Earlier in the year, I introduced you to the charming, trash-covered planet known as Deponia, along with its anti-hero Rufus and strangely named maiden-in-distress Goal. What I didn’t mention (I think–I haven’t read over that review to be honest) is that Deponia was the first installment in a planned trilogy of point-and-click adventure games. That, of course, would make Chaos on Deponia the second part of the trilogy–and it shows. Chaos on Deponia suffers from severe middle-child syndrome. As the central part of a trilogy, the plot in Chaos has no real beginning or end, and winds up floundering around, seemingly unsure as to where to head next. Additionally, there’s been essentially no change whatsoever since its predecessor, resulting in Chaos inheriting many of the issues that plagued Deponia.
Deponia ended just when the story started getting interesting, which is where Chaos on Deponia picks up the plot–but not before a tutorial eerily similar to that from the series’ first installment, as comically pointed out by Rufus. The first proper sequence sees Rufus in the house of the Doc in order to borrow a hammer. As Doc reassures his wife that Rufus has changed and isn’t the same clumsy, asocial, self-centered wanker from the first game, Rufus categorically wastes their water, kills their pet, and sets the house on fire, before grabbing the hammer and sneaking out of the house. This scene is one of the most brilliantly scripted, laugh-out-loud opening moments of any video game, making the procedural decline as Chaos progresses extremely disappointing.
Chaos on Deponia maintains its funnybone from start to finish, thanks the game’s LucasArts-esque refusal to take itself too seriously. It is never afraid to break the fourth wall–Rufus constantly makes jokes referencing Chaos‘ adventure clichés. This, however, is pretty much the only positive thing going for Chaos, as the plot feels intentionally bloated in order to fill out the entire episode. Indeed, the game’s story itself is strangely similar to that of Deponia–Rufus has yet again damaged Goal’s memory implants and needs to explore a new city hub in order to piece her back together.
This time, rather than just damaging her implants, Rufus has split Goal’s personality up into Baby Goal, Lady Goal, and Spunky Goal. It’s a creative concept, and, like virtually everything else in this crazy game, opens the door to a three whole worlds of comedy potential. It can, however, get frustrating having to repeat the same dialogue options three times, even if each time you get a hilarious response from a different Goal.
While the characters carried over from Deponia are still impressive, the newcomers to Chaos all seem cheap and easily disposable, as though they were all included for the sole purpose of allowing individual jokes. They’re well-crafted enough, and the (usually slapstick) humour they provide is more than welcome, but I’m just not sure that they bring enough to the table to warrant total praise. Cletus, the Elysian antagonist acting as the primary thorn in Rufus’ side, only shows up for the first few minutes and last few minutes of this second installment–disappointing, considering that he’s probably the most interesting character in the series.
The main city that makes up the central world hub for the majority of Chaos on Deponia is absolutely huge, to the point of daunting to all but the most seasoned adventurer.The Floating Black Market, as it’s known, is made up of a number of different screens, jam-packed with colours and objects–and, as the name suggests, there are essentially no rules on the floating city and everything is available for purchase if you know where to go. The sheer scale of the city, however, adds to the confusing nature of the puzzles.
That’s one significant issue that seems to have been carried on from Deponia. Even moreso than its predecessor, the puzzles in Chaos are convoluted and often intertwined with one another–when they can stretch across multiple screens, this could lead to you becoming frustrated and ending up either interacting with objects with no thought for the consequences or simply consulting a walkthrough. Oh, and they’re difficult. The cluttered nature of the Floating Black Market lends itself perfectly to those sorts of puzzles you find in adventure games that tiptoe the line between logical and stupid–the sort that, upon working out the solution, you can’t help but feel that the developers have just made a joke at your expense, even if the solution winds up making perfect sense.
Admittedly, while Chaos hasn’t improved on the faults in its predecessor, it certainly also hasn’t neglected to include all those things I loved about Deponia. There’s seldom a line of spoken text in Chaos whose primary purpose isn’t to deliver a joke. For a game that’s translated from German to English, the comedy value of the dialogue comes across surprisingly well. That said, Chaos is a very dialogue-heavy game–comedy adventure games have always relied on one-liners and witty gags, but I can’t shrug the feeling that less might have been more, had the writers been brave enough to prune the script somewhat. Additionally, there were a couple of times I noticed that the subtitles weren’t properly translated, for example in one instance “and” was spelt “anh”, but I guess the only effect it has is earning a sly smile.
I praised the crap out of Deponia‘s aesthetics last time around, and Chaos has managed to climb one more rung up the beautiful ladder. Every second of Chaos on Deponia is a feast for your eyeballs and eardrums. Environments are colourful without coming across as overly cluttered and character models are perfectly drawn, often communicating more about the character than their actual dialogue. Audio design is brilliant as ever: “Huzzah! All over again!”–yes, the songs are back, and with more forced rhymes than ever.
Chaos on Deponia never does shake that middle-child syndrome. Without a distinct beginning or end to hold itself up on, Chaos emits feelings of directionless floundering, which isn’t aided by the nowhere plot. Adventure aficionados, however, will greatly appreciate the queer brand of logic and humour characteristic of the genre. To them, Chaos on Deponia might very well be one of the best point-and-click releases in decades. And it is good. I might even go so far as to say that it’s very good. There’s just too much missing–too much that hasn’t been improved on since Deponia. That said, I’m still waiting with baited breath for the third part of the trilogy and hoping for a return to winning ways. For heroes gather momentum on the brink of armageddon–enthralled by the squall they’ll put balls to the wall.
Huzzah! Put balls to the wall.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Chaos on Deponia by Daedalic Entertainment.