Armikrog, or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Clay

Here not be spoilers. I’ve tried to keep this review as clean as possible.

I finished Armikrog, with a tour de force of roughly 6 hours in two days – which itself has come after a wait of two years and half since the Kickstarter launched, and which itself had to wait for 17 years since I first played the original The Neverhood demo obtained in one of those old PC magazines. This was a long time coming, wasn’t it? So… was it worth it? All these months, all these years of waiting? The answer is a resounding… “kinda”.

In many ways, it felt like Neverhood-Lite. The story was weird, but not as weird as Neverhood. The music was peculiar and captivating, but not as ear-wormy as Neverhood. And the puzzles were Myst-like and not overly difficult, but unlike in Neverhood, they reused some of them a bit too often and others were also a bit too straight-forward. Overall, there are less locations and it’s shorter. And while everything in Neverhood seemed to have a reason, several times in Armikrog I found myself thinking “ok, I did this, but what was the point since the puzzle didn’t seem to use it at all?”. Not to mention, there are a few locations that appear to serve no purpose: or at least, I finished the game without having to find them, if it was even possible to reach them at all. Might be a sign some things were cut to meet deadlines or budget needs.

Not a spoiler, but a warning: the Hall of Records is back. Better bring a tea mug.
Not a spoiler, but a warning: the Hall of Records is back. No contiguous rooms this time, but that text is a whole lot longer than it appears. Better bring a tea mug.

So there’s the vague feeling that it was a missed opportunity. But not all is lost. I said the puzzles are easier: this is actually a good thing for me, since I could finish the game without using hints, something that almost never happens with adventures to me. It also meant a lot less random clicking around. The Neverhood wasn’t a difficult game, but it had its moments. Armikrog at least spreads things on the table a bit more clearly for your convenience. Another thing to point out is the quality of the claymation. Not only the general rooms look great, but the cutscenes are funny and amazing. It makes me wish we could get a “remaster” of The Neverhood, with the original assets in high resolution. I wonder if such a thing would be even possible, even assuming there were no rights issues.

One problem that has been making the rounds is the presence of bugs, and yeah, the game really could have used some more testing. The lack of customized cursor is a bummer, and menus are as barebones as possible. Objects sometimes require you to find the exact right spot to click them or they won’t work. Other issues include: unsynced subtitles, non-appearing subtitles, sound sometimes disappearing after a movie (play the movie again to get it back), Tommy being able to enter rooms while they are closed, and other small nibbles. Of course, this is only true as of the time this post is going up. We can expect at least the biggest issues to be fixed, possibly sooner than later.

So is it worth playing? I don’t think it can become a cult classic like the Neverhood – it appears too derivative to really find its identity as anything other than a successor or homage to said title – but I think once the bugs are ironed out, you will find a decent adventure game down there, with good animations, okay music and design, and that won’t take too long to complete.  Whether that’s worth the current asking price, is up to you.

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