I said I would never rate a game with 9 out of 10. And yet, the time for that change came. Armikrog made me forget all that I know about games that are out there right now and let me indulge in its beautiful clay-animated world.
Clay, you heard well. Pencil Test Studios is quite known for its past projects where all of the graphics were made out of clay and stop-motion techniques. Some of those worth-to-look titles are for example, The Neverhood, Earthworm Jim and one of my personal favourites coming straight from the first PlayStation console, Skullmonkeys.
The game released on the 30th of September 2015 and was crowdfunded via a Kickstarter campaign that ended on the 27th of June 2013. Two whole years of production were needed in order for the company to be able to make the game and despite a few issues, it didn’t leave us dissatisfied.
Knowing what the company has worked with in the past, it was hard to believe that they would be making their return through yet another adventure title, especially in a time where the average gamer is too lazy to move his fingers unless there are at least 15 tips on the screen to guide his next step.
The most correct way to start with such a review would be by talking about its graphics and its music, but I believe that for such a weird and full of nostalgia game, I should first introduce you to the topic of the game.
The plot basically has to do with Tommynaut, the astronaut hero that started a space journey with the goal of finding a new power source for his own planet. During that journey, along with his alien dog friend Beak Beak, he suddenly finds himself crash landed on an alien planet. He barely escapes from the jaws of a strange creature with a sentient tongue and finds himself trapped in a big alien fortress. The fortress Armikrog.
The game is a classic point and click adventure with very simplified controls. The player can click anywhere on the screen in order to make the hero move or interact with something. There is also no inventory whatsoever since Tommynaut pulls out the right item when it fits the interaction. There is also the option of clicking on Beak Beak to take control of him and move him around and go to places where Tommynaut can’t.
The gameplay is generally simple and without too many gimmicks. It’s simple and at the same time hard like most adventure classics. The interface is simply empty and gives space to the player to enjoy the beautiful graphics of the title.
The puzzles are weird and difficult enough in order to make most people keep looking for the solution for quite a long time. If you are not a fan of old adventure games then you might get tired fast. Despite that though, it’s worth keep looking for the solution since, in most cases, it can be something very simple, like something that you didn’t notice before. The company managed to give a satisfactory feeling of exploration without making the player too tired for the too much walking that he will have to go through throughout the game.
The were point for example that I had to walk, a lot to solve something. Like a lot.
A lot of people actually reported the game having a lot of bugs and glitches and many said that there shouldn’t have been any in the game, especially not after such a long amount of time that the game was in development. But, having finished the game, I can tell you that I didn’t see much from my side. The only annoying thing for me was the fact that some buttons had to be pressed more than once in order to work correctly. Other than that, not much else, I was able to move from one puzzle to another without too much trouble.
The game took me about 3 hours to finish, but I would say that for a player that isn’t used to playing games of this particular genre, he will need at least 5 to 6 hours in order to get to the end; 5-6 hours full of good adventure gameplay that is.
Despite the countless hours the developers spent making, putting in place and taking photos of the characters and every scene of the game, the ending result is what will be judged by the player and in this particular chase, it is just stunning. I would have personally loved to see a bit more detail in future games of Pencil Test Studios, but I feel that just like the other clay-animated titles that the company has developed, there is a fine amount of detail for both the characters and the background environment.
It is at the same time full and empty enough for the player to be able to understand what needs to be done up next.
The company has shown yet again how good it is with clay-animation and managed to bring to the game a uniquely alien world. An alien world so weird that from the first 3-4 rooms, you can already feel something coming out of an entirely foreign and erratic planet. All unknown and mysterious. A very good sensation for such a thematic title.
Comments from players on steam, said that the sound was missing from many parts and that, that was a problem. Referring to that, I will disagree and say that, not only is the music of the game amazing, but it was also missing from it as much as it should.
I felt there was a good balance between the dead silence that existed at some points, with only the footsteps of our hero being heard and the points where it was full of sounds and music.
The riddle with the baby is a very good example for this particular matter. Without wanting to give any spoilers, there is a certain part of the game where the player is called to solve a puzzle by putting certain child toys in a row in order to have the music come out in a right way. The contrast it created with the previously empty sound environment was something very well placed in my opinion.
The music was composed by Terry Scott Taylor, who was also the person behind “The Neverhood”‘s sounds as well. A very good choice since we can see how the composer managed to approach this mysterious world in his own way, giving another touch of weirdness in an already weird world.
Other than the music, there were also a few dialogues inside the game, mostly between our hero Tommynaut and his dog, Beak Beak. They are voiced by Michael J. Nelson (as Tommynaut) and Rob Paulsen (as Beak Beak). Few other voice actors gave their voices to other characters in the game too.
A lot of humour and voices that fit their characters.
The game has easily become one of my favourite adventure games and I would recommend it to any fan of the genre. It might seem a bit too much, but the rating I gave it is not because of its beautiful graphics, good music or good gameplay, but mostly because of the fact that the release of such a title, with such a price at times like these, is something brave and rare. Thus admirable.
I believe that regarding the price tag on it, Pencil Test Studios relied a lot on their successful past with games and for that I can say that it makes sense considering also the amount of work that went into the game’s development. It is quite high though and along with all the bugs and glitches that the title still has, it gives a bad impression to any people that aren’t ready to look over those things.
It’s a title that can easily go unnoticed for many gamers, but if you are a fan of the adventure genre, I would say that it shouldn’t be missing from your library.
The title brings all the good things of old adventure classics with beautiful clay-animation art that we rarely see in video games. Quite high price tag for a game with only 5 to 6 hours of gameplay but surely full of high quality in many parts of it.
Rating : 9.2 / 10
-Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis