Created by a team of developers who worked on The Neverhood and Earthworm Jim, Pencil Test Studios brings us Armikrog, which came to our attention via its Kickstarter towards the end of May, 2013. From the beginning, it was marketed to us as The Neverhood's spiritual successor, which was a deeply loved game in the '90s! So how does Armikrog live up to its sibling?
Our Adventure Starts Off Wonderfully Nostalgic
The game starts with its very own theme song (see above video), briefly introducing us to the story of what has happened to the playable character, Tommynaut, and his two brothers. Some might call it cheesy, and I would be inclined to agree with you, but I can't help but be reminded of the sort of quirky humor that was fairly popular in the old-school point-and-clicks. Needless to say, this was a very welcomed start to our brand new adventure!
There truly are no words to say how happy that silly little intro makes me. I grew up on point-and-click adventures, so being introduced to a game like that warms my heart. Not only with the intro theme song, but what directly follows it - the exciting adventure that we're swept into with Tommynaut and his blind, talking, alien dog, Beak-Beak. For any fan of the nostalgic point-and-click adventures, Armikrog starts off exactly how they'd want it to!
Armikrog is a gorgeous game, and the style is very reminiscent of The Neverhood, just as it should be. The sound design is fitting. The music is subtle, but mysterious, which just adds to the alien atmosphere we're exploring. The story is put on the back burner, but this wasn't terribly uncommon with the older adventure games. As great as this all sounds so far, the visual/audio design of Armikrog is arguably its strongest point. For me, this hurts its overall score.
Although Ridiculously Charming, It Isn't Without Flaws
The first thing I feel worth noting is this: if you're not a point-and-click veteran, or a big fan of Earthworm Jim or The Neverhood, this game probably won't appeal to you as much as it would to someone who is a fan of those things. Point-and-click adventures can be a hard thing to get into, but Armikrog isn't exactly forgiving to newcomers.
I've played adventure games my whole life, and still cherish them to this day. But one thing that easily makes these games frustrating is illogical puzzles - something I'm afraid you'll experience in Armikrog. Sometimes you will find yourself just clicking around the screen in hopes of triggering the correct thing. As soon as the short intro is over, you're just sort of thrown into this alien world with no sense of direction whatsoever. Although this isn't unfamiliar for the '90s adventures, it's a part that I'd happily leave in the '90s - if nothing else, for the sake of the newcomers.
One final thing I'll mention about the gameplay mechanics, is that there is no real inventory system. I didn't find this to be enough of an inconvenience to make me lower the score, but it is a little odd to experience. No inventory means that there won't be any micro-puzzles to manage, such as combining two objects together to gain a new object. This is a bit of an odd concept for me, as I'm used to having an inventory to glance at every now and again. Similarly, there doesn't seem to be any other functions, such as examining objects in the environment - something that I do miss. All that said, this could serve as a simple helping hand to those of you who are just now stepping into this genre for the first time!
I never grow old of watching or playing claymation titles. They always have a certain charm (or sometimes, creepiness) to them that you just won't find elsewhere. Not to mention that it takes a tremendous amount of love and care to create, which is highly admirable! The love that was poured into this game seeps through the screen, and makes the game's flaws a little more forgivable.
But that all said, Armikrog was definitely aimed for a specific market. If you don't have an undying love for point-and-click adventures, or weren't thrilled at the thought of a spiritual successor to The Neverhood, Armikrog may not be your cup of tea, and would be worth waiting to purchase until one of the famous Steam sales. Otherwise, carry on, adventurers!
Armikrog is available for purchase on Steam, and will be available on the PlayStation 4 and Wii U in the future. Pencil Test Studios also plan include more features on the Wii U by using full functionality of the game-pad, as shown by the concept art on their Kickstarter page which you can view here.