Have you ever heard of a game called ‘The Neverhood‘? Well, you’re hardly to blame if you haven’t, since it’s nineteen years now when it was released for PC. It was a Point-and-Click-adventure, a genre which still had its big boom back then (I miss you, Monkey Island). While the puzzles were pretty basic and the story ended up being kinda not really exciting, ‘The Neverhood’ had one outstanding feature: It was a claymation game. ‘Claymation‘ stands for clay animation, and it is what you’re probably thinking now: It’s just like the great classic ‘Wallace And Gromit‘, but as a game. It grew a faithful fanbase, which is still actively fixing the game to run on modern PCs and also got a sequel (of which I hadn’t heard until recently, to be honest) with the strange name ‘Skullmonkeys‘.
That was in 1998. But what happened after that? Well, not much. There was a spin-off only released in Japan, years later there were also plans for a claymation movie of The Neverhood, but we still haven’t seen anything of that.
But then there was this game called ‘Armikrog‘. When I first saw it on Steam several months ago, my first thought was, hey, this totally looks like ‘Neverhood’, and, well – not by coincidence, since it is the new claymation game of the same person who created that almost twenty years ago. And that is basically what it feels like: the same twenty years old game.
Now, point-and-click adventures are a genre that certainly hasn’t changed that much over all this time, so having no interface isn’t ‘old-fashioned’, but feels just strange in the first place. Yes, that’s right – no interface at all. Hovering your cursor over items or the background for interaction? That’s a second ‘no’. Slight hints where you can walk through and where not? Nope. I found myself clicking some areas of the screen wildly, which was the same time when I accidentally discovered that you can switch between the protagonist and his pet – and that pretty much sums it um perfectly. Armikrog basically explains just nothing, neither does it give you any possibilities of interaction. Depending on your gaming experience, even simple puzzles can become confusing because of that. You’re thrown into the game’s world and have to know how adventures work, or you will probably struggle a lot.
And, oh well, the world of Armikrog. Putting all the gameplay faults aside, it just looks and feels amazing, filled with strange creatures and surroundings. The claymation sure does stand out from many other adventures, it is crafted lovingly and has this strange kind of humour you just have to smirk about. It is a world that someone like me, who loves fantasy games, really want to explore, and that’s always a good sign.
But is that, and pretty much just that, reason enough to play Armikrog? Well, my short and honest opinion: No. You see, it’s been several years since I played The Neverhood, but while I’m writing this text right now, it really sticks out to me that this is basically the same game, but in another setting. Gameplay-wise, nothing has changed since Neverhood. Now there certainly are the old fans, who wanted that exactly and are satisfied with what they got. But remember, The Neverhood was released nineteen years ago. It is another generation of players and people have different, higher expectations these days. If Armikrog really was developed with only the old fanbase in mind, I think the developers have pretty much reached their goal. But in times of ‘The Book of Unwritten Tales 2‘ and the ‘Deponia‘ trilogy, this just isn’t fitting the standards of a modern adventure.
It’s actually a shame I have to be so gruffly about Armikrog. You can tell, just by looking at it, that there’s a lot of work and time put into it – aesthetic-wise. But visuals are only one part of a good game, and if it’s lacking the rest .. well, that creates something that may look great, but you just don’t want to actually play it, because it’s not fun.
Probably they just should’ve done what was planned with The Neverhood for years: a movie. I definitely would’ve watched it.