UPDATE: This review was delayed as the developer was working on additional fixes for this game. Thanks to these updates my opinons on this game changed for the better. The following has been edited to reflect my thoughts as of 10/13/2015.
Armikrog. I was eagerly anticipating, it. Counting down the days for it. I wasn’t the only one waiting for this release; almost one million smackeroos were raised through Kickstarter. September 30th came, and someone delivered a game that at first glance appears to be quite the treat. The spiritual successor to The Neverhood had arrived! Once you begin playing, you begin to understand that the tried and true point and click formula from decades ago does not get a modern overhaul. Puzzles range from clever to simple, to befuddling to downright annoying. Amikrog does not reach the level of its predecessors in the genre, but there are great moments worth experiencing if you have the patience to get to them.
Amikrog’s bizarre, otherworldly opening sequences instantly reminded me of the French animation classic, Fantastic Planet. The outlandish planet you land on and the strange designs and ideas were captivating and immersive. Strange Yoda-esque spirit emanates from statues to give you cryptic clues as to what to do next while squishy tentacle-based elevators move you up and down floors. Your companion is not a typical one. He’s a talking blind dog Beak Beak, you can take control of. Although he is blind, it appears he can still “see” using some kind of sonar dubbed “Beaky-vision” which has its uses for solving puzzles. From the game’s onset you are running from a hairy box thing that eats unicycle bird things and poops them out. It is clear it wants to eat Tommynaut but instead he darts into this Armikrog fortress. The zaniness never lets up throughout the entire game either.
Each object, background, and characer is lovingly done in claymation. This playful Armenian type of music plays in the background provides a jovial key to this otherwise dangerous, weird, and mysterious place. The game is oozing with the kind of “different” I crave out of everything, games, movies, TV, and books. Most of the cryptic riddles and difficult puzzles are difficult because it’s hard to understand what is actual environment and what is interactive object. This doesn’t occur all the time, some puzzles are pretty straightforward, but it happens enough to stump you unnecessarily for a considerable amount of time.
Colorful clay-crafted levels contain a web of interconnect puzzles to solve; at first you will be going between a few rooms or floors, soon you’ll be traversing larger sections of the fortress to complete obstacles.Grab your cellphone or notebook to capture a clue because they are strange symbols and hieroglyphs, or code patterns you will need to remember later on. Items and placement of said items are a simplified affair. Tommynaut shoves all items into his clay stomach and only takes them out if an item works for an object, eliminating guess work and trial and error. Most of the objects seem to be levers, or tick shaped control boxes you plop in somewhere to make something turn on or open. Whoever occupied Armikrog previously decided to wage war on levels and control boxes it seems.
In one room you find a crying alien baby; you are forced to stop and quiet him down. Mysteriously, Tommynaut produces an alien baby out of his stomach, and a spinning musical mobile. This puzzle appears to have been simplified in recent updates, so it may not matter much anymore. But it requires the placement of the right creatures in line to keep the music playing. Each creature plays a specific segment of this alien lullaby, and getting it right may take a little trial and error. If you get it wrong you have to wait for the ENTIRE lullaby to play again, and again. Was the puzzle fun to solve? Not really, there are several puzzles like this, that just feel like a rehashed idea from fifty years ago, or unnecessarily lengthy. Sometimes these puzzles have a completely unimaginable solutions. I mean, there’s no way someone could naturally figure this out based on clues left in the game, nor hints from the statues. Solving these impossible ones because I mistakenly clicked somewhere, did not feel rewarding or like an accomplishment. I was more overcome by the vertigo inducing “WTF” sensation, as I tried to ascertain how this puzzle made it into the game in its current state.
Controls? When you load the game it asks you for quality settings, and it has an input scheme for controller, I messed with THAT for quite a while. It does not support controller on PC. Why? I have no idea, since it is supported on console versions. What does the option menu hold? Nothing but Save and Load. Lack of options isn’t game breaking, but I wouldn’t have been in the options digging around the game’s cursor and control scheme was more intuitive for a point and click. Looking at what has made point and click games fun to play in the last few years, they all have something in common. Contextual cursor usage and clear cut mission or story objectives. Armikrog’s new hardware cursor feels like an improvement, but it’s still lost between what can be manipulated and what is background at times. It’s also not pleasant to still wrestle with Beak Beak vs Tommy control. Accidentally selecting Beak’ster when I’m trying to select Tommynaut becomes a constant and routine occurence.
Armikrog feels like it nailed the creative atmosphere, great use of claymation, a semblance of a story and nothing more. I even got a kick out of the fact some of the cutscenes are in a completely alien language, with no subtitles, just use your imagination to understand what is going on. Despite the delays already experienced in releasing Armikrog, developer Pencil Test Studios should have simply allowed the release date to fall down to December if need be. It’s probably better to get the game right, and enjoyable, than unnecessary frustrations at the start. The amount of creativity and design potential in Armikrog feels as if it should be a much more enjoyable experience. It is a better than average point and click game however, who’s puzzles can be overly frustrating, and unjustly laid on gamers. However, I was enjoying Tommynauts antics throughout, and found myself back to enjoying gameplay once so many of the original issues with Armikrog were patched out. While an enjoyable adventure it doesn’t live up to The Neverhood, but even if it did, it maybe time for a change in style or the infusion of new concepts in future titles to prevent that dreaded “been here, done that” feeling.Steam