Armikrog (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 25.08.2016

Review for Armikrog on PlayStation 4

The 1990s were a time where video games were on the rise, and the evolution of the industry from the 16-bit era transitioning into the 3D environment was becoming commonplace. This saw many developers take to experimenting with many different elements and themes. One such game that opted to try something totally unseen was Doug TenNapel's The Neverhood. Now following in that claymation stop-motion point-and-click adventure is the spiritual successor Armikrog, which came to fruition after a successful Kickstarter campaign. With some of the original key developers back from the original, can their latest iteration hold up in the current climate of the gaming industry?

The first thing that is prevalent from the opening sequences is that Armikrog looks absolutely beautiful. The hand-crafted locations are seeping with the developer's passion, and the stop-motion animation is pristine and fluid, resembling what would be expected from a feature film done in the same format. It simply feels like the game is happening in a live movie. Even basic gameplay actions look good, and the game does not feel disjointed or jarring due to the stop-motion technique.

Armikrog begins when Tommynaut and his talking dog-like animal, Beak-Beak crash-land on Spiro 5. Locked inside the fortress called Armikrog, the comedic duo must work together to escape the fortress and find passage off the planet. Right from the beginning, this game promises to be a funny humour-filled adventure between two pals. The opening cut-scene and subsequent stage has funny banter between the two characters that helps set the stage for the journey to come.

Screenshot for Armikrog on PlayStation 4

However, the banter is as good as the interactions between the two heroes gets. What follows for the next five hours of playtime is large patches of complete silence, or even acknowledgement of each other's existence, save for the few times that Beak-Beak steps on a button, and Tommynaut proceeds to thank him. All the promise of character development that was going to occur through a comedic adventure is non-existent. The progression lacks any substance, and any feeling that may have arisen early in the game all but vanishes after the first hour. Tommynaut and Beak-Beak look the parts of an iconic, wacky buddy-cop type of game; however, they are missing the actual dialogue between the two that would have helped bridge their friendship.

On their journey to escape the mysterious fortress is an assortment of puzzles that require a large amount of trial and error. There are plenty of head-scratching moments due to the lack of directional input and vagueness surrounding the objectives at hand. Armikrog does not do a great deal of explaining anything, and can therefore be very off-putting for those who are used to having "markers" that indicate certain objectives. The lack of direction means that many puzzles are not straightforward in solving them, but are not overly clever, either.

After what may seem like forever trying to complete a puzzle, sometimes a solution can be fluked upon, without any real logic as to how anyone could have gotten to that answer in the first place. There is a specific puzzle that involves putting together a robot with a series of rotatable blocks that each display various types of heads, torsos and legs. However, there is no way of knowing what the correct solution is, or even what is required to get to that solution. Stumbling on the solution only creates further anger and frustration, and even on further replays, there are still no clear indicators as to how anyone could be expected to solve it by using the information given to them in the game. Other puzzles have answers found throughout the entire game, and as such require a fair amount of constant backtracking to find the combinations to some puzzles.

Screenshot for Armikrog on PlayStation 4

There are also puzzle types that are constantly thrown in front of Tommynaut as the adventure progresses, requiring him to complete them constantly. One puzzle requires sliding tiles in order to recreate an image, while another involves listening to a sound tune and then piecing together the furry animals in a specific order to complete the tune. Traversing to each new area requires using a zip line in a vehicle to get there, and with it are its own puzzles that involve rotating parts of the zip line in order to complete the track. These puzzles are consistent nuisances, and are designed to simply lengthen the time of the playthrough, and become quite tedious to complete repeatedly.

The controls feature controlling an on-screen mouse cursor with the left dialogue stick or by using the touchpad. Clearly made for PC, this was a poor port design choice due to the cursor seeming to have a mind of its own at times. When trying to select objects to interact with, the cursor sometimes may lock-on to an interaction that it thinks it wants to make. For instance, in the previously mentioned tile-sliding puzzle, trying to get that cursor to select the 'base' in the centre of the puzzle for rotating can be a hassle, when it constantly locks-on to the tile inside of it.

Screenshot for Armikrog on PlayStation 4

When the cursor is hovered over environmental interactions, the cursor changes to signify that it can be interacted with. However, many times the cursor refuses to select the buttons found in the stages without explaining why it cannot be interacted with. Once in control of Beak-Beak, then the buttons can be pressed, and again without any explanation as to why only the dog can select buttons instead of Tommynaut. Because of this, many environmental interactions can be 'hidden' in part, because the incorrect character was in control, which creates many more frustrating moments.

However, with frustrating gameplay elements arises a significant number of worrying glitches. During the reviewing of this game, there would be moments where Tommynaut or even Beak-Beak would be "stuck" on something in the environment, and were unable to move out of that position and requiring a restart of the game to fix it. This exact glitch actually occurred in every single playthrough without fail, and in different parts of the game. Sometimes after performing an interaction, Tommynaut would then be unresponsive, and as such would not move to where the cursor directed him, nor even change the control over to Beak-Beak. Even the subtitles that are aimed for the hearing impaired cut off halfway through the game, and are non-existent in the subsequent cut-scenes.

Screenshot for Armikrog on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Armikrog looks amazing, with the stop-motion claymation performed to perfection. However, that is as good as it gets, with clunky gameplay mechanics and the significant glitches found that are the true enemy for Tommynaut and Beak-Beak. This is the equivalent to being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool without learning how to swim, and then trying to select the nearby life ring, only to discover that only the dog can select that option for some illogical reason. Armikrog feels like an unfinished game that was rushed out the door, with any form of character progression or story left on the cutting room floor. While it was created with good intentions behind it, Armikrog only serves as a sad reminder of just how great The Neverhood truly was, and that it may never be successfully replicated.

Developer

Pencil Test

Publisher

Versus Evil

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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