Armikrog is weird. It has an unusual claymation style that only a few games– principally Neverhood — were able to pull off, along with being an old school point-and-click adventure on an alien planet. This premised seemed to convince people that it was compelling enough to fund, and was successfully funded on Kickstarter all the way back in 2013.
While the game has been out on PC for nearly a year, the promised console versions are finally here — how do they hold up? While the game’s point and click control can be very cumbersome on a controller and a few graphical flaws can dampen the experience (specifically on PS4), I still found myself enjoying Tommynaut and Beak-Beak’s adventures for the wacky and fun experience that it was.
The biggest thing that stands out about Armikrog is its art style. While it was done digitally, the game does take heavy inspiration from claymation, and it was done spectacularly. Personally, I am a big fan of Aardman’s films and the claymation style in general, so this game was a treat to look at. Both characters and rooms are distinctly designed, leaving them all very memorable. The game is also very colorful, and the its varied environments really take advantage of the graphical style and make something distinct and unique.
The occasional graphical glitch would suck me out of the experience though, and some rooms seemed to be rendered in a lower resolution than others, which blurred the game’s otherwise amazing art style.
Armikrog’s story, while not outstanding, is still a very fun romp to go through. The premise is that Tommynaut and Beak-Beak’s planet Ixen is dying, so they go out on a quest to the planet Spiro 5 in order to save their planet. Instead, they crash land and end up in a mysterious fortress called Armikrog. As they go through the fortress, they find out what happened there, and try to find a way to escape and save their planet.
Micheal J. Nelson and Rob Paulsen do great as Tommynaut and Beak-Beak, respectively, delivering the games humorous dialogue well. Their lighthearted commentary as the adventure unfolded kept me playing. The game’s premise is introduced through a funky song when the player boots up the game, a feature that made me feel like a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon.
Being a point-and-click adventure on consoles, Armikrog had the hard task of translating the mouse and keyboard controls to a regular game controller. Sadly, the results are mixed. Tommynaut and his dog Beak-Beak cannot be controlled with the control stick, and instead can only move when the player clicks with the cursor which is controlled by the left control stick.
While this works on PC, as the player can quickly move and press the desired location, it is more cumbersome with a controller. Simply moving becomes complicated as the cursor moves very slow and doesn’t always register. This is frustrating when the player is trying to go through doors, and it will not always activate; thus, Tommynaut will just stand in his current location, or walk into a wall.
While I can not speak for the Xbox One and Wii U versions, on the PS4, the Dualshock 4’s touchpad can be used to control the cursor. While this is a nice feature, it still does not match the quality of a mouse, or even a laptop touch pad. This is most prevalent in the puzzle to get into the second tower of the game. The puzzle requires the players to line three blocks up in the right order on a circular board — a task impossibly cumbersome given the games’ controls.
They do not respond half of the time, and when the do it becomes a challenge to turn the wheel and put the piece in the right place. This puzzle, which should be easily solved in a minute or two, took me ten minutes do because of the poor controls. This puzzle is repeated three times, and each time the puzzle gets more complicated, making it an even bigger slog to get through.
Overall, the PS4 version of Armikrog controls poorly. Some of the problems could have been offset by letting the player control Tommynaut’s movement with the left control stick, while controlling the cursor with the right one. The game would have been much more fun if the control scheme was better utilized, and it is sad to see such a basic flaw hurt the game so much.
While most puzzles consists of either finding levers or pushing buttons in the right order with a combination of both Tommynaut and Beak-Beak’s skills, there are a few more creative ones spread throughout. Without spoiling, many of the game’s puzzles are cleverly hidden in a way that still seems fair, even though they are hidden well. While it is still easiest to go through a game like Armikrog with a guide, those will a keen eyesight and clever puzzle solving skills will find this game a joy to play through blindly. The game is fairly short, averaging about five hours, but that length also heavily relies on how well the player knows the puzzles or whether or not they are using a guide.
Within my playthrough of Armikrog, I experienced a handful of glitches. The game sometimes had trouble loading new rooms, forcing a restart — one time I was kicked back to the main menu for seemingly no reason. Luckily the game auto-saves in every room, so these glitches don’t affect progression much, but they do interrupt the flow of the game. In addition, voices would occasionally not activate, even though subtitles appeared on screen. While glitches such as these can be patched out in the future, it is a shame to see them mar this game’s experience at launch.
Playing Armikrog on PS4 was a very interesting experience. Its graphics, story, and puzzles were all very memorable, but playing on PS4 was not the best way to experience this game. Some of the graphics looked low-res at points, and most of the gameplay just does not work well on their controller, making Armikrog a more frustrating experience than it should have been. Fans of this genre should definitely play it, as it is a new and unique entry in a malnourished genre. However, if you choose to do so on the PS4, you should be aware of the poorly executed controls before going in.