It would be fundamentally difficult to write about Deponia without referring to the LucasArts Point-and-Click adventures of the past. So let’s just start there, as I like an easy life. For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, it’s the legendary LucasArts back catalogue consisting of the Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max: Hit The Road, Full Throttle and many more. These titles encapsulate a gaming genre that seemingly came into existence peaked incredibly early, and fizzled out within a few years. The whole Point-and-Click Adventure genre is warmly regarded by gamers of a certain age, they were almost universally loved and critically acclaimed, yet the whole concept remains little more than as fond memories of gaming from 15-20 years ago. There have of course been attempts at re-igniting the fire over the years, but most have turned out to be poor imitators of past efforts. Quickly forgotten as a result.
If you were not gaming, or indeed around during these days then you probably have no idea what I’m prattling on about. Point-and-Click Adventures (I’m just going to call them ‘Clickers’, it’s far more 2012) are a fantastic blend of story-telling, puzzle solving and discovery – often taking the form of an interactive cartoon. I use the term cartoon not to belittle the presentation, but to heap praise upon it, for they were traditionally colourful and intricately detailed productions.
It’s now 2012 and it would appear that the Germans have actually been quietly producing and releasing Clickers without much notice being taken by the rest of the world. Deponia is one such title released by Daedalic Entertainment, and guess what? It does great service to those fond memories of the early 90s.
Those familiar with the genre will feel like they are sitting down with an old friend. Entirely controlled with the mouse cursor, Deponia sees you take control of a young man called Rufus living in a town called Kuvaq, built on a junk pile on Deponia. He longs to leave the planet in search of a more fulfilling life, leaving behind an apparently terrible reputation with his townsfolk, who seem to consider him as both a massive pain in the arse and a walking-disaster. It turns out that he is. Needless to say, the first act opens with his attempts to leave Deponia and unsurprisingly to everyone around him, it doesn’t go smoothly. Being such a story-driven game, I’ll avoid giving away any further plot points.
The interface is incredibly straightforward, if nothing innovative. Seasoned Clicker fans will find the control method, interacting with the world and the inventory, second nature. For newcomers, it is clearly laid out within the first few minutes of launching the game. Nice and simple. This is what many people find appealing, as there are no keyboard commands to learn, nor do you need to be proficient with twin-analogue sticks – if you managed to launch the game, then you’ll be able to control it as well as anyone can.
The presentation is excellent, high resolution 2D animated graphics provide a premium feel to the title, not dissimilar to watching something like Futurama in HD, but with more detail in each scene. The world of Deponia is rich and populated with well thought out characters, each with full voice-acting. The voice-acting varies in quality somewhat, presumably as a result of being translated and re-dubbed from it’s native Germanic source material, but the quality is never less than acceptable. It’s easy to dismiss the game based on colourful and cartoony screenshots, but it’s an engrossing experience.
The story itself is nothing revolutionary, but it is quirky and entertaining. It’s the puzzles and discovery elements that will keep you pushing through the story as you inevitably get stuck and stare at your inventory gormlessly whilst you wonder what the hell you are meant to use the balloon with. Or the Hook. Or the Soap. But when it all comes together, there is a wonderful feeling of smug satisfaction as you make progression having used your powers of deduction, a feeling rarely provided by other genres. There’s also a feeling of bewilderment as you wonder how on earth this was designed and put together in the first place. There are unfortunately moments where the necessary puzzle-solving required such an obscure solution, that had I not had a sly Google, I could have spent far too much time wandering around the same few screens getting increasingly frustrated. Fortunately they aren’t too common, but the fact that they are present at all slightly dilutes the experience. I wonder if occasionally the translation to English proved to be at fault. I fact I noticed at least one in-game subtitle glaringly appeared in German rather than English, which raises the question of how much localisation testing took place. However looking past that, a majority of the puzzles are enjoyable and satisfying to complete.
Deponia presents a trip down memory lane for Clicker fans with familiar game mechanics. Thankfully, this one offers a new setting, good quality production values and most importantly a clear sign that the genre is as relevant as ever, provided it’s done right. A few annoying issues aside, it’s a charming game.
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