It’s probably best to give up all concepts of regular reality before beginning to play Armikrog. This game does not simply have a few weird features or strange characters, it lives and breathes the word ‘zany’. From strange fleshy, giant insects, who have stylised themselves into bug incarnations of Presidents of the United States, to your loyal talking dog-thing companion, Beak-Beak, and the strange squishy octopus creatures that you use to travel between storeys of the game’s towers, the world of Armikrog is definitely the zaniest I have ever experienced. Having never played The Neverhood, to which Armikrog is a spiritual successor, I was not at all prepared for this game’s weird sense of humour. Although my first time playing was a bit confronting, I found myself quickly growing fond of Armikrog.
This fondness began with the game’s opening cinematic, which feels crash-bang straight out of the ‘90s. The awesome soundscape of Armikrog begins in the first few seconds of the game, when what can only be described as the game’s ‘theme tune’ begins belting out of your speakers. Succinctly explaining the game’s premise in about two minutes with exceptional style and character, it’s the best opening of a point-and-click that I have ever experienced. Seriously. Check it out. It’s amazingly catchy:
After this energised opening, you are thrust straight into a familiar point-and-click scenario, following the adventures of space explorer Tommynaut as he searches the unfamiliar planet on which his ship has crash-landed. The logic of the puzzles in Armikrog varies widely. For most of the game, I found myself quite comfortably able to figure out what I needed to do, even if doing it was really hard. However, there were 2 or 3 puzzles in the game that made me feel like my brain was oozing out of my ears in pure confusion. I just could not ‘get’ the logic behind some of the puzzles, and when you are playing a game as zany in theme as Armikrog, if you cannot see the logic in one of its puzzles after straining to see it for ten minutes, you start to wonder whether or not you are going crazy, or whether or not there was ever any logic intended in the puzzle to begin with. On these occasions, my first instinct was to just try doing everything, and when THAT failed too I would bug whichever of my housemates was home to try and get a second opinion on the problem, or resort to a walkthrough if no-one was home. These occasions did make the gameplay feel somewhat stilted, but they were few and far between. Overall, Armikrog strongly encourages thinking outside of the box, as any well-designed point-and-click will do, granting a strong feeling of accomplishment once you manage to solve its puzzles.
Armikrog really fulfils its purpose as a ‘spiritual successor’ to 1996’s The Neverhood, because it totally lacks any features that would give it away as a game of the Internet age. Some players might deplore this, but I commend it. It was really refreshing to play something that has zero online connectivity options, and features a menu like you would expect to see when booting up a ‘90s game. Armikrog’s plot, which is explained so concisely in the game’s opening, is surprisingly compelling, and despite the minimal voicework that features throughout the game, I found myself becoming noticeably attached to Beak-Beak and Tommynaut as I progressed. This likely has less to do with the voicework and more to do with the excellent visuals. Armikrog was made using stop-motion clay animation, and therefore features a host of painstakingly crafted environments, objects, and characters. The way that Tommynaut and Beak-Beak are brought to life is characterful and evocative. As far as visuals go, this game is a 10/10.
Unfortunately, Armikrog was not as thoroughly bug-tested before release as perhaps it should have been. I am fairly forgiving when it comes to bugs in newly released games – so long as they aren’t game breaking. However, the bugs that I experienced in Armikrog made solving some of its puzzles really confusing. For instance, in one scene I could tell that I was meant to use Beak-Beak to stand on a button in order to open a door while Tommynaut went through the door. This seemed like the obvious thing to do, but when Beak-Beak did not jump on the button after I instructed him to several times, I found myself second-guessing – assuming that I was doing the wrong thing in game. In actuality, this was one of the game’s early bugs, and experiencing it left me a little frustrated at the way it had interfered with gameplay. Luckily, the team at Pencil Test Studios have been vigilant and responsive in their attempts to roll out updates to fix these bugs as quickly as possible.
Armikrog is quite a short game, taking only a handful of hours to complete, and as a point-and-click, re-playability is quite limited. However, the beautifully constructed stop-motion environments, likable characters, and mind-bending puzzles make playing Armikrog a worthy undertaking – if a brief one. Within its genre, Armikrog stands out as an excellent title. Unfortunately, point-and-clicks are a niche genre, and the game’s way left-of-centre sense of humour means that Armikrog may not be for everyone. However, anyone who enjoys the ‘British humour’ found in titles like The Mighty Boosh or Monty Python, or has a taste for the absurd, will likely enjoy Armikrog.