Developer: Tequila Works | Released: 2017 | Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
This charming third person adventure came very close to making me relive the pure fondness I had for PC games almost two decades ago. Now I understand why Nicouse found it so enchanting.
In fact, it was so beautiful and imaginative that I just can’t for the life of me understand why so many of the professional review sites mashed it down to typically a rating of 6-7. It’s a crime, plain and simple. A typical complaint is that the game feels too much like boring busywork solving puzzles barely challenging at all, but that’s not fair. Although it’s true that many of its puzzles were fairly pedestrian, the game really did its best to vary the rules and surroundings, and the level graphics were often epic and jaw dropping.
I wonder if some of those cynical game reviewers weren’t just worn down veterans?
The story was quite simple, almost non-existent, until the final hour of the 6+ hours it took me to complete it. A boy was washed ashore on a small island and I had to run around, shouting at figurines to make their energy empower an avatar in the middle. There was no dialog. It’s true what they said – the inspiration of games like Ico was quite apparent, and the climbing was virtually Tomb Raider.
I think this is one of the reasons why the game didn’t sit well with some reviewers. It used a lot of game mechanics, block pushing and puzzle solving already seen in so many other games before, and much of it was low on the difficulty slider, but it was well executed and for the most part felt enjoyable. Of course there were a few exceptions – and it had diving sequences too – but they never detracted much.
The game had four big open world areas and sort of an epilogue. The first area was on a pacific island with white towers, pigs running around, birds were whistling, and it’s where the helpful fox companion was born after yelling at the figures I mentioned before. During the rest of the game, this fox turned up yapping at me to point me in the right direction.
The second area was more dry, like a desert, and featured a big funky bird trying to grab me whenever I showed myself out in the open. I had to run from hiding to hiding, solve puzzles to create more shadows to hide in, and eventually open two valves to create enough black clouds to have a thunderstorm zap the bird into a temporary retreat. This procedure repeated itself several times.
Although the bird did overstay its welcome a bit, it was never so annoying as to tilt the gameplay.
In the third area, I learned how to assemble and summon bipedal robot spheres to help me open doors. The first one was only temporary while the second lasted long enough for the kid to cry when the inevitable sacrifice finally emerged. In the end of the third area, I even managed to muster an army of the robots to help gain access to the fourth and final area.
This fourth area used oily black stones and the rain was pouring down on the freezing kid. Here it was back to finding vertical rays shining down from afar, shout at the figurines found there, and activate the avatar in the middle. Then it was off to the end game, which was surprisingly sad and touching. You can probably guess it involved death and sacrifice, but I’m not going to spoil the details.
The kid had most of the abilities straight out of a modern Prince of Persia game, except the slicing. Jumping up or down to fetch an edge, climbing on weed, sidestep, jumping to the opposite ledge, swim, etc.
The bigger underwater distances typically had bubbles to reach for renewed oxygen.
Apart from using things (typically to pick up things for the inescapable collections) the kid could shout or carry an orb. Shouting made a figurine shoot out energy to reach a button, or it could smash vases.
The first area on the pacific island had daytime cycles, but there was a twist. In one location I could push a metal ball in a circle to speed up this daytime cycle, thereby creating the perfect condition for e.g. matching a shadow with a decal on the wall. It was only a visual effect – the time wasn’t actually affected. Nearby birds and pigs still went on about their business as usual.
I liked how the game had the most superficial tutorial possible. In some places where a certain hotkey was useful, it merely lit up this hotkey in the bottom of the screen. Now would be a good time to press this.
Some of the earlier puzzles had me aligning figures against a backdrop to sort of melt them together. There could be blocks to push into a certain position to make them line up properly.
The first area later introduced carrying energy orbs onto pedestal rods to activate e.g. rising blocks or to dissolve doors. There were actually two of these that had me stumped for a little while.
The first held me back until I discovered that I could slide a hotkey to throw the orb, and another was basically about doing things in the right order. But for the most part the puzzles were very easy, often far apart, and some areas were even borderline walking simulator territory.
Some of the later orbs even created a big shock wave that affected several figurines at once.
Once the big ass bird was introduced, I had to stay in the shadow of smaller structures to keep out of its literal grasp. Entering the sun created a burning blood effect in the edges of the screen that intensified. Too long and the bird grabbed the kid from above. Back to a checkpoint not far back.
The fox was both a blessing and a curse. It sometimes popped up on a wall in the distance and started yapping to catch my attention. This way! It was often helpful and it was always so damn cute, but it also set off an urgency that sometimes made me forgo looking for secrets.
I also hit a bug at one point.
It was caused by another puzzle shout gimmick – a small facial figurine that typically had e.g. a wall or a bridge on top of it. Shouting at this one made it turn in my direction. This was great for aligning bridges or cast shadows on the sun-to-moon buttons, but in one location, it was a wall that actually managed to push me down through the solid floor only to appear in some other part of the temple architecture.
Luckily I found my way back, but that could have easily have become a jammed showstopper.
Some of the later areas introduced black humanoids with a white circle as faces. Most of those in the beginning minded their own business (usually standing still doing absolutely nothing) until I got too close to one, then it started running away. Later they got hostile (like zombies) and had to be zapped away with an energy orb. This never felt like fighting, though – I just had to set it off in the right spot.
The bipedal robots looked sinister and could easily have pinned me with their spiky feet, but they were always benign and never stepped on me. They had their own rounded staircase steps that I couldn’t climb and thus I often had to find other ways around. They often helped with puzzles by standing on pressure plates. Sometimes they first had to be lured with an energy orb.