The Holy War is over. Heavenly Peter’s forces have been driven back down to the South, and it’s a time for celebration in the North. That is, for everyone but our protagonist.
A female warrior with the likeness of Rembrandt’s Bellona – the goddess of war – there’s nothing more she loves than a good murder. And now the war’s over; she’s all out of murders. She’s pissed.
Heads, heads everywhere, and not a neck to chop
Thankfully, her new benevolent leader reluctantly agrees to one more murder: Heavenly Peter, their mortal enemy throughout the Holy War. And so she sets off on a journey to chop his head off.
This being a point-and-click adventure, of course, it’s not quite that straightforward. You’ll have to solve puzzles in order to make your way down south and gain access to Heavenly Peter’s chapel. The first order of business? Persuading a cripple to part with his crutches to use as oars for your boat. And that’s not even close to the weirdest task you’ll encounter during your quest.
Point and click and hope for the best
In point-and-click tradition, the solutions to some of The Procession to Calvary’s puzzles are pretty obscure. I’d stop short of calling any of it outright moon logic, but make no mistake: it’s still quite a stretch for the imagination. Those with minds that operate firmly outside of the box may have an easier time of it than I did, but I’ll admit I was stumped to the point of frustration on several occasions.
There are a few quality-of-life considerations, at least. Clues are often hidden in the game’s dialogue, and some items will remind you who they’re for, in case you’d forgotten who was looking for one. And there are a lot of context-sensitive responses when trying out items, rather than a generic “I can’t do that” statement at every attempt.
Decapitation = damnation
Being a lover of murders, a solution you have to almost every puzzle is to simply chop the head off of anyone who stands in your way – a unique option for a point-and-click adventure. Unfortunately, it’s not as useful as it sounds. As soon as you commit one unsanctioned murder, the path of your journey is changed permanently, and you can no longer complete most of the puzzles normally. It’s worth doing for a laugh to see the alternate ending, but it’s no substitute for playing the game properly.
While some of The Procession to Calvary’s puzzles may have left me swearing, these moments were greatly outnumbered by the times I was laughing. Seeing classical artwork brought to life in creative, obscene ways never gets old, such as the way in which the protagonist’s legs and arms flail around comically as she runs.
Tale as old as time
The writing, too, is brilliant. Thankfully, it almost entirely avoids ‘ye old’ dialect, which I don’t think I could have tolerated for more than a few minutes. I may have rolled my eyes at the odd fart joke or use of “lol omg!” language, but the great majority of its material is genuinely laugh-out-loud. And heck, if you actually like fart jokes, you’ll be well catered for, too.
Believe it or not, The Procession to Calvary feels like a real love letter to Renaissance art. Sure, an art historian might choke on their civet coffee at the sight of some of the liberties taken with these revered classics, but it’s all in good humour. There’s even a building you can visit dedicated to displaying the original artwork used to create the game – albeit with somewhat reimagined titles.
Are games art?
In a further celebration of classical European art, every scene features a rendition of a different piece of music from the era. Not just disembodied in the background, either – actually ‘played’ by a different musician in the scene, whether a pianist, a band sat in a tree, or a choir of cats huddled around a book of sheet music, accompanied by a marmoset piper. Yes, really.
The Procession to Calvary is proof you can take the old and make something entirely new. Its remixing of Renaissance art is absurd, surreal and ultimately hilarious. It stays true to its challenging point-and-click roots, but if you’re not afraid of some head-scratching, this is a glorious tale of murder and mayhem.
[Reviewed on PC]