Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals (PC)
Developer: White Birds Productions
Publisher: Got Game Entertainment
Release Date: 09/20/2008
I’m not really an adventure/point-and-click gamer. My experience with these types of games lately have been limited to flash games, where I can simply hit the TAB key and find the clue I’m looking for. I mean, I’ve done the Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion games back in the day, but once things got more serious, and games like Myst turned up, I simply shook my head in confusion/frustration and walked away. So with that in mind, believe me when I say that Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals is something impressive.
How did I end up reviewing an adventure game when I’m much more of a hack-n-slash gamer? Well, to be honest, I’m a terrible comic book geek, so when Lucard said there’s a game based on the European equivalent of Watchmen, I signed up immediately. The game is inspired by a trilogy of graphic novels by writer and artist Enki Bilal. In fact, Bilal worked with White Birds Productions throughout the entire process. (For more background information, check out the interview with Michel Bams, Co-Founder of White Birds Productions here.)
Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals takes place in a dystopian future Paris. The city is run by a Dictator/Prophet named Choublanc, flying cars zip past your dirty windows, and, oh yeah, there’s a giant stone pyramid floating over the city.
The pyramid is the start of the little differences that really showcase the world that Enki Balil has created and that has been translated so wonderfully by the White Birds crew. The whole world is peppered with almost surreal accents that set it apart from your typical sci-fi fare. Egyptian gods, bizarre talking mole/dog monsters working for the police, a giant space jellyfish that’s slowly eating a building; these are but a few of the unique bits and pieces that really set the game apart.
In addition, White Birds Productions have done a simply amazing job building the world. Each “room” is a full 360 degree panorama, with millions of little details and accents. While most city games suffer from the brown/gray sameness issue, Nikopol manages to pull off the dirt and grime of a major, decaying city, while simultaneously declaring its uniqueness and individuality. It really is a masterwork.
If that weren’t enough, the animations are fluid, the characters well defined, and the cutscenes even bring out a creative bit of style. In homage to the graphic novel origins, the cutscenes are done with interwoven comic book style panel shots. Rather than the same old static frames with moving pictures within, the frames become part of the scene itself, moving and directing your attention, making it, again, more a piece of art than a game.
In regards to sound, there’s not a lot to be said, but in a good way. The voice acting is very well done. The background music is moody and complimentary to the scene, and lends a sometimes 80s synth sci-fi quality to the experience. In fact, the more I think about the music, the more I realize I didn’t notice it so much as feel it. It becomes part of the landscape, seamlessly merging with your surroundings, making itself part of the environment.
The story of Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals revolves around a young artist named Alcide Nikopol who gets swept up in conspiracy and the inner workings of the city against his will. It’s a well-crafted tale that starts simply and drags you along quite quickly as you go. By the end of the game I found myself wanting more (two more games are planned to finish the trilogy) and desperately searching for a copy of the graphic novel (Several hundred dollars on ebay for a first printing of the original French version.).
What impressed me the most with the story was how well you get to know Nikopol himself. Given that most of the speaking he does is an internal dialogue, Nikopol quickly becomes a likable and fleshed-out character. He’ll even sarcastically chide himself when he dies, which can happen quite frequently.
Thankfully, the frequentness of death can be a useful learning tool to guide you towards a solution. When death is nearby, you’ve got time to go the right way, but if you go the wrong way, you’ll die and start again. Almost like death is gently guiding you on the right path.
That’s not to say that Nikopol is easy, though. The game does a good job balancing challenge and hints, but sometimes I had to put the game down for a while, and let my mind rest before getting through of the puzzles or challenges. More often than not, the answer was literally under my nose and play would resume as normal. By and large, though, the puzzles are clever and original, and altogether enjoyable. There’s a nice mental pat on the back feeling you get for a job well done afterwards, which to me, is the sign of a good adventure game. Challenging, but not impossible.
All in all, Nikopol is a quite solid and enjoyable gaming experience. It’s not the longest game in the world, but with an asking price of $30 it’s well worth the investment. Time and money well spent that will leave you anxiously awaiting the sequels.
Story / Modes: Great
Control / Gameplay: Great
Balance: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous Factor: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
A fantastic, immersive, and occasionally surreal adventure game, Nikopol is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre, and completely capable of converting the rest of us.