Developer: Wormwood Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
While adventure games have made a major comeback in recent years, most are utilising modern graphics and design techniques, which is absolutely fine, but I have still not found a modern adventure game that I have enjoyed as much as the Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry or King’s Quest series – that is, until now. I have been fortunate enough to review Wadjet Eye Games and Wormwood Studios’ newest title, Primordia, which not only utilises early 90’s graphics (very similar to LucasArts and Sierra adventure titles) but also contains a very polished and entertaining story, its quality on par with classic adventure games.
Primordia is set in what’s left of Earth after a nuclear apocalypse, with mankind now extinct. Horatio, a sentient robot, is repairing the damaged ship he resides in with the assistance of his floating companion Crispin (a robot Horatio built himself). Upon completing the repairs Horatio enters the engineering bay, where the wall of the ship is being breached by a plasma cutter. A large, menacing droid enters the ship, absconding with Horatio’s power supply. With only a few days of backup power left, our two robotic heroes must venture across the wastes, in search of power and the villainous droid who stole their power supply.
Primordia oozes charm, and the dialogue is particularly entertaining, with both characters demonstrating several endearing personality traits as well as having some hysterical jokes. I also particularly enjoyed the in-game religion devoted to man, who the robot race reveres as gods, calling man the all-creators.
Gameplay is typical of adventure games, with the player being able to see both Horatio and Crispin on screen at once, and being able to click on parts of the screen to walk, and items on screen to interact with them. The puzzles range from simple fetch quests to complex puzzles, and I must say, it’s been a long time since an adventure game challenged me the way Primordia has, and it’s nice to feel that pleasant sensation of completing a difficult puzzle with nothing but your brain.
There is also a feeling of exploration, due to the multiple locations you can travel to at any instant of the game as well as the wonderfully bleak environment. I don’t think scouring through trash has ever been an enjoyable experience in a game, but the dialogue between Crispin and Horatio – as well as the nature of the puzzles in Primordia – made solving one of the early puzzles in a trash heap a fun and rewarding experience. While other adventures can leave you stuck without knowing what to do, talking to Crispin at any given time usually relates to the quest at hand, and there is also an in-game journal which helps players progress through the game without difficulty.
Another area in which Primordia excels is the story pacing. Unlike older adventure games like ‘The Curse of Monkey Island’ the story is constant and well-paced, there are no large gaps without some sort of story event, which is a refreshing change compared to the usual formula of “story, puzzles, puzzles, puzzles, story, end of chapter”.
Whilst certainly not state of the art in terms of graphics, Primordia is still very much a beautiful game. Dark, bleak, and full of pixels and sprites, Primordia still proves that visual style still trumps graphical prowess. There’s not much more to say about an adventure game’s graphics as long as it has good visual design, well-illustrated characters, and no graphical glitches or issues. Primordia has no graphical bugs or issues, and its visual design is perfect in context to its atmosphere.
The sound in Primordia is fantastic. It echoes its influences, visual design and the bleak atmosphere of the game’s story and environment. Clever use of sound effects in the game’s musical score adds to the feeling of isolation and the state of disrepair in the world. I was very impressed by one part of the soundtrack’s use of tubular bells and raindrops, it combined with layers of synthesizers to create a beautifully haunting atmosphere. The voice acting achieves its goals, and while it might not be mind-blowing, it is more than adequate considering the game is solely populated by machines and robots.
I will say though, that despite being robots, Horatio and Crispin are full of character, and a large part of that credit belongs to the voice actors portraying them. Another thing that impressed me is there is a full commentary track available through the options menu, where the designers, voice actors and soundtrack composers talk to you at various points in the game, and inform you of what their goals were at that point in the game. Sometimes there are even hilarious bloopers, though look out kiddies, there is a little swearing on the blooper tracks!
- Excellent visual design
- Clever and rewarding puzzles
- Classic elements with a unique modern identity
- Lack of graphical options, some of the menus are rather pixelated
Primordia may not be for everyone, as it is both an adventure game, as well as a science-fiction game. Gamers who have a penchant for puzzles, enjoyable writing and quirky characters should definitely check it out, as well as anyone who has played an adventure game and enjoyed it. I look forward to the next release from Wormwood Studios, as Primordia truly impressed me with its visuals, clever puzzles and likable characters.