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A Claymazing Experience

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    Armikrog

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A Claymazing Experience

    When I was a child, my Grandmother once purchased for me and my brother a demo disc of PC games. There were many strange titles on it; A golf sim where you were constantly interrupted by a gopher, a noughts-and-crosses game based around a German pop band, and a fairly serviceable scrolling shooter named after a popular Lobster dish.

    But by far the strangest was The Neverhood.
    It only offered a tiny snippet of gameplay, but in minutes I was enthralled in this strange clay world, and it’s peculiar duck-billed hero. Many others clearly shared my sentiments, and The Neverhood became a cult classic, one of the finest games of 1995 and a hidden gem of the Point-and-Click genre.
    It should therefore come as little surprise that I was thrilled to learn of a spiritual successor, Armikrog, being released on the PS4.

    What first bears stating is that Armikrog is gorgeous. It is, by far, one of the most visually distinct games of this generation. Its alien world is a wondrous mass of clay-sculpted ruins, laboratories and temples, all of which seize your attention with their sheer weirdness. Sci-Fi settings are a dime a dozen in the world of video games, but very rarely does a world feel as abstract as this. Gibberish-spouting squids protrude from the ceiling, bewigged ants jump out from the walls to regale you with their best impersonation of Abraham Lincoln.

    The musical score is likewise inspired, full of mellow jazz-beats and jaunty be-bop, which harkens back to the original game but perhaps lack its eccentricities in favor of a more subdued soundtrack. The exception, perhaps, being it’s opening theme – a glorious Rock-opera explaining the entire premise of the game.

    A huge triumph of Armikrog is also to be found in its voice cast. Everyone does a stellar job, especially Mystery Science Theatre 3000 veteran Michael J. Nelson as the protagonist, Tommynaut. The story is sparse, and the dialogue often kept to a minimum, but each character – from their design to their personality – is endearing in their own way.

    When it comes to gameplay, Armikrog is standard fare for the point-and-click genre. You enter a room, you look for items, those items can be used elsewhere to further your progression. This game is not aiming to reinvent the wheel and sticks to this winning formula. Occasionally, however, you will be taken out of the action to complete a puzzle revolving around a baby’s mobile. This is inoffensive, and not too off putting, but some players may be irked by the constant crying and inability to ignore it and just move on.

    There are also some slight niggles to be found in the controls, with a repeated jigsaw door puzzle proving incredibly frustrating as the cursor seemed to jerk and shudder between the puzzle-pieces and the centerpiece, leading to many frustrating moments where I had to try over and over just to position something in a certain way.

    Another issue is the game’s lack of any brightness settings. This proves especially troublesome in segments where one is controlling Beak-Beak, Tommynaut’s quasi-dog companion, and the entire world is transformed into a rippling shade of black and white. Without being able to adjust the brightness, I was on occasion left in total darkness, poking blindly around.

    These complaints, I am happy to say, pale in comparison to the joy I experienced playing this game. In a market where originality and creativity is often stamped out in favor of blood, guts and guns, Armikrog is a true labour of love and a real symbol of what Kickstarter campaigns can achieve.
    Could it have been longer? More polished? Perhaps. But when you’re playing something this original, who cares?

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