This is Gaming Cypher’s Xbox One review (done by John Pruitt) of Armikrog by independent game developer Pencil Test Studios.
Armikrog is a stop motion clay animated point and click adventure game from the creators of Earthworm Jim and the Neverhood. The game certainly has that vibe as you watch the cutscenes and explore different areas. If you’re a player who enjoys puzzle solving, then this might be a good fit for your game stockpile.
The plot is pretty standard. Tommynaut is the only remaining astronaut on a mission to find alternative fuel for his people, who will perish without a new energy source. He and Beak Beak crash onto an unknown planet and seek refuge inside the seemingly abandoned fortress, Armikrog. Now they venture deeper and deeper into the fortress not only to find what they need to survive, but also to unravel the secrets of Armikrog. If you’re interested in learning more about the world, then you need only look around. There is a segment in which you can read a miner’s traumatic retelling of his escape. You can also find these squid-like creatures that give you exposition, but you can’t understand the language until the late game.
The gameplay is a mixed bag, and it can be frustrating when you lack incentive and direction. You do not necessarily feel attached to these characters, and you tend to collect the same items everywhere you go. I also think this is where the game falls short, mainly because the puzzles overwhelm every other aspect of the game. You will tend to backtrack a lot in order to move forward, solve increasingly difficult, yet repetitive, puzzles, and all the while you might be confused as to why you’re playing in the first place. Some of the puzzles are very simple, others are clever, but others can be ridiculous. There is a particularly infamous one in which you need to hang stuffed toys on a mobile in the right order or else they will fall off. Now that’s all well and good, but you have to wait a long time before you can find out whether you were right or wrong. All the while you have to listen to a baby wailing and lullaby music in the background. Needless to say how frustrating this can be, I should warn you – this happens three times in a single playthrough.
The game is very much playable, despite maniacal crib mobiles. The animation is much more fluid than in Neverhood, and the pathfinding is relatively okay. There are some buggy moments that occur mostly when the pathfinding does not work. It comes off as a minor inconvenience, but it can build up. I would often take issue with the zip car stopping at every fork in the road/wire, but that’s hardly anything to get worked up about. As for some features, the game provides you an option to have the cursor snap onto items that you can interact with, and it can be turned off in the settings. You can look at this as an optional handicap when it comes to finding things, but it makes puzzles more difficult to solve. As you explore Armikrog, you can switch between Tommynaut and Beak Beak, and you will find that they can interact with different objects and can explore different spaces. Beak Beak can fly if he eats a fly and Tommynaut can move large objects for instance. The rest of their abilities are limited to button pressing and lever pulling.
Armikrog has a kind of charm to it coupled with the strangeness of the setting and the characters you encounter. I applaud the effort taken to make these characters, to do the stop motion, and to put it into a game. I’m surprised Tim Burton has not thought of this yet. The soundtrack is also very well done, and is perhaps one of the game’s strongest features. The voice acting is not so bad either, in fact I would appreciate hearing more banter between Tommynaut and Beak Beak. There is a specific type of humor in this game, but it can feel forced. For instance, you encounter anthropomorphic ants that personify American presidents. The randomness of finding Abrahant Lincoln or Thomas Jeffersant in some wall carapace is funny to watch as they emerge, boldly introduce themselves, and retreat after giving you some clue to work with. They don’t contribute that much else, and this happens a few times, so it seems like they are trying to be funny for the sake of being funny. There are pockets of genuinely humorous moments, though. The opening/launch trailer might be the best example that sets the tone for the entirety of the game.
This game is not bad, but it is not great either. Do not buy this game thinking that you will be playing Unwritten Tales or Curse of Monkey Island. It is a spiritual successor to Neverhood with a hint of Earthworm Joe, in that you are primarily an explorer traversing a bizarre landscape using your wits. There is not much replay value, unless you want to see how fast you can beat the game or if you want to learn more about the overarching story. Even then, there is not much to it. I think it would be fair to rate this game 6.5 out of 10 for bringing something unique to the table, but lacking essential quality in level design, game settings/UI, and overall entertainment.
Armikrog is now available for PC (Steam), Xbox One and PS4.