armikrog

REVIEW / Armikrog (PS4)

 

There I sat, roughly 4 hours after starting Pencil Test Studios’ Armikrog, glaring at the credits. The last name rolled across the screen and then the message, “Super special thanks to all of our Kickstarter backers…this project happened because of you.” At that brief moment, the first thought that flashed into my mind was, “So, that’s who to blame!” Now, I know that Kickstarter can provide some quality games and that the kind backers of the Armikrog Kickstarter only played a financial role; they in no way programmed the final product I ended up playing. And yet, my brain immediately went to the sarcastic joke because sarcasm provides levity in the dark times.

 

Armikrog - Screenshot 6 (GDC 2015)

Tommynaught escaping an alien

 

Armikrog is a game that could have been “more,” and the opening cinematic proves this point. When you first start the game, you are welcomed into the universe with a tongue-in-cheek tune describing the main characters, Tommynaught and his dog-like companion Beak-Beak. After that jaunty melody, we see a gorgeous claymation intro of Tommynaught and Beak-Beak crashing their spaceship and fighting off an aggressive alien before taking refuge into the titular castle Armikrog. The intro is fun. The claymation is beautiful. And you are sucked into the world as you gear yourself up for a grand adventure. However, immediately after that intro, Armikrog feels like it just stops trying.

 

Armikrog - Announcement Screen 2 (Nov 2014)

Tommynaught and Beak-Beak crash land

 

As soon as the actual gameplay starts, you will notice that Armikrog does next to nothing to guide you forward. You are just thrown into a room with a mouse cursor and are left to your own devices.  There wasn’t even a screen to check what the controls were or an option in the menu to give you a hint. So, to my knowledge, Armikrog only has a “use” button and a “switch character” button. I couldn’t find any way to check my inventory, get a hint, show a map, or keep notes. Instantly it becomes clear that Armikrog gets confused in its attempt at a modern take on the point-and-click adventure and ends up with just plain archaic game design.

 

Armikrog - Screenshot 9 (GDC 2015)

The entry to the Hall of Heroes puzzle

 

When it comes to the puzzle aspect of Armikrog, they are not so much complex or rewarding as they are dull and just deliberately obtuse to pad the game’s meager play time. There are only a handful of puzzle types that reoccur throughout Armikrog and each attempt only serves to power your disdain for what the game is. There are tile sliding puzzles, but the PS4 controls greatly hinder your ability to complete them. There are rotating railway track puzzles with switches that don’t make it clear if you pressed them. There are puzzles where you must find an item and use it on a machine, but the lack of inventory screen makes it difficult to know if you even picked up the right item.

 

Armikrog - Announcement Screen 1 (Nov 2014)

There’s an item in here somewhere, can you find it?

 

This brings us to the most infuriating type of puzzle – which is also the most recurring one – and that is the Lullaby puzzle. A lullaby puzzle is where you have to rebuild a baby’s mobile using sheer memorization of the layout; and the whole time you are trying to put these pieces together, you have the ear-shattering cry of baby driving you slowly into the abyss of pure insanity. All of those other puzzles are bland and pointlessly made more difficult through poor design, but compared to the Lullaby puzzles they are a treat.

 

Armikrog_20160813002922

Pictured: The bane of my existence

 

What pushed the Lullaby puzzle to the top of my nemesis list is that they are where I encountered a game breaking bug. I assembled all of the pieces in the correct order, but the game insisted that I was wrong. I rearranged the pieces in almost every combination and I was still wrong. Finally, I resorted to looking up a guide and confirmed that my original arrangement was correct, but the game would not let me progress. I tried closing the application and loading it up again, but was met with the same result when submitting the correct solution. The realization slowly dawned on me that I had to RESTART THE ENTIRE GAME. I laughed hysterically. I sobbed quietly. I could hear my heart shattering. However, I am a professional and it is my duty to see this game through to the end. After replaying the entire game to the point of that specific puzzle, I was rewarded with a success screen and I felt a glorious moment of vindication.

 

Armikrog - Screenshot 2 (Dec 2014)

Isn’t life just a big hamster wheel anyway?

 

However, let it be known that my vindication was short lived. After I passed that puzzle the game forced me to backtrack through the entire map anyway. You have to go to each area and talk to an NPC while remembering symbols that appear by each respective NPC. All of this so you can solve the last puzzles and finally put this game to rest. All this added backtracking serves to do is pad the length of the game even more on top of the pointlessly obtuse puzzles. What’s even worse is that with all of the hindering design choices in play, Armikrog still only takes roughly 4 to 5 hours to beat. With a sleek design and the same puzzles, this would be a 2 hour game.

 

Armikrog - Screenshot 4 (Dec 2014)

Several of these octopi relay the plot to you at the very end of the game

 

 

Armikrog is an infuriating mess of poor design choices sugar-coated in a charming claymation style. The puzzles are awful and are the same every playthrough, effectively killing all replayability. The design choices make those puzzles take a needlessly long time, making feel intense boredom and aggravation. The audio mixing of the main characters voices sound like they were recorded on an old cellphone. The story is lazily told in a wall of exposition at the end and is entirely inconsequential. All of these elements combine to make Armikrog a game that was void of even a shred of a soul or an ounce of fun.

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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