By Marty Mulrooney
Deponia is the latest point-and-click adventure game from German developers Daedalic Entertainment, the creators of Edna & Harvey, The Whispered World and A New Beginning. The player takes control of Rufus, a troublesome young man who dreams of one day leaving the trash-covered planet of Deponia where he lives. Featuring detailed hand-drawn graphics in widescreen format, Brighton-based publisher Lace Mamba Global released the retail version of Deponia in the UK on the 29th June 2012.
Deponia begins with an unnecessary tutorial that doesn’t do a very good job of setting the scene at all – point-and-click adventures have always been pretty self-explanatory and this game is no exception. Funnily enough, our hero Rufus seems to agree too. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long and the opening cutscene that follows is absolutely superb. A guitar-strumming man with a homemade (trash comprised) hat upon his head sings a song about Rufus that is both hilarious and epic, accompanied by a wonderful orchestral score that builds to a rousing crescendo. This same character sings between each chapter and it is a constant delight to hear his lyrics, which always tie-in perfectly with the gradually unravelling plot.
The gameplay that follows this opening cutscene negates the need for a tutorial entirely – hence why it seems so unnecessary in the first place. Rufus plans to leave Deponia but first of all he needs to pack his suitcase with some essential items. This initial fetch-quest involves Rufus exploring the home he shares with his ex-flame Toni in Kuvaq, a small settlement built upon a remote trash heap on the planet of Deponia. Following this, Rufus must finish preparing his latest invention – a pod attached to a harpoon that is supposed to grab on to a passing cruiser en route to Elysium, a planet rumoured to be trash free and idyllic. A paradise high amidst the clouds.
Of course, not everything goes to plan and before long, Rufus is involved with a beautiful Elysian girl named Goal who spends the majority of the game unconscious. Rufus now has two goals – wake up Goal (certainly an appropriate name!) so that she can be his girlfriend, and then travel with her to Elysium. The storyline is fairly basic but it’s told extremely well. Rufus is conveyed as a bit of a selfish character – especially taking into account his past treatment of the constantly grumpy Toni – but you can’t help but like him anyway. Likewise, although nothing is really known about Elysium, Rufus’s unwavering desire to go there instils a strong mutual feeling of desire in the player as they progress.
The puzzles themselves are well integrated into the world and although they can often prove rather zany – making coffee with bizarre substitute ingredients immediately springs to mind – there is an underlying logic that runs throughout the entire experience. This is a good old-fashioned adventure where the player will soon find themselves with an inventory chock-full of items, that mostly manages to sidestep the usual complaint of eventually having to resort to trying every possible item combination. The graphics are stunning, although those adventurers without HD displays may find the downscaled visuals looking slightly jagged. The HD cutscenes stuttered slightly for this reviewer too, although Daedalic has kindly included an option to have the cutscenes play in a lower resolution that fixes this problem entirely.
In short, Deponia is a stunningly presented adventure game – perhaps the best looking traditionally animated point-and-clicker since 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island – that has some great puzzles, funny characters and a memorable hero. The humour has stayed largely intact in the translation from German to English and the voice acting is strong too. The fact that Deponia is of a decent length (10-12 hours) and still feels like it ends too soon can only be taken as a compliment. Although the open ending may disappoint some players, there is already good news – Deponia 2 is currently in development. Deponia is one of 2012’s best adventure games and Daedalic Entertainment’s best title to date.
9 OUT OF 10
Special thanks to Lace Mamba Global for providing AMO with a review copy of Deponia. The UK retail release includes the full game, along with a poster and soundtrack CD.