Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure (PlayStation 4) Review

By Sam Turner 06.08.2017

Review for Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure on PlayStation 4

There is no genre quite like the point and click adventure. If the unique artwork and obtuse puzzles weren't enough then there is no other genre that can so quickly inspire admiration or disgust in its audience. When the success of the game relies on every single element to tick along together there is no room to hide. If a character doesn't gel or a solution doesn't stick the landing then all the love the game garnered over the last few hours could be lost in an instant. It's a genre with little room for error. There is no landscape to push ahead of narrative and no clever mechanics to disguise a terrible puzzle. Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure carefully treads the line between success and failure, and thankfully does enough to make it a worthwhile, if short adventure.

The work of just one man, Fabrice Bretron, Demetrios is a point and click adventure in very much the traditional style. From the hand drawn animation to the pop-up speech bubbles and eccentric characters that litter the variety of locations, it is no coincidence that Demetrios rekindles fond memories of Broken Sword and Monkey Island. The opening chapter even takes place in Paris, of all places.

It's not clear if this is a direct nod to The Shadow of the Templars, but considering the game begins through the eyes of the Dutch sounding Bjorn Thonen, it's clear that the location is not a critical element to the game's design, but a humorous link to titles gone by. Demetrios wants you to know that it has a peerless heritage, and even its story of mystical tablets and stolen treasures all chime echoes that threaten to drown out the achievements the game makes when it's not trying to be clever with references and nods to the audience.

Screenshot for Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure on PlayStation 4

Bjorn isn't a pleasant character; he is rude, foul mouthed and has little to no personal hygiene. However, the game delights in this twist in direction for a genre that usually has the elegant or earnest gentleman at centre stage. Demetrios plays up to the fact that such a bumbling buffoon could be in charge of such a globe-trotting adventure, and much of the game's humour is derived from this. For some, such an unlikable character, along with the amount of fart jokes and toilet humour, will be immediately off-putting, but the game manages to find the right balance between loveable rogue and infuriating nincompoop. If by any chance the player is still turned off by this tact, there is even an option to limit the amount of toilet humour or turn it off all together, meaning that nothing should get between the player and enjoying the story.

What is really smart about the design of Demetrios is that despite there being some obvious limitations from a one-person team, the concessions they have had to make actually make for some interesting decisions towards how each level is presented to the player. Instead of having a complicated and fussy character traipsing across the environment, instead each stage is more akin to a hide and seek puzzle you find in a 3DS bargain bin. The difference here is that nearly every object plays some sort of narrative link or leads to a new thread in a wider complicated puzzle. A button press highlights each of the objects that can be interacted with, and there are even easy and accessible options to increase the cursor speed with the press of a trigger button, whilst the left analogue stick gives a magnified view of the terrain.

Screenshot for Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure on PlayStation 4

It's these little touches that show that despite the obvious technical limitations that could have limited some designers, they have instead necessitated some interesting mechanical developments that make play smoother and engaging. What can be made sluggish with an in-game avatar becomes snappy and clean in Demetrios. Also, that the generous hint system is linked to hidden cookies that are found within each environment means that there is a strong thematic and structural decision to each part of the game's design.

There is, though, an odd inconsistency to Demetrios. Pretty much every aspect of the game manages to strike both high notes of consummate delight and deathly dull tones that ring uncomfortably. Take the art style, for example. For the most part, each background and location is delicately detailed with vibrant colours and a wonderful cartoon palette. The character designs, however, drift between the brilliantly sharp and the indescribably awkward. In their individual dialogue bubbles, faces are full of life and verve, but place the same characters in their native locations and suddenly it's as if a different artist has tried to copy the same drawings from an earlier and rougher draft.

Screenshot for Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure on PlayStation 4

This wild shift between the accomplished and strangely sloppy permeates through the soundtrack, the narrative, and the puzzles themselves. It's an easy game to fall for when each of these elements shines, as they are obviously intended to do, but suddenly the music becomes a repetitive dirge, the story takes a wild turn, and the solution to a brain teaser goes from logic to lunacy. These swings are not too prevalent to make Demetrios unplayable or even unlikable, but they do enough to destroy enough of the game's rhythm and pacing to stop the player becoming truly invested in the story and its characters.

To talk of the puzzles themselves will rekindle memories for many of the struggles many would have had to seemingly exist in the mind of the developer to have any help of solving. Luckily in Demetrios, despite sometimes leaning towards the obtuse, the puzzles are well signposted and, for the most part, make narrative sense. Also, the aforementioned cookie-based hint system is extremely forgiving, meaning that the solution for a puzzle is only a hidden cookie away. It can often feel cheap to just press a button to get a clue to a puzzle, but the fact that the player has to find the teeny tiny cookies first means that there is at least a bit of legwork that needs to be done to earn the solution.

Screenshot for Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

With all its reference, heritage and lineage, what Demetrios loses in consistency it makes up with heart. It's clear that the person behind the ones and zeros is in love with the genre, albeit a genre that leaves no place to hide. It's difficult to ignore the dips in an otherwise generous and gracious video game. The puzzles are involving and interesting, and the mechanics are well integrated into the weave of the design. For fans of the genre, there is a lot to like here, but there is also a lot that might put some people off. Luckily, it turns out that the developer may have done enough to stop putting many people off, but only just.

Developer

Cowcat

Publisher

Cowcat

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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