Armikrog Review (PC)
When you look at point-and-click adventure games today, it’s hard to think of a time when these games did a heck of a lot with so much less. They’ve become lavish in their scope and it’s a definite part of the charm bringing point-and-clicks back into prominence. Pencil Test Studios hit opposite of that method with their new point-and-click, Armikrog. It’s got charm – oodles in fact – but the game harkens to a bygone era of point-and-clicks that tasked players with making the most of what’s there and dealing with it. Unfortunately, Armikrog brings back many old problems and mixes them with new ones as well, occasionally distracting from what is otherwise a funny and beautiful game.
The story is bizarre, as should be expected from people that brought us Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood. You play as Tommynaut, an astronaut sent to collect a precious resource in order to save his dying planet, and his talking alien dog, Beak-Beak. Their ship crashes on a dangerous planet and after narrowly escaping a monster with a sentient tongue attached to a mouth akin to a winch in a bear trap, they find themselves inside the giant fortress known as Armikrog. With no other options, they begin to explore the facility and unlock its secrets.
The controls are simple. You use only the mouse, clicking through the environment to move Tommynaut or an object to interact with it. You can click on Beak-Beak to control him as well. This is one of those games where you’ll need to go out of your way to explore the environment with both characters and see how they interact with things. Sometimes it’s quite clear who should be doing what, but just because an object seems prominent doesn’t mean it matters or that you’ve gained what you need to interact with it. Some of my interactions were simply the result of me exploring and clicking on everything with both characters with no context other than I’m used to playing games that make me do that. Players who are unused to dealing with this old-school rhetoric might find progression difficult.
That said, players had better get used to taking in everything from the environment if they’re going to finish this one because the puzzles that are strewn throughout Armikrog demand it. Sometimes it requires as little as picking up an item that is right there and contextually obvious. You don’t access an inventory in Armikrog. Tommynaut and Beak-Beak simply pick stuff up and it’s up to you to remember what you have, but it’s not really a deal breaker because you’ll often end up using everything you collect soon enough or the implication of the item’s use will be obvious when you find the place in which it is used.
Other times puzzles don’t require items, but rather observation of patterns or the environment. This ranges from looking at a background design and recognizing it as a solution to a puzzle a room away to one puzzle that literally spans observation of clues throughout the entire game. Armikrog tasks you with paying close attention to the many odd things you’ll see and using them to your advantage. Unfortunately, and especially in the case of the game-spanning puzzle, while it will generally never leave you stranded, it can mean going on a long and tedious journey to collect the information you need if you haven’t paid attention.
Of course, carefully observing the environment might be the point for more than just puzzle solving anyways. Armikrog’s entire visual design is of claymated, stop-motion style like The Neverhood before it and everything from its characters to its environments is colorful and delightfully bizarre. Helping to sell this is the soundtrack and voice acting, which come off as lighthearted, cheerful and more than a little quirky. In particular, Tommynaut is voiced by Michael J. Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame and Beak-Beak is voiced by Rob Paulson, who supplied voices for numerous animations including Yakko Warner from Animaniacs and Major Glory from Dexter’s Laboratory. Both supply great banter against the game’s backdrop
Praise aside, Armikrog isn’t without its flaws. Some of them come from how minimalist a lot of the game is. It’s not that I expect a game like this to barrage me with jokes and quirks, but there were noticeable times where everything is just dead. The music cuts in at seemingly randomized cues and then fades away just as soon. Furthermore, Tommynaut and Beak-Beak don’t exactly chat up a storm. When they talk, it’s refreshing and fun, but there are far too many moments where the music wasn’t there, no one was talking, and there’s nothing interesting going on at the moment, so it just feels like empty space in a world far too interesting for empty space.
Another problem Armikrog has is that it’s sometimes buggy. For a game that was delayed several times, one might think that this game would have come out smooth as silk, but that’s not the case. You can break this game through bugs that allow obstacles to be bypassed or interacting with objects that shouldn’t be interacted with once you’re done with them. There was a door for which I was supposed to solve a puzzle and by sheer accident, I just walked Tommynaut through as if the door were not there. This is hardly common in the game, but it still happen more than it should.
Armikrog is a love letter to old-school style of point-and-click adventure and the peculiarity of its wonderful predecessors. It takes a minimalist approach, sometimes too much so, but it also brings out enjoyment of the content that inhabits it that much more. Its puzzles range from simple and clean to downright mean and a little tedious, but they never feel unfair or nonsensical and though it has its bugs, they’re not hardcore enough to ruin the game. I’d advise you to save early, save often, and pay close attention to what Armikrog is showing you. It’s worth the patience.
This review is based on a purchased download of Armikrog for the PC.