|Buy on Steam|
It feels appropriate to end 2012 with a Wadjet Eye game, as this was the year I discovered, bought, and played nearly all of their games. Dave Gilbert has taken his Adventure Game Studio-developed titles from humble roots to full-on publisher in just six years, culminating with this year’s Blackwell Deception, Resonance, and Primordia; a tour de force in indie point and click adventure games. Wadjet Eye Games is the only publisher from whom I regularly preorder games from anymore, in an industry where they will often fall to half their price a few weeks later. But hey, what’s $10 between me and a few great games?
Primordia is their final offering of the year, and it is ambitious. As a robotic steampunk homage to games like Sam and Max, Primordia puts you in the distant future where humans are dead and a variety of robots are all that remains. Wadjet Eye Games tend to be uniquely evocative: the Blackwell series explores death, The Shivah examines religion, Resonance questions the power of technology, and Primordia scrutinizes progress and freedom. These can all be heavy topics, especially for a computer game, but Wadjet Eye always manages to make it about the characters.
For my final review of 2012, let us talk about Primordia, developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games. Monday will feature our sixth annual Game of the Year Awards, so please have a safe and happy new year.
Primordia stars a humanoid robot named Horatio and his floating homemade sidekick he calls Crispin Horatiobuilt. Crispin isn’t directly controllable, but can be requested at times to fly to some distance and retrieve an object or knock something over, his skills are limited, however, since he doesn’t have any arms. A fact he will remind you of frequently. The strength of Primordia rests almost entirely on the relationship between Horatio and Crispin, not entirely dissimilar to Rosa and Joey’s strained friendship in the Blackwell series, but this pair has constant back and forth banter worthy of a game with a much larger budget. Without Horatio and Crispin and the strong writing behind them, I don’t think I would have enjoyed Primordia much at all.
The first third of Primordia is rather subdued and small. This isn’t bad, but having known nothing about the game going in, I was slightly concerned that all of Primordia would be jammed into four locations with just our heroes to sustain the action. Of course, the scope explodes (as much as it does for a Wadjet Eye game, which admittedly isn’t ever very big, but they do a great job of masking it) and you leave the emptiness of the Dunes for the hustle and bustle of Metropol.
Puzzles in Primordia aren’t so much burdened by funky adventure game logic, but are weighed down by adventure game gameplay. As in you will spend quite a lot of time trying to combine items within your inventory and on the field, plus a bit of pixel hunting is required and repeating actions resulting in new outcomes. While I love point and click adventure games, I will never admit to being very good at them, so I had some trouble at times where I was just completely stumped. You really have to pay attention to the little datapad that Horatio carries around as it includes many of the main clues you need. Primordia is a tough game, at least for someone like me raises mostly on the “funny” adventures like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango.
Graphically, Primordia continues the proud tradition of Adventure Game Studio products looking like they were made in the 90s, but a strong art style can easily conquer a limited resolution, and once again, Wadjet Eye comes through. The brown palette is appropriate for the setting, and it’s easy to envision all the dust and rust that must cover Metropol and its surrounding areas.
I went into Primordia wanting to love it, but came out slightly disappointed. I usually played these games in a few sittings, but was constantly stymied by the puzzles, and my reluctance to turn to the internet for help made it take longer than usual. This loss of momentum hurt my experience with Primordia, and while there’s a very strong game here with some excellent writing, it can be frustrating at times.