When was the last time you played a point-and-click game? I mean an honest to goodness, pre-rendered background, inventory-based, keyboard-free adventure game. For most gamers today, I would guess that it has been a while. The point-and-click genre has been around since the early years of video games, but it’s never quite been the most popular kind of game. It’s not like the genre has ever disappeared. Point-and-clicks have long but consistently sat at the fringes of gaming, generating cult followings but never really taking the spotlight, especially in the modern era of gaming which highlights games of epic scales and complex controls that require far more buttons than a single mouse can offer. That being said, can the point-and-click genre continue to hold its own in today’s gaming market?
The concept of developing a “modern” point-and-click might seem like a daunting task, but the team over at Daedalic Entertainment created a worthy contender for the title. They took everything that was memorable about old-school games like King’s Quest or the old LucasArts adventure games, polished the hell out of it and gave us Memoria.
Memoria is the story of two characters: Geron, a diamond-in-the-rough bird catcher, and Sadja, an ancient princess with dreams of greatness. The game alternates between time periods, allowing the player to control both exceedingly different characters. Geron’s story is a continuation of the established storyline of the The Dark Eye franchise, of which Memoria is the newest installation. Sadja’s story, though, is self-contained in the game. So even though newcomers to the series might be a little lost with some of Geron’s dialogue, Sadja’s story will be fun to experience for everyone and the writers do a great job of doing justice to the series’ faithfuls while making the game accessible to all players.
Atmospherically, Memoria is fantastic. The graphics have a hand-drawn feel to them that instantly draws you into the universe. It gives the game the feel of a cartoon without feeling childish. The animation is smooth but with a touch of simplicity that will make long-time fans of old-school point-and-click games feel right at home. The music and voice work are solid. They’re nothing special, but they certainly don’t take away from the experience, even if they don’t add anything, either. The writing is sound, doing a great job of pulling you into the world, and — in true point-and-click form — the player characters are appropriately condescending if you start trying random, nonsensical object combinations in vain attempts to solve the puzzle you’re stuck on.
The gameplay is very smooth and engaging and the controls are incredibly reliable. It is difficult to botch a control scheme that comprises two mouse buttons and a scroll wheel, but when the main challenge of gameplay is found in logic puzzles and exploration, it’s reassuring to know that you’ll never be inhibited by mouse sensitivity issues or unfair object hit boxes. Memoria even offers a couple of mouse shortcuts that ameliorate a few of the frustrations of inventory digging. Sliding the scroll wheel cycles the cursor through the items and spells in your inventory, offering quick and easy item equipping. Then, once you’re done using that item, a simple right mouse click resets the cursor to the default look at/pick up function.
The difficulty level is almost spot on. The puzzles and challenges you have to think through are hard enough to elicit a sense of pride and satisfaction at the end but easy enough that you won’t feel like putting your mouse through your monitor. And if a puzzle gets a little too hard for you, Memoria offers a single-hint system that gives you a helpful point in the right direction without hitting you over the head with the solution. There’s also the option to toggle clicking hotspots on and off — letting you know exactly what you can interact with on a given screen — if you need a subtler hint.
The game isn’t without its flaws. A few glitches occasionally pop up with the dialogue. Characters will sometimes talk confusingly out of sequence — for me, one line even randomly switched to the German translation — but these bugs are few and far between and don’t take away from the experience too much. Furthermore, because the game is a paragon of the point-and-click genre, it definitely benefits from the genre’s advantages but it simultaneously suffers from the genre’s pitfalls. Walking back and forth from screen to screen during a particularly involved puzzle can get tiresome. Occasionally, an obscure puzzle solution will cause you to indulge in the tried and true “try everything with everything” point-and-click strategy as you desperately try to advance. Ultimately, these gripes are minor and only infrequently emerge to frustrate the player. Also intrinsic to the point-and-click genre is the fact that replayability is fairly low. The game is based on exploration and puzzle solving, neither of which is much fun after the first run through. But not every game is made to be replayed, and this game is too much fun during that first run to let a lack of replayability serve as a deterrent.
In the end, where Memoria excels is its story which is amazingly crafted. The two characters’ arcs interweave beautifully with each other. The pacing is perfect, and the two characters create a wonderful contrast that really drives the whole experience. The storytelling ability of this team is off the charts, and it makes you forget that you’re only using a mouse’s worth of buttons throughout the entire experience.
Memoria really is a point-and-click fit for a new age of gaming. The game is surprisingly long but somehow manages to stay fresh throughout the entirety. It’s a solid choice for anyone interested in fantastic storytelling and satisfying gameplay experiences. Memoria proves that old game formats are just as relevant today as they have ever been.
(Reviewed on Mac. Thank you to Daedalic Entertainment for the review code.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 10/10
Gameplay/Design – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Sound – 7/10
Lasting Appeal – 6/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)
Platform: PC, Mac
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment