Space Geekz – The Crunchy Flakes Conspiracy Review
Although Space Geekz succeeds on multiple levels, nonsensical puzzles and a quirky interface make this a tough game to finish
In mid-2016, x86-Games launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Point-and-Click Adventure Space Geekz – The Crunchy Flakes Conspiracy. The effort was fully funded and the game became available on itch.io and Steam in October of 2017. Marcel Klapschus (the man behind this indie studio) describes the game as “a retro point & click adventure game about radioactive crunchy flakes, stock-trading cannibals, honkifants and tough puzzles to solve.”
I have a soft spot in my heart for indie development teams, as they are currently doing much to keep the adventure genre alive. I tend to seek out new indie adventure games as my way of spreading the word. So, I attempted to play Space Geekz over the past few weeks. Note that “attempted” is the operative word here…
The story opens with dialog between Till and Adrian – two intergalactic tech support guys. They land on a distant planet and Adrian wakes to discover that Till is missing. From a third-person perspective, you control Adrian as he sets out to find his coworker. You soon discover that the planet’s surface is uninhabitable. This forces Adrian underground to meet the residents and search for Till. Characters send him on convoluted errands and each task has an obstacle that must be overcome to proceed. Puzzles are exclusively of the “find and use” variety.
I launched the game and immediately had interface issues. The left mouse button is used to point-and-click in the environment and the right mouse button opens inventory. On occasion, an item labeled in the environment would display an action “wheel” with look, use/take/consume, and speak icons (a magnifying glass, a hand, and a mouth). Clicking on an icon did nothing. I was pretty sure I needed to pick up a plunger to clear a clogged sink but no amount of clicking yielded results. It was time to visit the Steam Discussion board for assistance. A couple of days later, Marcel let me know that I needed to download the game manual from Steam. Silly me. Turns out that a quick click of the left mouse button is for interacting with the environment. Clicking and holding the left mouse button on a hot spot reveals the action wheel. Then, while still holding the button down, you select your action. Not terribly intuitive, but it worked.
I proceed and the interface is functional but a bit quirky. Labels get stuck to the cursor and follow it around the screen and the action wheel pops up intermittently when you do a quick left click. The action wheel persists after use and gets in my way. Sigh…
A few days later, I am at a dead stop in the game. I’ve spent hours trying every bit of inventory on every hot spot to no avail. I know what I need to do but I am going nowhere in a hurry. Back to the Steam Discussion board to post another request for assistance. A full week later, the answer is provided. I had not clicked the action to use/take/consume on an item I had in inventory (which is effectively “using” it on myself). Deeper sigh…
I return to the game for a few more hours and hit my next roadblock. I have the items I need but am missing something to connect two of them together. Again, I cycle through all hot spots in all scenes with all objects and come up empty handed. Back to the Steam Discussion board for the third time. Now, my feathers are starting to ruffle because my continued posting makes me look like a stupid and lazy gamer who consistently cries “Help… I’m stuck…”
In Space Geekz, when you attempt to use an inventory item in the wrong place, the game responds with “No,” “Doesn’t Work,” or “Makes No Sense.” For me, much of this game makes no sense. The story and characters are fine. The graphics are low resolution but are done in an interesting and unique style. The dialog is endearing with voice overs done by Marcel (and perhaps some friends). Although it is obvious that the editing of the English subtitles was done by someone who is not a native speaker, I always knew what was intended. Best of all, Space Geekz includes an explicit save system with multiple slots.
My problem is with the puzzles. To be fair, Marcel described them as “tough” as far back as the Kickstarter. “Tough” to me means challenging… something I can reason through, with effort… something that requires complex thinking. In the world of Space Geekz, “tough” means nonsensical. In most cases, there is no connection between reality and how an object is used in the game. In my world, pickles and pancakes are for eating. In this game, they are components to repair equipment. This puts the player into the mode of “try this” and “try that” ad nauseum until a serendipitous connection is made.
By the time I posted my third Steam Discussion request for help, I had spent 9 hours playing Space Geekz. Most of that time was spent pixel-hunting and using inventory by trial-and-error. Well, you say…why not just look at a walkthrough? For those who are not Space Geekz backers, the walkthrough is unavailable. I understand the need to offer unique backer rewards as incentives. In this case, however, the lack of a posted walkthrough, coupled with (very) slow developer response time, is apt to result in player and/or reviewer rants like this one!
I waited 10 days without a response to my Steam Discussion board post. Thus, I have not completed Space Geekz. I do not know if Adrian ever finds Till and I have no idea what the Crunchy Flakes Company is up to. In truth, I am unwilling to invest any more hours clicking and hoping for an “aha!” moment.
I give x86-Games a lot of credit for getting Space Geekz to market. This is an arduous process for a “studio of one” and Marcel was true to his Kickstarter promises. The game is a good first effort that might also provide some “lessons learned” for their next project. First, the player experience could be vastly improved by doing some tweaking to make the interface behave consistently. Also, having in-game instructions might be more effective than an external one-page manual. I would also add that while there’s nothing inherently wrong with nonsensical puzzles (remember Gabriel Knight’s cat fur moustache?), a posted walkthrough might reduce player frustration. Lastly, engaging with customers through the Steam Discussion board is paramount to building a relationship between developer and player. People are much more willing to forgive when they feel that someone is there to support them.
+ Classic retro point-and-click adventure
+ Much effort was put into the graphics, story, and soundtrack
– Inconsistent interface behavior makes playing a bit frustrating
– Nonsensical puzzles require a LOT of trial and error to solve
– Lack of timely developer response, coupled with an unavailable walkthrough, make this a tough game to finish
Processor:2 GHz (Single Core) or 1.8 GHz (Dual Core) CPU