Armikrog: review

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A claymation point and click game sounds like an awesome idea, doesn’t it? And it is. In fact it’s been done at least once before with a title largely lost to time called The Neverhood, and Armikrog – also created by Doug TenNapel (best known for Earthworm Jim) – serves as a spiritual successor. We haven’t played The Neverhood; but Armikrog has all the signs of a game that demanded more time and money than the developers anticipated or, ultimately, were able to provide.

Things start off promisingly enough, with a full-on theme song with singing and everything. It’s an upbeat and professionally produced number that wouldn’t be out of place over the credits of a Saturday morning cartoon. The intro is then a super impressive claymation affair which, of course, leads into gameplay using the same graphical style.

While it’s perhaps not quite the eye-poppingly incredible graphical style you might expect, it’s certainly a very good-looking game. Ridges and bumps are often to be seen in the environment where it’s been moulded into being, but of course that’s the whole point. Although the controls aren’t complicated, it’s still impressive to see the clay figures of humanoid Tommynaut and his dog-like pal Beak-Beak do what you tell them when you tell them to do it.

Armikrog has been available on PC for a while now, and the console unfortunately hasn’t seen any of the fixes or additions that it desperately needs. In fact it’s introduced a new issue, in that the pointer has been poorly adapted for analogue sticks. Most of the time it works fine, but sometimes – such as when you’re piloting the odd tram-thing – you really do wonder why you can’t just hold the stick in the direction you want to travel rather than repeatedly click the path ahead and pray that it moves in the right direction. As for the puzzles… dear oh dear. Some of them are okay, but that’s it; they’re “okay”, nothing more. And those are the best ones. Many of the puzzles – most of them, we would argue – are terrible. When one of the best puzzles that your point and click game has to offer is a sliding tile picture, you know you’re in trouble.

The fundamental idea of remembering or deciphering patterns, or other streams of logic, is perfectly sound. The problem tends to be in how the hints and solutions are delivered. Sometimes, the design is so vague you don’t even know where to begin. Alternatively, the solution to your current puzzle might be projected onto the wall two or more screens behind you. Perversely, the solution to the game’s final puzzle is an image you see right at the beginning of the game. Once. There’s no way to record any of these images (apart from good ol’ pen and paper), and it’s not even always immediately obvious when you pass something that will prove vital to progress later on. Worse still, a few puzzles don’t give you any indication of when you’ve actually hit the correct solution, necessitating tedious journeys between one screen and the next to check if a path has opened up.

Unexpectedly (and disappointingly) for a game from some of the main people behind Earthworm Jim, Armikrog is not funny. At all. Most of the time it doesn’t even try to be funny, the only obvious examples being a couple of extremely lame ant puns. And if you didn’t expect the phrase “extremely lame ant puns” to be in this review, you may also be surprised to learn that “recurring and indescribably tedious lullaby puzzle” is relevant here, too.

Do yourself a favour; whenever one of these puzzles pops up, just Google the solution rather than subjecting yourself to the painful process of trying to solve it.

The experience can’t even be saved by the story; it feels like at least half of it is missing, which sums up Armikrog in general pretty well. That’s a real shame, because there are some great ideas here (such as an indecipherable spoken alien language you must find a lever for in order to translate) although they’re usually wasted (such as the way the aforementioned lever is only found near the end of the game). The animation is great – it’s amazing how expressive Tommynaut’s deceptively simple face is – but it’s wasted on a game like this.

If you’re desperate to see What Doug TenNapel Did Next, then you might squeeze some enjoyment out of this. It’s got his mark all over it (in a good way; his sense of style is what stops Armikrog from being a total and utter wreck). The bottom line is, though, that this wouldn’t be worth buying at half the price.

critical score 4

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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