As a child, I spent most of my computer time playing Demos. There, I admitted it. My first days of PC gaming were spent poring over demo discs from magazines; craving games of Evolva, desiring the full version of Curse of Monkey island and being stunned by the clay graphics of The Neverhood.
Now whilst I never got the chance to play the full version of that final game, the art style definitely stuck in my mind. I can still remember the sheer charm of the title, which was alien and yet immediately familiar, and my disappointment when I finally got a full version, only to find it wouldn’t work on my PC.
So when I saw the first reports, in 2013, of the newest game by Doug TenNapel, creator of The Neverhood and the better-known Earthworm Jim, I got excited. Now two years on, the release date is approaching swiftly, and having been granted beta access I can tell you just how it’s shaping up.
In short, beautifully. Like The Neverhood before it, Armikrog has been lovingly crafted with a clay graphical style which sets it apart from any other modern release. It’s a classic-style point and click adventure game, in which you control a space explorer, Tommynaut, and his talking “Dog” Beak-Beak, as they explore a bizarre, unknown planet.
Everything is done through a very simple single-click interface. Click on Tommynaut, you control him. Click on Beak-Beak, and you control him. Click on an object, you interact with it. It’s simple and it works, and forces you to experiment thoroughly by clicking on everything. The puzzles don’t have obvious answers, and I like the fact that experimentation and exploration is rewarded. My favourite moment so far involved looking out of a window. Seriously, do it, it’s hilarious! Whilst there isn’t much story to comment on at the minute, the characterisations of both the protagonists and of the creatures around then show clear depth and thought.
In terms of graphics, the clay world is realised in stunning HD with high-quality claymation graphics and cut-scenes. Whilst some animations and visual elements are clearly missing, with stand-ins at current, those which are finished are smooth as butter and reinforce the idea that this is clearly a passion project for its developers. The sound design is also excellent, with strong voice performances and a standout score, which feels not only original, but musically interesting in its own right.
On the negative side, the beta itself is still clunky as hell in terms of its menus and interface. I really hope that these aspects aren’t left as an afterthought in the final version.
However, regardless of the elements which are missing at current, Armikrog is looking like it could be THE stand-out adventure game of this year, and I can’t wait until it is properly released on the 18th of August.