I haven’t finished the game. If you think this invalidates my review, feel free to stop reading.
This game has no redeeming qualities. I don’t know how the AG reviewer could avoid noticing all the glaring flaws I’m about to detail, but I strongly urge readers to steer clear of this game.
Feeble’s in-game voice acting is done well and he has some good lines. With this out of the way, let’s discuss the rest of the game.
I bought this game because the review promised hard puzzles. I’m an old-school adventure gamer, and I miss the challenge in the classics. This game is not difficult. It’s annoying, unfair at times, poorly designed and frustrating, but the puzzles themselves are not challenging.
There are many sections that would take a long time to “solve”. Overwhelmingly, these are either due to terrible game design or due to unfair mechanics. One of the examples you will no doubt read about if you Google for reviews is the in-game arcade sequence. Feeble needs to win some inventory as prizes in an arcade. To do that, you accumulate tokens, playing “Sordid’s Puzzle Castle”, six minigames of varying difficulty. Unlike any arcade machine in existence, after winning a round you may cash out or continue playing (risking everything accumulated so far). Prizes increase considerably as the risk of failure grows. However, instead of making the mini games more challenging, you just get a shorter time limit, because we all know the reason for playing adventure games is so we can solve things under time pressure. Heaped on this generally frustrating exercise you get the general bad design of the game. It takes tokens to activate the machine. So, to use it you need to go to the inventory screen, select the tokens, and use them on the machine, instead of just clicking on “use” and having the character automatically use tokens. That’s 3-4 wasted seconds. Then the game logo comes up, with an annoying announcement that never changes and you can’t skip. That’s an extra 5 seconds. Then you get to play a game - luckily you can skip having the rules explained to you over and over again. Then you have to manipulate the game’s unresponsive controls while solving it, and then you get a “win” or “lose” screen, each stealing several precious seconds. You need at least 240 coins, which mean winning four in a row, three in a row twice, or three in a row once and then two in a row twice. And, since some of the mini games are difficult (Swamp Stew, which is a mastermind with six elements, unlimited repetitions and ten guesses), you are going to botch some attempts. So, prepare to spend several hours at the arcade, about 25% of which spent due to poor interface and unskippable, repetitive animations.
In case that wasn’t disheartening enough, some of the tokens go in one of those crane machines where you try to pick up prizes. The viewing angle is odd and the locations where the crane has to be stopped make absolutely no sense. In fact, and I hope this isn’t a spoiler, when you do manage to pick up an object the motion of the crane changes, instead of grabbing it gently pinches. This means any attempt to try and figure out where to place the crane is doomed to failure, since the failure animation actively misleads you - trying to position the hand so the failure animation would grab something simply doesn’t work. What I eventually did was cheat to get 1000 tokens or so, and just dropped it in a grid everywhere, until I got the objects I wanted. Fun!
This isn’t an early section of the game, but it wonderfully demonstrates everything wrong with it. The game has no respect for the player, sticking you in an unfun distraction with no easy way to win and wastes your time with poor interface and annoying animations. The exact same problem nearly had me quit the game earlier, when you escape from a penal colony. The colony is divided into several screens, and you uncontrollably move between them, accompanied by an annoying shriek. Often the trigger is clicking something you’re not supposed to. To complete the experience, once in every shrieking cycle you are forced to watch a ten-second unskippable animation. Thus, you need to figure out what you can do, but there is only one relevant screen in the colony, you have limited time to complete everything, whenever you don’t do everything perfectly the game resets everything, and you listen to annoying shrieks followed by watching boring unskippable animation, over and over and over again. Just in case this wasn’t intolerable enough, there’s a random element in the escape, so you need to save and reload to avoid the guard - but reloading the game constitutes an action, so you can’t do it right away - you again have to listen to 4-5 shrieks and watch the animation. This is a GREAT way to make the player feel like he’s in a penal colony, so great it may have been deliberate, but it’s just not fun. As mentioned above, I felt the game disrespects my time. I understand the desire to want to create tension, but making the player want to quit the game because some internal coin toss didn’t go their way is not the way to go about it.
I promised more. So, beyond the incredibly inconvenient interface (one trivial “puzzle” requires 21 clicks to complete, since you need to cycle to the appropriate icon five times), there are also unfair sections. Suddenly, you’re supposed to guess that an object, not marked as a hotspot, is clickable. In another section, the solution to a puzzle is to JUST WAIT, with absolutely no in-game reason to assume waiting would be useful. Other times you need to repeat an action over and over again despite there being no cue that anything changes - after six times, suddenly something happens.
