With the introduction of Telltale's The Walking Dead a few years back, the long dormant adventure genre came back with aplomb. Telltale took a curiosity of yesteryear and brought it back with the necessary accoutrements to make it more palatable for a broad range of modern day gamers. It worked out so well that there's a cottage industry of its own for the studio, cherry picking licenses left and right and making seemingly incompatible properties like Minecraft and Back to the Future fodder for plot-driven adventuring. Soon enough developers from said yesteryear were making new games of their own, using their knowhow and today's technology to tickle players' nostalgia for interactive storytelling.
From the creator of Earthworm Jim and - probably more pertinently - The Neverhood, comes a new Claymation point-and-click adventure game called Armikrog. Pitched and successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2013, it had a stretch goal for a Wii U that also hit its mark, hence this review. It follows one of three brothers named Tommynaut as he searches for a new power source for his dying planet. After crash landing on a random planet, he and his faithful pal Beak-Beak end up at the mysterious fortress known simply as Armikrog. It's presented in a strangely entertaining clay model style, replete with fingerprint smudges and carefully articulated animation.
There are a couple of things worth mentioning if you're planning on giving Armikrog a try. The first is that this is an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure through and through. It can be obtuse, with solutions not always being readily apparent at first blush. While that might be what you're looking for, it can be pretty jarring to those expecting a little more cohesion. The other point is that it might be handy to have some scratch paper and a writing utensil handy, as the game doesn't mention that you'll have to remember various symbols and possible clues over an extended period. For those coming into Armikrog with fuzzy warm memories this is a given; for those who are not it can mean the difference between being challenged and being frustrated.
You're given two control methods for the game. You can either use the analogue stick and A button for all your pointing and clicking, or you can go with using the stylus and touch screen in what turns out to be a far more intuitive way to play. Or you can go with the third and probably best option, which is using both in tandem. Most of your movement and exploring is doable with the traditional controller setting, as it's nice to see the wonderful art style on a bigger, brighter TV screen. For more precise puzzles that involve sliding pieces around or moving around in the gondola, a stylus feels better.
Unfortunately, for as bright and bizarre as Arkmikrog looks and for as much of an impetus there is to explore the imposing citadel, the story doesn't hold as firm. After a fun (and musical!) introductory theme song and a great vignette introducing us to Tommynaut and Beak-Beak, any type of personality beyond their idling animations is shoved to the side. Likewise, the story behind why Armikrog exists is left to short, quick explanations by some of the mysterious denizens of the tower. Even more so, the antagonist for the story is stilted by a lack of motivation on their reason for terrorizing the temple, compounded by Tommynaut's indifference. Those who play adventure games for the mystique or the personality of their protagonists and funny writing will be sorely disappointed.
Could Armikrog have benefitted from the streamlining methodology used by current day adventure games? Perhaps. It probably would have lost some of its charm, as being lost and scratching your head can be part of the experience. While old-fashioned point-and-click adventures are an acquired taste, what Armikrog is really missing is a reason to fumble though its imperceptive puzzles and esoteric world. If your avatars don't act like they care, why should the player?
Armikrog feels like a game for a different era, for good and ill. While point-and-click adventures can play to the nostalgia of some, they can feel mired in traditions that just don't translate to a more mainstream audience. If the former sounds like something you'd be into Armikrog will probably push your buttons. If the latter sounds like something you fear, Armikrog's lack of clear goals and an expectation of excessive patience means it's probably not for you.