Pitched as a spiritual successor to the cult 90s point and click game The Neverhood, Armikrog was released last year on PC after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Originally intended to release at the same time, the game has finally come to consoles almost a year later, but was it worth the wait?
Armikrog is an old school point and click adventure in every sense of the word; this isn’t a modern day Telltale adventure game where you complete a series of QTE sequences and occasionally solve a basic item based puzzle. Like its predecessor, Armikrog is a tricky bugger and follows an odd logic. Don’t expect any hand holding whatsoever, but do expect beautiful claymation visuals, copious amounts of crazy and, sadly, plenty of pixel hunting.
Players are put in the brightly colored space boots of Tommynaut, a claymation astronaut sent on a mission to save his home planet by finding an exotic energy source known as P-tonium. However, P-tonium can only be found off-world in hostile environments. After his two brothers go missing, and are presumed dead after failing to return from their mission, Tommynaut and his best buddy, a bizarre lizard/dog Beak Beak, are sent off on a last ditch effort to save their world.
Unfortunately, after crash landing on an uncharted planet and almost getting eaten by the local wildlife, Tommynaut and Beak Beak end up locked inside the Armikrog, a huge and foreboding fortress that they desperately need to escape from.
Its the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 inspired opening jingle brings players up to speed, providing slapstick moments throughout. Armikrog doesn’t take itself seriously at all, with its larger narrative beats existing mostly as a mechanism for more surreal jokes and mind melting puzzles. As such, you never particularly grow to care about Tommynaut’s ultimate goal or his planet’s desperate struggle. Instead, they’re just an entertaining means of taking you to the next head scratcher, cracking the occasional joke while doing it.
That’s not to say the story isn’t fun or at all engaging. Armikrog is dripping with personality and has bags of charm. Tommynaut is brought to life by Mike Nelson (Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax) while Beak Beak is played by veteran voice actor Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain). Both give phenomenal performances as the somewhat naïve astronaut and his sarcastic hound. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast give strong performances which helped to keep me invested in the adventure, even when the puzzles were becoming particularly obtuse.
When I say that Armikrog is an old school point and click adventure game, I mean it. The entire experience comprises of solving puzzles by pointing and clicking. (On PS4 this is done either by using the left analogue stick and X, or by using the track point to a space in the environment to move to it.) Click on an item to pick it up, click on the thing you want to use it with. There isn’t even an inventory, or any combination puzzles. Tommynaut just grabs the item he needs to stick in a socket and uses it. This is both a blessing and a curse; there’s no cycling through your inventory looking for the right item only to find nothing you have works, but you have to remember what you have on you in the first place.
Unfortunately, interactive objects also are only highlighted when you move your pointer over them (and even then it’s really subtle). There’s no way to push a button to show what you can interact with in a given scene either, so you’re literally left scouring the screen hoping to see the subtle tell that there’s something to click on. Luckily, in Beak Beak’s black and white sections, there is an aura present around items, otherwise they would be impossible to see. Even then, I did still find myself missing them from time to time.
As a result of this, and how obtuse the game’s puzzles swiftly become, Armikrog quickly descends from a game of quirky logic puzzles into a game of brute force problem solving. There are instances where there are no clues given as to what you’re supposed to be doing until after the puzzle is complete. Not sure what to do next? Just keep clicking until something happens. Not sure how a combination puzzle is meant to be solved? Scroll through each combination until it works. As a result, the pacing and the enjoyment factor goes out the window — at least until you hit your stride again. Then it’s over. Clocking in at about four hours, it’s a fairly short ride.
Despite it’s brevity, I still enjoyed (most) of my time with Armkirog. The fantastic writing, performances, and superb claymation visuals are an absolute treat and show a level of care and artistry that most games don’t even aspire to. The problem is that the game underpinning it all may as well have been made in 1996. In the intervening twenty years since the release of The Neverhood, there have been numerous advancements in the point and click genre, and Armikrog doesn’t include any of them. It doesn’t even have a way to keep track of your inventory. As a result, what should have been a proper successor to a classic feels more like an odd imitator and a bit of a slog at times.
That being said. I still found myself wanting to see what hilarious embuggerance would befall Tommynaut and Beak Beak next.
Armikrog was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer: Pixel Hero Games | Publisher: Pixel Hero Games | Genre: Action, Adventure| Platform: PC, PS4, WiiU, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: August 23, 2016