Throwback Thursday: Armikrog Review
Beautiful but flawed
Note: This review was originally published October 27, 2015
Armikrog is one of the coolest-looking adventure games I have ever played. It’s a clay animation point-and-click adventure game that raised an impressive $974,578 on Kickstarter. Much of Armikrog‘s appeal comes as a result of the game being a spiritual successor to The Neverhood, a mid-’90s game that uses a similar visual style, and which garnered high praise among the adventure gaming community for its puzzle design and humor. Before I was asked to review Armikrog I’d heard of neither it nor The Neverhood, but I was so impressed by the trailer I had to jump in.
The game opens with Tommynaut, an astronaut, crash landing on Spiro 5. Tommynaut is travelling with his dog Beak-Beak and you can switch between the two characters throughout the game. Beak-Beak can travel through the smaller tunnels that Tommynaut can’t fit into, and sometimes he can even fly. After their ship crashes, Tommynaut and Beak-Beak are chased by the local wildlife and take shelter in a strange building. The bulk of the game happens in this building as you explore and unravel the story of the planet.
Despite the amazing visuals, the game has numerous flaws.
You can pick up items throughout your journey but the game has no inventory. You use something by clicking on the item. I like the simplified interface; however, the game lacks feedback from erroneous clicks. As such, you don’t know where the hotspots are. You may click part of a room and receive no feedback, then later come back after collecting an item to have something happen.
Speaking of hotspots, the game is devoid of them. You’re guessing where to click and I was often held up because I didn’t know an item was on the floor that I could pick up, or because I didn’t trigger the right cut scene to move along the story. Often, when we talk of pixel-hunting, we talk about hotstpots that are too small. This game takes pixel-hunting to a new level by removing hotspots altogether. The version I played didn’t even have a custom cursor. Despite wonderful visuals, the game uses the standard white windows cursor for interacting with the environment. Every time I moved the mouse, I was taken out of the story. An update did give us a custom cursor, so that problem is solved.
The puzzles mostly consist of pulling levers, pressing buttons, activating power to machines and solving various mini-games. While the puzzles are well-integrated into the world, their design leaves a little to be desired. For example, all puzzles have hints within the game; however, sometimes the hint is too far removed from the puzzle. For example, the hint for the game’s final puzzle is one of the first things you come across. By the time you get to the end you’re likely to have forgotten about it, as I did.
The music and sound effects are okay. The opening song is weird, with mumbled lyrics. A few cut scenes sequences have garbled speech until you learn how to translate the alien language. But then you have to go back and see all those sequences again to get the proper hints to complete the game. It makes for an undesirable second trip through all of the game’s screens. I also ran into bugs where sometimes the sound would go away completely and I had to restart. I’m not sure if these are fixed yet or not; it is very sporadic.
The main story unfolds as a long piece of text written on a wall behind a statue. It is well-written, but I wish I didn’t have to spend an hour reading a big wall of text in the middle of the game. As a development oversight, there was no way to close the wall of text and I actually had to post on the Steam forums to figure out how to get out of the story screen. The developers should have put in a close button, or something similar.
Despite having awesome visuals — have I mentioned that yet? — this game is a mixed bag. The story, while detailed, does not unfold naturally but feels tacked on at one spot in the middle of the game. The lack of hotspots make it too easy to miss important items. The number of bugs I encountered outweighed whatever goodwill the visuals provided. If you want to experience a wonderfully crafted, interactive, stop motion environment; then check this out. Otherwise, skip this one.
+ Awesome backgrounds and animation done with clay
– No hotspots makes it easy to miss things
– Obtuse puzzles
– Pretty buggy
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Pentium 4 or equivalent
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
Processor: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Intel HD 2000 Graphics