If there’s one genre that has been modified and bastardised almost beyond recognition since its golden age, it’s that of adventure games. No longer are we in the early 90s, when Sierra On-Line and LucasArts dominated the arena – with the turn of the century, the pure adventure game all but disappeared from store shelves. This year, however, we’ve seen a bit of a resurgence of the classic genre, and this resurgence continues its assault on the video game market with Deponia.
You really can’t get purer point-and-click than Deponia. The (admittedly hilarious) tutorial will make you blindingly aware of this. You point, you click, you point again and you click again. This isn’t a criticism, by any means, I just wouldn’t want anyone to jump into Deponia without realising that this is actually all you do. After one of the greatest theme songs in the history of video games, you play as Rufus, a self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic dick of a man who lives in his ex-girlfriend’s house in the town of Kuvaq, founded in the centre of a trash heap.
Unsurprisingly, Rufus has attempted time and time again to escape to the mystical, utopian lands beyond the clouds. Time and time again, he has failed. This time, however, Rufus makes it to the elusive Elysian transport vehicle, where he meets the beautiful Goal. In order to drive the story forward, Goal and Rufus both fall back to Kuvaq, where the latter makes it his goal (pardon the crude pun) to awaken Goal from her slumber and claim her for his own.
But no one believes Rufus when he tells them that he rescued Goal’s life on an Elysian monorail-thing (you’ll see what I mean), so Rufus has to brew a cup of “really strong coffee” to wake Goal. Coffee, however, has not been drunk for centuries, and so Rufus goes searching for energy-rich water and coffee powder made from gunpowder and chilli peppers. Yum.
Deponia comes in segments. The first segment, in which Rufus is attempting to get prepared to shoot off into the heavens, is absolutely fantastic. The pacing is perfect, the jokes are hilarious, and the puzzles are convoluted and hard – just how they should be in a classic adventure game. The section set in the town of Kuvaq, however, is slow and too difficult, even if the humour is still there. At one point, walking across a single screen took 30 seconds. I timed it. Never have I appreciated games like Yesterday more. Thankfully, it does pick up again towards the end of the game, only to end when it starts getting good.
But I really can’t talk about Deponia without talking about the gorgeous way it’s presented. We’d all like to think that it would have been as well received without the amount of polish that has been applied, but that’s simply not true. If it wasn’t for the colourful, hand-painted backgrounds, complete voice acting to rival triple-A games, and top-notch soundtrack, Deponia might have been overlooked as a quality, yet behind-the-times adventure game. Luckily, however, it has all of those things. Mixed together with its fantastically quirky, slapstick-based sense of humour that fits perfectly with the genre, and the bleak presentation of the characters and the world, Deponia can proudly, and rightly, call itself one of the best adventure games of the last ten years.
To be fair, Deponia was originally written in German, so every now and then there are grammatical errors in the subtitles, or phrases that don’t quite make sense after direct German to English translation. The animation can get choppy, especially in the cutscenes. Some of the story elements, which I’m not going to reveal to avoid spoiling anything, seem to be included as MacGuffins, which might add a feeling of cheapness, but this will hopefully get resolved with the second and third games of the trilogy. The puzzles do get very, very hard, past simply being logical and to the point where even an experienced adventure gamer such as myself was forced to resort to consulting a walkthrough.
By no means is Deponia perfect. It’s glitchy, poorly paced, and in some parts not all that well localised. And yet I still find myself drawn to the trash heap. It’s a game that can ween a chuckle out of the most thick-skinned gamer. It might not be a revelation, but any fan of classic adventure games would feel right at home among the inhabitants of Kuvaq. Even if you’re not well-versed in the genre, however, I would still recommend you play Deponia using a walkthrough every fifteen seconds, if it was the alternative to not playing it at all.
Select Start Media was provided with a copy of Deponia by Daedalic Entertainment.