There always seems to be talk of the ‘death of the adventure game’, but even if those rumours are true, with Double Fine making its own new title, and The Book of Unwritten Tales and Deponia being released in quick succession, there certainly seems to be a rebirth going on at the moment. Daedalic Entertainment’s return to the adventure genre is Deponia and it is available on PC now.
Our hero, Rufus, lives in Kuvaq, a small, remote settlement on the world of Deponia, and it stinks. Quite literally, as the world is covered with garbage as far as the eye can see. Rufus dreams of following his father off the planet and going to Elysium, the beautiful floating city high above Deponia. Soon after a failed escape attempt, the beautiful, and quite aptly named Ms. Goal crash lands on the planet. Rufus, a selfish and ill-tempered guy, but with delusions of selflessness attempts to revive her to make her fall in love with him so that she can bring him back to Elysium with her. The story soon departs from love into a deeper conspiracy however, and Rufus finds himself wrapped up in a plot that he doesn’t particularly wants to be part of.
It’s hard not to compare adventure titles to the Monkey Island games, and it is even harder not to when Deponia seems to have been so heavily influenced by them. The main character himself could easily be swapped out with Guybrush Threepwood, as they share a similar sense of humour and even have the same accent. It doesn’t matter whether all this is intentional or not, because being influenced by Monkey Island isn’t a bad thing, and wise-cracking jokes along with occasional self-deprecation is certainly a tried and tested method of getting a laugh or two. And laugh I did, as the game has some great humour, is generally well written and voice acted, and has some excellent characters. Each of them has their own distinct quirk and personality, from the sleepy Mayor of Kuvaq, to the not-so-subtle transvestite receptionist of the town hall. My own personal favourite was the Postbot, the logical robot whose only flaw is his eternal love for bubble wrap.
If you have played an adventure game before, the concept will be very familiar, and even if you haven’t, Deponia will be easy to pick up. You left click on objects to interact with them or combine them with other objects, or right click to examine them further, and the space bar reveals everything in your current environment that can be interacted with. To progress through each area you have to use these abilities to solve puzzles and help out other people. It’s simple stuff, which makes the fourth-wall breaking tutorial seemingly useless other than giving you a quick introduction to the characters. Some challenging minigame puzzles appear every now and then, but these are all skippable if you want to just continue with the storyline.
Fans of adventure games will notice that Deponia goes some way to try and get rid of some of those grievous adventure game gripes, but not all of them. Frustrations still occur if you know exactly what needs to be done in your head, but the game won’t let you progress until you have done it in the exact order that it wants you to. Like most games of this type, Deponia has some imaginative puzzles, but still reverts back to the classic technique of making you think you have the correct item, when in fact you need something very similar but just out of reach. This leads to a lot of backtracking, which becomes even more prevalent towards the end of the game where the amount of running around you have to do seems to increase dramatically. This is helped in part by the ability to double click an area to go there instantly, but it still feels like the game is being artificially lengthened at the back end of the story.
For the majority of the time though, Deponia is a delight to play. Not only that, but the graphics have a nice style to them and the music is decent enough, although there doesn’t seem to be a wide range of songs throughout the game. One or two audio issues did occur, where Rufus would seem to be speaking, but no sound would play even though subtitles came up. Another complaint would be that the Organon (Deponia’s antagonists) seem to have a much higher speech volume than everyone else, making for some jarring moments when they appear on screen. Other than that though, Deponia seems quite polished, with some nice animations including a variety of idle animations for Rufus – he certainly loves the air guitar.
Deponia’s concept isn’t original, but the storyline, setting and characters are, and that’s enough to be able to recommend this game. There are plenty of head-scratching moments followed by sudden revelation, and I laughed out loud more than a few times while playing. Finally, when you complete the game you unlock something called “Droggeljug” mode, which is enabled if you start a new game. If someone knows what all this is about then please droggeljug droggeljug... heh heh heh droggeljug droggeljug. Droggeljug!
Original setting and characters and a smile on your face is guaranteed.
Not all puzzles can be solved the way you would think.