Structure-wise, the game is stupidly linear. Most of the time you have no clear direction, just a very vague objective. However, the game is completely linear, with objects appearing only after you complete unrelated actions in other parts of the game. Coupled with slow walking and no in-game clues, you find yourself slowly sweeping across the locations, repeatedly trying to get into places you have no logical reason to want to enter, just because you know you’re playing a game and eventually something has to give.
The game world has no internal sense. You can’t pick up certain objects because they’re “too large to fit in Oracle” but you can pick up clearly larger objects. Characters change their attitude based on what’s convenient. The rebel organization has money up the wazoo, then suddenly can’t spare a single credit. The level of acceptable treachery varies wildly. In short, the game world is a container for poorly thought out impediments to progress, rather than feeling like a real world.
I’m not done about the interface. Having “Oracle” (inventory + menu) as something that Feeble carries is remarkably annoying. Beyond the previously-mentioned section in the penal colony, it also means when you control a secondary character, you can’t save or load the game (or quit, in fact, unless you know Alt+X does it) until you walk back to where you left Feeble. This character also moves slowly, and of course there’s a game-breaking bug right in that section, causing the secondary character to get stuck in place. So you switch to the secondary character, slowly trudge across several screens, get stuck, end the game’s process, start again and again you have to walk all the way, etc. Also, moving the mouse to the side of the screen exits oracle, but also exits any close up you may be in. So, whenever you need to use items on anything in close-up, you need to remember to first “use” the target, and then bring up the inventory.
About the puzzles, the game has the standard adventure game fare of inventory fetch, inventory combinations, “dialogue puzzles” (occasionally you need to exhaust the dialogue to get somewhere), and also standalone puzzles with a dedicated interface. The latter ones are what’s considered difficult in this game - I haven’t gotten to all of them, but the ones I saw (walking the pattern and the chemistry puzzle) were not particularly difficult. In fact, I think those were the best parts of the game, since they didn’t suffer from the awkward interface (they have their own dedicated interface), there were properly clued and you had clear direction. This is more than can be said about the inventory puzzles, which are completely nonsensical at times, especially since you have absolutely no clue what some of the objects you’re carrying are. For instance, by looking at the “Space Hopper” Feeble points out that it is, in fact, a “space hopper”. The graphics don’t help much in figuring out what it is, so you have to rely on contextual clues to understand what it is. Maybe this was deliberate. I don’t know.
Technically, the graphics are incredibly dated, which doesn’t stop the game from hurling terribly-directed, ugly 3D scenes at the player repeatedly. It’s also a wonder how terrible the voice acting becomes in those scenes, whereas delivery of the lines is done much better during the rest of the game. Of course there are no subtitles during the cut-scenes, but most of the sub-titles are missing from the game as well - there’s a bug so you only see the first line for each character, sometimes there’s no text at all and often what’s being said and what’s being written are two different things. Similar, but still. If you’re hearing impaired, tough luck. Also, it’s impossible to review anything people told you or re-watch any of the cut-scenes, so I hope you’re never distracted while playing, as you can’t pause the game either.
The puzzle that made me quit the game isn’t the worst of the bunch. It’s an illogical item combination, made more difficult by having to apply the items in the right order (and if you try something out of order, there is absolutely no indication the combination is legal but too early, of course), an order which makes no more sense to me than any other order. You also have to do this combination in a specific location, and while it’s in progress there is no way to know how much further along you have to go, since until it’s complete the whole thing is referred to as “stuff” and looking at it provides no indication of what, if anything, is missing. And to top it all off, there is absolutely no reason for constructing this decoy - you want to distract someone at another locale, but you could do it just the same without the decoy - there is absolutely no logical reason why it matters whether or not he arrives to find a decoy or just nothing. I can think of several ways to fix this puzzle, but it’s clear whoever created the game just doesn’t care. They confuse obtuseness with challenge and waste of time with game length - I’m pretty sure if I continued playing I’d also find a maze (maybe even a shifting maze!), it would fit the general strategy of annoying the player and wasting his time.
This was long winded, but it’s important for me to make the message: The AG review is misleading, this game is terrible in every way. It’s not fun, it’s buggy, and it’s challenging the same way a game that randomly deletes your saves would be challenging. Stay away.
Time Played: 10-20 hours