Review: Primordia (PC)

Genre: Adventure
Developer: Wormwood Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Release Date: 12/5/12

I am excited about the resurgence of the Point and Click adventure genre.  The genre seemed to have died off at the end of the 1990’s and was apparently no longer relevant in PC gaming, but thanks to a strong catalog of games and several studious, both big company and independent, this has allowed the light to be shined upon them once again.  Great games like the new Sam and Max, Machinarium and Back to the Future have reignited interested in the long dormant genre.  Now, we have a new entry in Primordia, which is brought to us by the indie company Wormwood Studios.

Primordia fits in well and even surpasses many of the other games in the genre that have come out in the past decade.  Its dark atmosphere, brain picking challenge and retro graphical style allow it to be one of the standalone titles this year to steal my attention away from many of the great triple A titles that have come out.

The story of Primordia is set in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind is gone and robots are running free in their own society.  We follow the adventures of Horatio and his flying sidekick, Crispin, who live in a crashed shipped out in the middle of nowhere.  Their ship is attacked, their power supply is stolen and they try their best to pursue and retrieve their property.  Their journey leads them to follow the thief into the giant city of Metropol, which is full of corruption and broken expectations.  The plot sounds like it could make a good sci-fi movie or a novel at that.  The plot has some really good twists and multiple endings, which the majority of point and click adventure games don’t offer.

The plot progression for Primordia is rather good, as it moves along at a decent pace.  Character development is pretty balanced, in that you start to see growth in each character while still retaining their personalities.  Horatio is a pretty much a laid back loner who at the same time has no problem helping others out.  He also has a past that he is completely unaware of, but comes across several bots who know of him already.  This leads into a nice little trip trying to figure out your lost past while at the same time trying to succeed at your mission.

One of the things that makes Primordia‘s story so great is the supporting cast of characters that you come across in your travels. Aside from Horatio’s wise cracking sidekick, Crispin, you also meet a droid that spouts the teachings of Man, a street vending bot that knows more than he lets on and a justice driven android who goes to the extreme.  Each of them has well a put together and detailed back story that allow the world of Primordia to become that much deeper and bleaker the more you learn.  Some of these back stories also help connect the dots of Horatio’s mysterious past.

Of course the world of Primordia becomes that much bleaker thanks in part to a dark atmospheric musical score.  The music in several areas captures the solitude of living in the desert when you first start your adventure.  The style changes up to a more hopeless and, at times, desperate sounding score as you travel around the city of Metropol.

Aside from the music, the only other thing in the audio department is the voice acting, which is really impressive.  At times I thought to myself that they must have hired some people from the Voice Actors Guild.  What helps the voice acting so much is the well written dialogue, as the conversations just flow so easily together.  The conversations between Horatio and his sidekick Crispin actually sound like legitimate conversations.  The rest of the cast has some depth as well, and every one of them stands out with a unique personality.

Primordia‘s graphics are aesthetically pleasing to me, because I was a fan of the stylized pixel art of some of the Sierra and Lucas Arts games that used it years ago.  While the resolution is quite small (it doesn’t go above 1280×800 in window mode) the detail of every sprite is immaculate.  Character and NPC sprites are quite detailed for their small size, and the background of each scene is well drawn.

The only problem with this style of graphics, however, is the lack of fluid animation, which is pretty limited.  Other problems that exist, like the minor sprite tearing when using graphic enhancers like anti-aliasing and sprite smoothing occur with objects in the background.  Sometimes these can be a bit distracting, since it can cause certain sprites to have a highlighted outlining.  Thankfully this doesn’t happen to frequently and it doesn’t mess with the game.

So being that Primordia is a point and click game, that’s pretty much the gist of the gameplay. You wave the mouse around and click on objects, and hope for either an action or a sarcastic comment from Crispin. The genius of these types of games involves using your brain for solving puzzles, interacting with the environment, and using tools in ways you never thought of. To be truly honest, I haven’t played a game that had puzzles this hard in years.  Some of the tool combinations and dialogue puzzles had me guessing and twisting my brain for long periods of time.

What’s more impressive is that, with certain puzzles, there’s more than one way to solving some them.  There’s also more than one type of outcome as well, depending upon the action you have chosen.  There is a strong possibility for a negative outcome for your actions, and it could affect the ending of the game.  In fact, discovering that there are multiple endings in Primordia is what surprised me the most.  Usually a game like this is just a straightforward one time and you’re done deal.  That changes things, as you will start a second and third play through to try and secure a better ending or just beat your personal time.

I have to say that this is probably one of the best games of this genre that I have played since Grim Fandango and Sam and Max Hit the Road.  It does so many things right and pushes the envelope in storytelling and character connection.  The adventure may be a short one, but it’s one that will have you coming back a number of times.

The Scores
Story: Classic
Graphics: Great
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Great
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Very Good

Short Attention Span Summary
I really don’t know how else to put this, but play Primordia. With the resurgence of Point and Click Adventure games comes a lot of progression in the genre, and that forces growth. That’s something that, unfortunately, didn’t happen in the 1990’s and it caused the genre to become stale, and people shined away from it. Primordia is definitely a brand new and exciting experience, and I highly recommended it to anyone that is already a fan of the genre or looking to try something new.



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