- Developer: Pencil Test Studios
- Publisher: Pencil Test Studios
- Platform: PC ($24.99)
- Copy provided by publisher.
Armikrog is a unique and special game. It really brings back memories of those children’s specific games you might see younger siblings playing in browsers, with overly simplistic design elements designed to foster a feeling of accomplishment no matter what you do. But Armikrog is more than just a silly representation of someone’s IP to help kids learn.
Armikrog is a masterpiece of design and creativity.
Armikrog has had quite the following ever since it arrived on Kickstarter in May of 2013. The project is the work of Pencil Test Studios and their partnership with Doug TenNapel, who was responsible for gracing the world with Earthworm Jim. He’s taken that expertise and helped to forge together a psychedelic story combined with some incredibly imaginative characters that go on an impossible journey in a surreal alternate reality.
The intro musical itself already sets the stage for what could be a truly unique experience. Aside from any traditionally drawn assets that might end-up in games, or the deliberate artistic design of a handmade masterpiece, we never really see this kind of personal touch at this level in a game. The stop-motion claymation is exquisitely done, and a sight to behold. It's fluid and not at all what you'd expect at first read.
This is a point and click adventure that follows Tommynaut and his trusty space-canine companion, Beak Beak as they traverse through a hostile and charming planet that they've crashed landed upon during an attempt to explore beyond their own world. And like any point and click adventure you'll be inundated by challenges that prove to defy any real logic. But it isn't that aspect that surprises, because all games in this genre have reality defying challenges to help keep your interest.
The story itself is simple, though it provides enough of a backdrop to make for a very interesting and satisfying game, or it has the potential for it. Actually playing Armikrog, however, is another affair entirely.
Small and some not so small niggling issues might hold Armikrog back.
It’s a very simple point and click adventure where interactions are largely a game of trial and error as there are no prompts when you move your mouse over objects or even click on them. The only way you know that something doesn’t work is when it literally has no effect on what’s happening on screen.
The puzzles are actually something that are out of the ordinary for the typical point and click adventure, despite being frustrating due to that aforementioned lack of feedback. Because hidden deep within the scene that you'll be in is at least some sort of hint, no matter how small and seemingly superfluous. This is definitely a thinking persons puzzle game, one that actually challenges you on a deeper level than you you might initially expect. The slightly more than four hour long game is rife with just enough puzzle pieces to keep you busy and satisfied, though sometimes you want to scream because the logical conclusion might only make sense in Armikrog.
I applaud Armikrog’s puzzles for standing out from the standard PAC’s puzzles. Many screens in Armikrog will contain some form of hint or hieroglyphic that holds the key to solving another room’s puzzle. I recommend keeping a pencil and paper handy to keep notes. A keen eye is necessary to find clues and know how your actions have affected a room. This makes every bit of scenery not only pretty to look at or a source of entertainment but something that feeds into puzzle-solving. There aren’t a whole lot of puzzles in Armikrog, and content-wise the game is fairly short, but most puzzles will have you spending a good amount of time on them, both in figuring out the key to a puzzle and then actually doing it, making the game feel fuller than just its content. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent far too long in certain areas looking for solutions when the answer was something I merely forgot, given in a bit of dialogue I should have paid more attention to.
The backstory is interesting, and throughout the game you'll find tablets and small bits of information that'll explain the planet and the events that brought Tommynaut out on his little adventure. The story alone is woven rather well and is worth a look and probably it's own written media somewhere down the line. But what about the humor that's always been present in the likes of Earthworm Jim. It really isn't as prevalent as I'd like. There's little dialogue at all and what's there seems to be very short lived. To be honest, in keeping with the tradition of Earthworm Jim and Doug TenNepal's other works it would have been a prime opportunity to have a quirky discovery mechanism that allows you to examine the world around you with quips from Tommynaut and even a few witty remarks from Beak Beak.
But it isn't without it's issues, and some are very off-putting indeed. The animation is fantastic, with the level of detail simply astounding. But sometimes the game fails to actually fully follow through, and you get stuck in a weird state as you move along without any movement. Sometimes the saving mechanism didn't quite work as planned, and I loaded my game a little further behind than when I had actually saved it. And sometimes Beak Beak failed to actually properly follow me along, despite not having left him. Pencil Test Studios is hard at work fixing all of the underlying game-breaking bugs, and promise to push out updates as quickly as possible so that those small issues don't happen, though.
Is Armikrog it worth it?
But underneath it all is a cute and fluffy game that is actually quite fun, if not a bit disheartening with the convoluted puzzles. It's recommended, though just be aware that it's short, it still slightly buggy and there are some things that might not be so appealing to everyone. It's fun, but perhaps it won't suit everyone's play style. If you're a point and click fan, then this might be for you. If you happen to find those types of games slightly strange, then it might be a good idea not to try it. There's potential for this type of game and the resurrection of this type of medium. If anything, this is a good representation of the future that might come from Pencil Test Studios. Armikrog might not be the most alluring game quite yet, but just imagine how this can evolve.
A great if flawed game that presents a lot of potential that might have been wasted in this first iteration of a fantastic idea. If this is the direction Pencil Test Studios is going, then I want to see more. It's fun, though short, and a bit buggy. But overall it's a great idea to pursue.