Sunday, December 13, 2009

Samorost




I won! As one of the first three to send Lewie Procter a meesage I got a free copy of  Samorost 2. Samorost 2 is the sequel to the original game Samorost that can be played for free at the creators website. Amanita Design, the creators of the game, are currently creating a lot of fuzz with their new game Machinarium so I was curious about this game. I quickly retrieved my steam gift and while the sequel was downloading I went ahead and played through the the original game.

Samorost 1 & 2 are classic point and click adventure games. In the first game you're following a cute little fella (see screenshot) trying to save his planet from being crushed by an astroid. The second game has you chasing aliens who kidnapped his dog! There's evil and then there's kidnapping a dog. So I happily went out to help our protagonist save his dog from the clutches of the evil, blue men.

The first thing that drew my attention is the beautifully drawn art. Every scene is filled with lovely details. Birds are flying around and will move around if you click on them. Flowers are moving if you hover over them. There's a lot of things to see in every scene. Best of all, this won't torture your graphics card, it's all 2D in a preset resolution. These games should be playable by anyone who bought a PC this decade.

There are no voices to be heard. Instead everything is visually shown. If a man wants you to fetch his pipe for him then you see him thinking of pipe. It's cleverly done and probably makes translations easier for the developers.

The puzzles are of course what it's all about in an adventure and here they are often inventive. For example you have to wake a captain of a taxi. You find a cabinet with a kettle, a tap and a few bottles. Now if you take a closer look one of the bottles has "coffee" on it. Put the coffee in the kettle, open the tap and there: cold coffee. Next you put the kettle on the fire and you give it to the captain. Problem solved!

Not all puzzles are fun however. This game has the same problem some of the old adventures had: pixel hunting. At times you'll have to scan the entire screen with your mouse cursor just to find those five pixels on the screen that you can interact with. After being stuck for fifteen minutes on one of these puzzles I checked a walkthrough and felt that I would never have gotten that. Another annoyance are the timing based puzzles. You have to click A first and then B exactly half a second later. It's not clear to the user that he is doing something wrong. I click A and then I click B and nothing happens. I'll try that again once but after that I'll try out other solutions and be stuck because there are none. If I want to play a timing based game I'll go and find me a platform game, thank you. These timing puzzles get even worse. You have to spend five minutes getting an item to continue with a second puzzle. If you fail the timings in the second puzzle you have to spend another five minutes getting the first item again. This could have been handled much better. Don't punish your players if they fail to get a puzzle.

Samorost and Samorost 2 are short games so they're great to play in between two big budget gaming sessions. The game design, graphics and most puzzles make it well worth playing for everyone who likes adventure games. And the first game is free so there's no excuse not to play it. Samorost 2 can be downloaded through steam and is up for €2 for the entire week.

Trailer for Amanita Designs new game Machinarium:

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