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Armikrog / 24th of September 2016

Armikrog is a claymation point and click adventure dreamed up and developed by some of the creative talent behind the Shiny Entertainment classic, Earthworm Jim, so it’s not much a surprise really when it begins with a hefty amount of promise, announcing its arrival with the combined fanfare of a well-produced intro and rather catchy song. Yet, beyond these tools which it used to help secure Kickstarter funding, Armikrog has precious little to offer, and it is the game’s wasted potential that makes this all more disappointing.

Backers will likely find themselves less than enthused by the chore that is the gaming experience on offer here, namely wandering around its uninteresting world in almost total silence (a particular shame as when there is music, it’s actually pretty good) discovering and solving insipid, drawn out puzzles that are more likely to test a player’s patience rather than logic. It feels about as stripped back a game as it could possibly be, and that’s following two delays, but it feels vacuous, devoid of key characteristics that define the best entries that the genre has to offer. There’s not even an inventory to manage the items that have been collected, they’re simply used automatically and this is made even easier as there are no interactive items in the world, unless they form part of a puzzle.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the genre, but even in the cases where logic seems to be something that the developers forgot about almost entirely, they still have enough character to see them through, solid writing full of wit that brings the world and its inhabitants to life. Armikrog, sadly, does not. And whilst there are times when the backgrounds can be quite eye catching, there’s simply not enough here to entice gamers to bother finishing one playthrough, let alone multiple ones – all the more remarkable as the game is only four hours or so in length. Believe it or not though, it also feels as though it has been padded out somewhat to reach this diminutive size thanks to a whole lot of backtracking through the bare corridors and utilitarian rooms that comprise Armikrog’s lifeless locales.

When I said that the game progresses in near-silence, that wasn’t just aimed at the lack of a soundtrack, it’s the dialogue too, which, in the sporadic moments when there is any, drifts out of the screen in a seemingly non-diegetic fashion, sure the characters are there, but there’s nothing in the way of facial animation to show that they’re actually conversing. Dialogue amounts to little more than the occasional “thank you”, there are no witty exchanges between the principal characters of Tommynaut and Beak Beak, but this problems extends out beyond being a merely stylistic issue, it worms its way into the core mechanics. As there is so little dialogue, there are no exchanges that relate to any of the conundrums placed before the player, so there are no audio cues whatsoever to assist in their solution, no indications that the player needs to switch characters, nothing. This may have been a means through which to stretch out the game by leaving players scratching their heads for an extra five minutes, but ultimately, all it really amounts to is bad game design. This is coupled with an on-screen cursor that also offers no help whatsoever, it doesn’t change when hovering over an interactive item in the scenery, and as there are neither audio or other visual indicators to assist in identifying what objects can be used. This means that players will likely resort to simply clicking on everything that they can see, and that, again, amounts to little more than laziness on the part of the developer, Pencil Test studios.
This same lack of care and attention makes itself well known in the puzzle design too, all of which are effectively devoid of any real-world logic whatsoever, of course, this isn’t entirely unheard of in the point and click genre, but other efforts make up for this shortcoming in other ways, Armikrog cannot use that excuse. This becomes abundantly obvious right from the off when the game tasks the player with simply pushing an orange, fluffy being to the side to block a doorway so that the real exit shall appear, why? Who knows. The most torturous of them all is most likely the baby puzzle that appears early on too, here the player discovers a crying baby and must complete a puzzle to calm it down. This means arranging a bunch of toys on a mobile in the correct order before pressing a button that activates an irritating refrain that must complete a full rendition without any of the toys falling off in order to be passed successfully. It’s a painfully slow and drawn out experience which has baffled me since as I’m still wondering where that toy appeared from anyway.

After having finally hit the market, Armikrog has been little more than a complete disaster, with a plethora of technical issues on both PC and console, yet even now, weeks after its official launch, it’s still far from perfect. It’s been so plagued with issues that I couldn’t possibly recommend it to anyone, now couple that with the fact that Armikrog is likely the worst point and click game that I have ever played, and you have a release that should only be avoided, by a rather wide berth at that.
James Paton
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