ReviewVideo Games

'Amikrog' Puzzler Looks Good but Falls Flat

Samantha Hollows ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

It’s always hard when a game has plenty of potential but doesn’t live up to the hype. Sadly, the newly developed Armikrog, a point-and-click adventure game born from a Kickstarter campaign, fits this criteria perfectly. The game centers around a space explorer named Tommynaut and his dog, Beak-Beak. The pair end up crashing on a strange planet, inhabited by bizarre creatures and filled with the empty remains of some prior civilization. Naturally, it’s up to Tommynaut (and you!) to explore, solve puzzles, and learn the fate the people who once lived here, all while taking in the beautiful clay animation, stop motion-style graphics. Unfortunately for us, Armikrog delivers a short, frustrating, and poorly-executed gameplay experience, and we are left to think begrudgingly about what could have been.

Things start off with a cute little montage with an accompanying song telling the story of how and why Tommynaut ended up on this foreign planet, followed by a well done stop-motion animated sequence of the explorer and his dog fleeing from a giant monster. After that, however, there’s a severe drop in both graphics quality and gameplay.

(c) Pencil Test Studios
(c) Pencil Test Studios

To be fair, the art style is very pretty and unique. Everything looks like it was handmade out of clay, and the bright colors and weird architecture give things a surreal feel as you walk around your environment. Even so, these beautiful backgrounds almost seem to become an afterthought, as rarely after the initial animation do you see something that seems to have any effort put into its design. Most are just rooms with blank walls, left there for the purpose of making space for whatever mundane puzzle it contains.

Beyond that first opening animation, the game becomes tedious and poorly executed. For starters, there is no explanation of how to play the game whatsoever. This wouldn’t be a huge problem, but there are gameplay mechanics that are used almost constantly but are never actually revealed to the player via a tutorial. For example, did you think this game saved automatically?  Nope; in order to save, you have to go into the menu, click options, and then choose to save your file. God have mercy on all the players who didn’t realize this, and started up the game only to find all their progress had been lost with no explanation. Similarly, one of the most important parts of the game is your ability to switch between Tommynaut and Beak-Beak in order to solve various problems you come across. Does the game actually ever inform you that you can switch characters? No, not once. This switching feature can actually become a nuisance, as it’s easy to accidentally click to a different character when you were only trying to move to the other side of a room.

(c) Pencil Test Studios
(c) Pencil Test Studios

There are also many areas in which only a certain character can go, such as the numerous tunnels within the many levels that only Beak-Beak can enter. Of course, the game never tells you this. Consequently, many players ended up getting stuck, not knowing that the key to progressing is through the small tunnel that Tommynaut can’t interact with, no matter how many times you clicked. That’s another thing: when you encounter a puzzle that you can’t complete yet, whether you’re playing as the wrong character or don’t have the correct item to solve it, the game doesn’t say anything. You’re just stuck with a nonfunctional object, with zero hints and no well-timed, “I can’t use that yet.” There’s also no inventory in the game, despite the fact that you have to pick up several objects in order to solve certain puzzles. The game just seems to hope that you’ll remember what you grabbed and put it to good use. If you can’t remember what you have available to use, well, that’s obviously on you.

At its core, Armikrog is a puzzle game, but all the puzzles in this game can be boring, as well as tedious. They range from moving a box-shaped creature to the right place in order to reach something, to a game where you have to match up small blocks in order to create a picture. It’s not exactly thrilling. All the puzzles are fairly simple in their mechanics, and it’s pretty easy to figure them out, they just also happen to take forever. One such puzzle involves hanging little plushies on a diorama in the correct order so it produces a song. Not too hard, except that testing to see if you got the song right takes a solid two minutes each time. No “You got it!” or “That doesn’t sound right;” you actually have to sit and stare at the screen for two minutes while the achingly slow music attempts to play through. Almost every other puzzle is the same way, not nearly interesting or challenging enough to warrant investing the obscene amount of time that each one seems to take to complete.

(c) Pencil Test Studios
(c) Pencil Test Studios

A lot of these things could be forgiven if the characters or the story line were interesting. Alas, that’s not the case. Tommynaut and Beak-Beak are the only characters in the game you can interact with, save for the game’s main villain (who rarely shows himself) and a baby you decide to take care of. Of course, that baby’s only purpose is to be a mini-game where you try to get him to stop crying. Remember that awful puzzle with the song from earlier? Yeah, it’s that one. There are a few other NPCs that serve to provide information about puzzles, but beyond that there’s nothing else on this barren planet. No offense to them, but Tommynaut and Beak-Beak aren’t the most interesting pair.

There is spoken dialogue, but nothing overly interesting or helpful. The delivery of the lines tends to be fairly flat, leaving our heroes seeming boring and lifeless. The script is also very short; it’s hard to actually consider it one. This leaves Tommynaut and Beak Beak as two of the least charismatic characters to date. The player feels little connection to their cause, and with all the mundane backtracking and repeating of puzzles, it’s hard to find any motivation to keep playing the game, let alone beat it. Unfortunately for Armikrog, its biggest downfall is it’s inability to actually make it’s players care.

Tragically, Armikrog has a lot of shortcomings. It still feels like it’s in beta, and frankly it might as well be. People across the forums have been reporting a lot of glitches, ranging from repeating character animations to Tommynaut getting stuck in rooms and not being able to exit them. The soundtrack and background music are also a little buggy, as you’ll only hear the zany tunes about a fourth of the time (they seem to randomly turn on and off whenever they please). Beyond the technical problems, the game’s puzzles aren’t interesting and there’s too much backtracking for you to get anything but frustrated. The gameplay and user interface are unintuitive and sloppy on the developer’s end, so even saving your game becomes a hassle. All in all, there’s nothing in Armikrog that makes it worth giving it a try beyond perhaps its art style, so it might be wise to save your money and look elsewhere for your next point-and-click puzzle adventure. The only thing puzzling about this game, sadly, is why anyone would bother with it.

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