I’ve always been a big fan of point-and-click adventure games, however, it can be hard to find ones that provide an enjoyable experience whilst avoiding nonsensical or frustrating puzzles. Unfortunately Deponia is no exception to this rule and, whilst well presented, left me feeling it was a Monkey Island wannabe that missed the mark.
Leave your common sense at the door and meet Rufus; a lovable, self-absorbed layabout who dreams of escaping Deponia to take his rightful place among the rich and powerful. Styled like Guybrush Threepwood, Rufus approaches every situation with a witty retort or whimsical expression at the ready. Unfortunately, whilst amusing at times, most of his jokes suffer from obvious setups and poor execution. The voice acting in the game is perfect, however the lines are poorly scripted and often feel forced.
Graphically, Deponia looks amazing. The cartoon style partners perfectly with exaggerated and over-dramatized actions; giving the game a special sort of charm. Each area is drawn in meticulous detail can make it hard discern the difference between usable and non-usable objects at times. Luckily holding space bar highlights those you can interact with ensuring your experience never devolves into dragging the pointer around the screen looking for an icon change.
This beautiful presentation is only slightly marred by a poor frame rate and an inconsistent focus quirk. What I mean by “focus quirk” is that Rufus always looks slightly out of focus. Most of the time you’ll hardly notice however, occasionally, it’s blaringly obvious.
The gameplay in Deponia is pretty standard point and click fare. You wander around levels talking to people and collecting items to combine in whacky, and often stupid, ways. The controls are simple, unique and work well. There are even a bunch of shortcuts such as double clicking a travel arrow to instantly go to that area (instead of waiting while Rufas slowly meanders over) to keep it from becoming tedious. Deponia also keeps things fresh by mixing in a few puzzle mini games. One minute you’ll be creating glow in the dark fairy floss and the next you’ll be thrust into a jigsaw puzzle mini game. The puzzles are fun and break up the game quite nicely.
As you wander the junk yards you can’t help but notice that Deponia has an amazingly suitable and catchy OST. Percussion sections utilise junk sounds like crashes and twangs which portray a light hearted feel and suit the environment perfectly. Voice acting is of an equally high standard although the way they over-explain everything can make the conversations feels scripted and labrorious.
My biggest gripe with Deponia is the way it forces you to achieve goals. Most situations are resolved using nonsensical methods such attaching chewing gum to a staircase embellishment to create a slingshot. More often than not interacting with objects or listening to dialogue will reveal hints about what you should be trying, however, hints should be things you need when you’re stuck; not things that are essential to figuring out what the game wants you to do.
Maybe it’s my age showing but I feel these are the same gripes we had with games like Grim Fandango or Sam & Max Hit the Road. Developers should have learnt from these mistakes and moved on by now right? I don’t mind stupid humour but, when it starts interfering with gameplay, that’s when I start to lose interest.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment was also hindered by a few software issues. On PC I came across a bug preventing me from completing a mine cart puzzle… actually I was able to complete the puzzle and watch the cut-scene; the problem was the game then took me back to the point before the puzzle. After replaying the game from the start with the same result I decided to try it on Mac but, sadly, my experience there was worse. Sometimes actions wouldn’t advance the script, occasionally items would disappear from my inventory, other times I’d get caught in dialogue loops where I couldn’t exit a conversation… it was lucky I’d completed it on PC so I knew where the game was bugging out on me. I can’t imagine how it it would be for those playing it the first time.
I have no doubt that Deadalic will resolve these problems and issue a patch; however, at the time of this review, they were still outstanding and I’d feel remiss if I neglected to mention them.
In conclusion Deponia is a well presented title that falls short of its potential. Problem resolution is convoluted, the script is average, and the game was very short. There are very few likeable characters or noteworthy puzzles making for an easily forgettable experience. It’s a good game if you like point and click adventures but had too many problems to be up there with the best.