Colorful cartoon art style and well-animated cinematics portray an imaginative world with unusual characters; creative dialogue and inventory puzzles are plentiful; has a more epic story with better pacing than the first game.
Clues and plot points aren’t always introduced in the right order, making some puzzles and story aspects confusing; dialogue drags on with a script that isn’t as funny as it strives to be; scenes lack much-needed animation.
3.5 stars: "A solid adventure that is generally enjoyable, though it lacks enough polish or ambition to recommend without caution."
Very similar to its predecessor with a few improvements in pacing and story, Chaos on Deponia is a solid adventure that fans of LucasArts-style comedies will likely enjoy.
In another apparent inconsistency, some wacky situations and nuances crop up in the sequel that don’t entirely jive with the world established in the first game. In Deponia, the planet was built out of trash and its quirky inhabitants were prone to slapstick situations, but their society and rules of nature were somewhat grounded in reality. Chaos on Deponia, on the other hand, employs some weird science—including a population of supernatural platypuses, time travel, inter-dimensional portals, and the ability to swap personalities between different bodies via remote control—that take the game more into Sam & Max territory than the Monkey Island vibe that’s pervasive otherwise. These oddities contribute to Deponia’s charm and I didn’t necessarily mind them, but some of the weirder moments felt out of place in a world I thought I’d already gotten to know.
After the hefty first chapter, Rufus’s adventure takes him beyond the Floating Black Market to a handful of smaller locations around the Rust Red Sea, including a research facility where dolphins are being trained to help the resistance, the North Pole, and the abode of a mystic who has expanded his fortune-telling practice to include couples counseling. Though there’s much less to explore here, these new scenes provide welcome visual variety—including different times of day and changing weather conditions—that give a more complete perspective of the trashed planet he’s trying to save.
The graphics haven’t changed from the first game. The vibrant 2D cartoon artwork, unique character designs, and creative trash-filled environments provide plenty to look at, and lively animated cinematics are peppered throughout the game. I especially liked the movie of the trawler moving through the water at sunset (very pretty), as well as one set underwater as a trio of torpedo-equipped dolphins converge upon their mark. The locations have more NPCs hanging around, which makes the Floating Black Market feel less barren than Deponia’s Kuvaq (even though you can’t talk to most of them), but the in-game scenes are still sparsely animated. During most of the lengthy dialogues, two characters stand still and talk back and forth with little movement between them. A few dialogues take place with extreme close-ups on the characters’ faces; it’s a nice change of pace, but even an extreme close-up starts to feel old in a game with this much dialogue. I brought this up with Deponia and it’s worth repeating: more animation, gestures, and facial expressions during conversations would go a long way toward making the long dialogues more interesting, and maybe even funnier. No matter how good a job the voice actors do, jokes simply aren’t as funny when they’re delivered by a character who’s just standing there with his back to you.
Most of the puzzles involve inventory manipulation and character interaction, many with a "chain reaction" structure that requires several small steps to be solved before a larger objective can be satisfied. Of these multi-step puzzles, I particularly liked a series related to platypus nesting and breeding habits (because of the logic involved, not necessarily the subject matter!) and another where an annoying gondolier must be thwarted so Bozo and his burly girlfriend can share a tender moment. Figuring out how to outsmart a robotic gadget shop clerk using various merchandise samples is another fun sequence. Like in the first game, I thought most puzzles were fair, with solutions easy enough to figure out—no small feat in a setting as eccentric as this one.
There are also a handful of minigames, which are generally self-contained puzzles with their own unique interface. These tie into the story, but they can be skipped without penalty if you choose to. My favorite, a unique spin on the Tower of Hanoi logic puzzle, involves adding and subtracting items from a restaurant’s value menu to end up with just one item at a certain price. I groaned when I encountered a scaled-down repeat of the mine maze that I hated in Deponia, but it’s thankfully better executed this time.
A couple of Chaos on Deponia’s minigames did befuddle me, although in neither case was the problem due to the gameplay itself. At one point, as I entered into what seemed like a straightforward dialogue puzzle (e.g. choose a particular sequence of dialogue lines to lead a character into a certain response), a “Do you want to skip the minigame?” box popped up on screen. This might have been a quick fix for a puzzle deemed too difficult, but it made me second-guess my objective and caused unnecessary confusion about what I was trying to achieve. Another minigame that’s supposed to play like a Simon-style matching game was buggy and completely unplayable (a somewhat common issue, according to posts on Steam’s forums). In this case I was grateful for the skip button, but would have preferred the chance to play it myself.
Although I didn’t buy all of the events leading up to the ending, I found it more optimistic and satisfying than in the first game. By the end, Rufus has learned exactly what's going on in the Deponia / Elysium struggle and he has Goal by his side—two elements that were sorely missing last time. From a story perspective, I'm not convinced that so much play time was necessary for what would ultimately translate into so little progression, but at least by the end I felt like my efforts had helped Rufus uncover new information about Deponia's situation that will carry the story forward in the final installment. It’s hard to say a trilogy was really warranted for this series; both installments have covered similar ground and not a ton has changed in the 20+ hours of gameplay so far. But Deponia is still a fun world to visit, and in this middle installment the stakes are raised and the story finally seems to be headed somewhere.
Chaos on Deponia makes multiple tongue-in-cheek references to classic adventures, but even without these, it’s clear that the Deponia team loves and cherishes the genre. While this sequel doesn’t have enough improvement over the first game to earn it a higher score, it is nonetheless a charming and at times clever “old school” adventure that fans of LucasArts-style comedies will enjoy. Personally, I liked Chaos on Deponia better than the first thanks to its improved pacing and ever-thickening plot, and am looking forward to the trilogy’s big finish to see if Rufus can finally get his act together well enough to get the girl... and, more importantly, save the world.
|Digital||November 6 2012||Daedalic Entertainment|