By: Matthew Striplen
From the creators of Earthworm Jim comes an all new point-and-click adventure, Armikrog. Its fantastic claymation and bizarre world offer a promising starting point, but it ultimately fails to live up to the standards set by the very first cutscene.
Point-and-click adventures have become a rarity in recent years, and the appearance of one on a home console is particularly unusual. The Wii U’s Gamepad makes fantastic use of the touchscreen, but controlling the cursor with the analog sticks feels rather cumbersome.
Although the game allows use of the Smartcursor, use of the Gamepad forces the player to also view the game on the touchscreen, which displays at a much lower resolution than an HDTV. This lack of picture quality can sometimes obscure important items.
One of Armikrog‘s best attributes is its visual presentation, which features claymation instead of the usual pixel animation. This bares a striking similarity to the 1996 point-and-click game The Neverhood, which was developed by the same team.
The wacky and bizarre environment teems with interesting things to explore… usually. Other areas stand out because of their Spartan, empty feeling. I wish Armikrog stayed vibrant from start to finish.
Armikrog has a fair amount of variety when it comes to the soundtrack. These tracks match the visual style’s weird factor, which means animal sounds and other miscellaneous noises will be heard in the background. Most of the tracks provide an interesting backdrop for the game to unfold.
Armikrog‘s opening cutscene is absolutely fantastic. Tommynaut and his trusty dog Beak-beak crash on an alien planet, perfectly setting up their distinct and humorous personalities. Unfortunately, the cutscene is by far the best part of the game, and the comedy to which the opening alludes never develops as the pair proves to be largely silent protagonists.
As with most point-and-click adventures, Armikrog is all about solving puzzles. A few of the puzzles provide some intrigue, but most end up feeling like running errands. Many areas of the game are sealed off by a switch missing a lever. Finding a lever usually comes down to simply exploring the areas, not solving puzzles.
When puzzle solving is required, the rewards are disappointing. The best and hardest puzzle in the game, involving shifting colors, merely opens a door. The other puzzles are often solved by simply writing down symbols or other information found in the game, rather than actual player provided brainpower.
Puzzles involving the Baby are especially egregious. Every so often, the Baby will start to cry, and it’s up to Tommynaut to put him back to sleep. A mobile appears and each figure dangling from it contains part of a lullaby. However, several of the figures have fallen off and must be arranged in the correct order.
Sounds OK, right? Well, the Baby constantly wails during the entire puzzle. Needless to say, this is obnoxious and serves only to distract the player from the task at hand. Even worse, this puzzle appears several times throughout the experience.
Repeated puzzles are another major problem in Armikrog. While the Baby’s mobile is the worst offender, other puzzles, such as simple tile-swapping and code games, make Armikrog feel padded.
In fact, Tommynaut goes through an identical process three times: first, he finds an alien that gives him a device to fix a power plant. Then the power plant opens a new door that leads to a gondola segment. After the gondola ride is complete, Tommynaut solves a tile-sliding puzzle to open a door, and then must quiet the Baby.
Lack of direction is another serious problem. Many important items can easily be dismissed as simply part of the strange environment. I often found myself desperately clicking everything I could find, only to discover that the key to proceeding was something innocuous.
Although the world is supposed to be unusual, many elements seem nonsensical, such as the inclusion of ant versions of US presidents. These characters provide key information for solving puzzles, though the player merely needs to write down what they say and plug it in. Each ant has a pun name, such as AbrahAnt Lincoln or Thomas JeffersAnt. Armikrog has no other real life references, so this seems out of place, and the humor misses its mark.
There are also extended cutscenes with aliens that seem to deliver key plot points, however they are speaking an alien language without subtitles. Though much of the story can be inferred by the accompanying animation, the cutscenes last far too long and contain too much dialog to not provide subtitles.
Glitches become more apparent as the game progresses. What begins as minor audio skipping during loading screens, eventually becomes full system freezes that require a forced shutdown of the Wii U. This happened several times over the course of this relatively short title. Additionally, the loading screens are numerous and can last up to 10-15 seconds.
Armikrog is a bizarre point-and-click adventure that draws inspiration from 1996’s The Neverhood but unfortunately finds none of its charm. The underdeveloped story, characters and puzzles fail to live up to an exciting opening. Although the claymation graphics are unique, they’re not enough to excuse Armikrog‘s other flaws.