Space Oddity

Over the course of 2015 we’ve seen a lot of Kickstarted games release, thanks to the crowdfunding boom a few years back. Armikrog joins this list – a claymation point and click puzzle game inspired by games like Earthworm Jim and the Neverhood. It’s an older style and idea but this is exactly what crowdfunding allows; if there’s enough people who want this more old school puzzle game to be made the game will be funded, and funded it was.

Armikrog received a total of $974,578 USD back in June 2013, finally launching in the third quarter of 2015 for the PC. With the aim of bringing back iconic ‘90’s style games, developer Pencil Test Studios have launched a game that definitely retains the humour and the feel of cult classic games like the Neverhood, but one that also has some major issues and may be jarring to new players.2826653-armikrog-screenshot-7-gdc-2015After an explosive and bizarre introduction we meet Tommynaut, a claymation astronaut on a quest to save his world by retrieving P-Tonium, found on far off and dangerous worlds – one of which is Spiro 5. Tommynaut and his blind bird dog Beak Beak crash land in the Armikrog complex on the planet, tasked with exploring the alien place to find a way out and back home.

Once you get past the intro, the narrative focus fades, opting for the humour and oddities that moment to moment encounters and puzzles allow to drive your journey forward. This worked well given the nature of the game – it’s not trying to tell you a grandiose story about survival or companionship, it’d rather make you laugh and move on to the next crazy thing in the game. There wasn’t a real emotional hook, just characters with a lot of personality and great voice work (Michael J. Nelson and Rob Paulsen play the two protagonists, respectively).Armikrog-OThe gameplay takes the form of a point and click game, and that’s literally all you’ll find yourself doing. Clicking is what makes you move, interact with objects and select things – and this is where some of the game’s issues begin. While simplicity is never a bad thing, the basic mechanics forgo a lot of the modern game conveniences were used to, such as an inventory and subtle prompts for interaction. While I get that clicking and finding the trigger to move a puzzle forward is a big draw of this style of game, getting stuck in an area simply because I wasn’t quite on the right point of an item to progress got a little frustrating.

Apart from a few good puzzles, most were fairly basic and unfortunately weren’t very clear. In situations where I didn’t know what to do, wildly clicking on everything in sight usually progressed me forward – I would have liked to be led into the start of puzzles and work them out through understanding what I was supposed to do, rather than the click everything approach.

Even with some flaws in the puzzles and basic gameplay, the claymation models and environments of Armikrog were fantastic to look at and explore. It’s a very distinct style that holds a lot of nostalgia, and credit where credit is due, Pencil Test Studios really nailed this aspect of the game. I found myself looking at rooms and appreciating the work that went into them in quite a different way to conventional 3D modelling – often wondering how long it took people to model the environments.Armikrog-Screenshot10GDC2015There was a lot I enjoyed about Armikrog – the atmosphere and characters were really great and the writing fit the style well. If it wasn’t for some of the hitches in basic gameplay and bugs like items or actions not triggering in puzzles (something that is a big deal when that’s all the game is) I feel like Armikrog would have been a much better game. It’s a shame to see some of these issues in the final release, especially considering how much work went into the detail on the claymation side of things.

Overall

Ultimately Armikrog comes down to this tension between the quality and the issues. It’s dripping with charm and hilarity thanks to its amusing writing and claymation visuals, but the outdated point and click style it uses, alongside some bugs and a short playtime begin to outweigh the best parts of the title. Fans of The Neverhood and Earthworm Jim will probably find a lot to love here, but it’s hard to recommend the unpolished title to many beyond this group.

Developer: Pencil Test Studios
Publisher: Versus Evil
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4 & Wii U.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Armikrog Review
Great writing & humourClaymation visuals are a nice touch
Overly simple gameplayLargely basic and simple puzzlesShort playtimeBugs and generally lacks polish
60%Overall