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Armikrog

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Versus Evil
Developer: Pencil Test Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The big payoff in Armikrog is the window dressing, those luscious claymation graphics. Well, luscious might be a weird term compared to what comes to mind in our 4K, hyperpowered GPU world, but where clay-based graphics are concerned, Armikrog does not disappoint. Itís sure to please fans of Earthworm Jim and Neverhood Ėthe spiritual ancestors of Armikrog Ė and it certainly stands out against a flurry of games sporting cel-shading, pixel graphics, and other popular design conventions. Itís not likely that weíll see stop-motion or clay-based animation take off in popularity due to the labor involved, but kudos to the team for pulling this off.

Thereís a strong cinematic aspect to Armikrog thatís pretty typical of adventure and point-and-click games. Itís less free-ranging, open-world exploration and more about solving a series of puzzles to unlock new paths. Along the way, youíll frequently trigger scenes where you get to watch the story unfold. Music and sound effects are as over-the-top as the rest of the production, which enhances the lean-back side of this game. Itíll twist your brain quite frequently, but as youíre solving puzzles, youíre also watching the story unfold. As to how to it works in detail and how balanced it feels, that requires a deeper dive.


Gameplay:

Armikrog is definitely a departure from the run-and-gun gameplay of Earthworm Jim. This feels more like something youíd expect from Telltale or other adventure games that have made appearances more frequently on consoles in recent years. You play as an intrepid space explorer Tommynaut and his companion Beak-Beak, who attempt to solve the mysteries of an alien planet. After a rough landing and a near-death experience, these two discover they arenít alone on the planet, and also that they arenít the first to have spent time there.

The look and feel of Armikrog draws on claymation games, but the gameplay definitely takes inspiration from classic text adventures of the '70s and '80s. You have a simple goal to explore and escape, that involves going from room to room, collecting items and interacting with simple machines. Itís way more involved than fetch-quests; these are puzzles that will stretch your intellect, task your memory, and require a lot of juggling between the two characters. Itís not the first time weíve seen games that let you switch between characters and use them in unique ways to solve puzzles, but it keeps things fresh in Armikrog.


Difficulty:

When we say that the puzzles are hard, weíre not kidding. There are a few easy wins, and some spots where experimentation may accidentally result in a solution, but most of the time youíll have to take the long, hard road. If youíre signed up for hard puzzles, youíll find them here. Thereís a point early into the game where you discover text on a wall that reveals itself as a virtual novella. Reading this clues you into what contributed to your surroundings, but it takes a real commitment to sit there reading a small book inside of a game. Dedication is the word weíd use, and it applies to more than a few of the puzzles in Armikrog.

There are plenty of games in the Adventure category that are basically interactive films. In these games, you make choices that have an impact on the story or outcome, but you almost never get completely stuck. Armikrog is the kind of game that will occasionally leave you completely stuck, needing a hint badly to move forward. Thereís no built-in hint system, but elements like the long text we mentioned have plenty of answers for players willing to invest the time. Experimenting and exploring ultimately provide clues that lead to solutions, but all this requires a certain amount of patience and dedication. If youíre signed up for the adventure and nostalgic for the "hard" adventure games of days past, Armikrog will certainly scratch your itch nicely.


Game Mechanics:

The downside to porting point-and-click games to console is that consoles do clicking really well, but the pointing feels awkward. Itís a natural trade-off, and one that fans of this genre may be willing to make, but thereís also the perspective that people who love adventure games have already bought most of them on a PC or Mac. On the flipside, Armikrog looks amazing on a big screen, and itís fun to play games on your couch, right? The basic controls here are simple enough, with movement accomplished by clicking on various spots within the scene, rather than the typical action-game controls. The stick youíd normally think of as movement is instead devoted to positioning a cursor. Using items is also handled by clicking them, and the only other important control is toggling between the Tommynaut and Beak-Beak characters.

Weíd wager that Armikrog will lose more players over the intensity of its puzzles than any awkwardness in the controls. Itís a super cute game thatís effectively too hard for young gamers, also not nearly twitchy enough for most of them. We really loved the depth of challenge, the colorful and original design aesthetic, and the interesting and funny story. Armikrog is a niche game to be sure, but itís executed about as well as it possibly could be on console.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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