Technobabylon: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
  • Developer: Technocrat Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site:

Game code provided by PR

With Technobabylon, Wadjet Eye Games once again delves into the realm of science fiction, this time developed by the debuting Technocrat Games. Joining the likes of the excellent Gemini Rue and Primordia in this catalogue is certainly a daunting task, but Technobabylon sits right alongside them as another hit for the publisher.

What sets Technobabylon apart is that it leans a little more heavily into the cyberpunk realm of the gargantuan science fiction genre. The game takes place in the city of Newton, a metropolis where nearly anything goes: Genetic engineering is commonplace, androids serve a myriad of day-to-day functions, addicts log into the Matrix-esque Trance, and the government has been largely replaced by the city’s governing AI.

The city and its world are built incredibly well with news stories, optional conversations, and emails doing a great job of transforming Newton into a near-tangible place. Wadjet Eye’s trademark pixel-heavy art style doesn’t even inhibit this sense of reality thanks to some clever animation tricks; early on there is a screen on the street with some easily discernible rotating text. While you can’t quite read the text, it still lends the player an idea of the world’s state of technology.

The game’s story is equally well-realised and serves as a compelling narrative. A mindjacker is forcefully removing data from the brains of certain individuals in Newton, killing them in the process. The story begins here with Central putting agents Regis and Lao on the mysterious case. Meanwhile, Trance addict Latha Sesame’s problems are only just beginning with her explosive ejection from her apartment. These three narrative threads are tied together excellently.

If that’s not enough to get cyberpunk fans chomping at the bit, the execution should be. The script is well written, particularly in the quippy back and forth dialogue between Regis and Lao, as well as Lao’s very dark and witty humour that further humanises the pair.

There are some incredibly small touches in the writing that go a long way. Very early on in the game, the player can access a particularly heartbreaking e-mail congratulating the mindjacker’s victim on his engagement. For some optional text for a throwaway character’s demise, it creates quite the impact. This continues throughout the game in the forms of more optional e-mails, dialogue, and newsletters, all of which are worth reading through.

The story has some huge twists along the way that are well delivered and are steadily built up throughout the game. There are also plenty of moral quandaries for players to mull over, often presented as a choice for the player rather than being treated with a binary right/wrong mentality, so the player is forced to question and think for themselves – the mark of any great story.

The only sore spot in the script for the entire game is unfortunately a big one. Without spoiling too much – since the game is absolutely worthy of your time – one of the characters’ motivation for doing some fairly terrible things is incredibly difficult to empathise with or even believe. This character has some objects held ransom, but the objects no longer have any use and are treated with aggrandised importance, even being referred to as something with far more gravity – likely in the hopes of creating impact. Unfortunately, it just served to create confusion in why on Earth this character would be manipulated over something long past its expiry date.

The fantastic voice acting lends the writing even more weight, the performances from the three main characters instilling them with spades of personality. As good as the script is, it’s great to see it was done justice by some great voice actors. Even the more minor characters went the extra mile, giving some subtle insight via accents or inflections.

As mentioned before, the art style is Wadjet Eye’s heavily pixelised style. While this may elicit groans from some, this is probably the first time it’s been done well enough that we didn’t have a single problem with it. It never gets in the way of world-building or characterisation, and the face pop-ups during conversations have been rendered with a wealth of expression that puts several games with larger budgets to shame, further emphasising the strengths of the script and voice acting.

In terms of gameplay, you probably know what you’re getting yourself into at this point since it’s a fairly standard adventure game: Navigate with the mouse, collect items, merge items, and solve puzzles. These puzzles are generally quite good, and while they do venture into some pretty overly oblique territories at times, they never get frustrating enough to turn players away. There is, however, one puzzle that relies on knowledge either not presented in the game or tucked away somewhere very well hidden involving body temperature.

Despite one rather glaring plot issue, there is very little to find fault with in Technobabylon. If you’re a fan of both adventure games and cyberpunk or science fiction in general then picking this up is a no-brainer, but there’s also enough high quality storytelling to entice others into the city of Newton, too. If they’re anything like us, they’ll leave wanting even more.

critical score 8

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Written by Adam S

Hailing from Parts Unknown, Adam grew up with a passion for three things: Videogames, anime, and writing. Unfortunately his attempts to combine the three have yet to form Captain Planet, but they have produced some good byproducts.

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