Back in 1996, the creative minds behind Earthworm Jim released a wonderful point-and-click adventure game called The Neverhood. Featuring a unique world brought to life entirely in stop-motion clay animation, a great soundtrack, and cool characters, The Neverhood was a game unlike any other before it. Fast-forward to 2013, and that same creative team launched a Kickstarter campaign for Armikrog, a game that was being touted as a spiritual successor to The Neverhood. As a huge fan of The Neverhood, I was highly anticipating the day when I would once again be able to experience a brand new adventure in a bizarre claymation world. That day has finally arrived and, although Armikrog has its charm, I feel a bit disappointed by this very brief adventure from Pencil Test Studios.
Release Date: 8/23/16
Developer: Pencil Test Studios (@PencilTestInc)
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Wii U
In Armikrog you play as a space explorer named Tommynaut who’s accompanied by his blind alien talking dog, Beak-Beak. After crash landing on a strange planet, the duo ends up getting trapped inside the titular fortress of Armikrog. Using your puzzle-solving prowess, you must help Tommy and Beaky uncover the mysteries of Armikrog and make their escape. Each of the two characters has something to bring to the table, as Beak-Beak can fit into small openings, and Tommynaut can pull levers and store objects for later use. From the moment I heard of this game, it seemed to have everything going for it. In addition to the aforementioned talented development team, Armikrog features top-notch voice acting from the likes of Michael J. Nelson (Mystery Science Theater 3000), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain), and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite). Unfortunately, these actors don't seem to be used to their fullest potential, as the storytelling in the game is rather sparse. Armikrog does feature the same beautiful clay aesthetic that was present in The Neverhood, as well as a wonderfully strange soundtrack courtesy of The Neverhood's original composer, Terry Taylor. In other areas, though, things with Armikrog just fall flat. Some of the puzzles are fun and intriguing, whereas others are too obtuse or frustrating.
Let me tell you about my least favorite part of the whole game. Fairly early in the story, Tommynaut finds a baby in the fortress, for some reason. When you walk into the next room, the baby starts crying. The game then forces you to solve a puzzle before you can move on or do anything else. The best part? The baby continues crying in your ear the entire time you are solving this puzzle. In my experience, the sound of a screaming baby is not the most conducive to focus and critical thinking. This baby puzzle happens three separate times over the course of the game, and it stops the game dead in its tracks each time.
Many of the other puzzles in the game are solved by means of symbols or other visual clues that can be found elsewhere in the fortress. I would have preferred if the puzzles were a little more thought-intensive and self-contained, rather than making you rely on remembering obscure details, or simply backtracking to remind yourself of a particular clue.
Don't get me wrong, there is still some fun to be had within the fortress of Armikrog. I enjoyed some of the puzzles quite a bit, and the characters and the world you explore are bizarre and interesting, which is what I've come to expect from this developer. I particularly liked a certain recurring puzzle where you slide tiles around and transfer them between four different lanes in order to form a picture.
Ultimately, Armikrog is a game that could have been better. It simply did not live up to its potential, nor did it live up to the expectations set for it by its predecessor. It's not a bad game by any means. In fact, much of it was enjoyable. But unfortunately, many elements of the game just did not click with me. In the end, it lacks substance, which is a real shame when you consider the talent involved with bringing it to life. Here's hoping Pencil Test Studio's next effort really breaks the mold.
We reviewed Armikrog on PlayStation 4 using a review copy graciously provided to us by our friends at Plan of Attack.
- Beautiful claymation world
- Great soundtrack
- Some interesting puzzles
- Some puzzles are boring or obtuse
- Meager story
- That annoying crying baby