By Marty Mulrooney
Primordia is an indie science fiction point-and-click adventure game developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where man has long since become extinct, players must take control of the robot Horatio Nullbuilt and his floating droid companion Crispin as they set out on a quest to recover a stolen power core.
Horatio and Crispin are introduced as scavengers, taking salvageable junk from the wasteland surrounding their home and using it however they can. As Primodria begins, their grounded spaceship (UNNIIC) is breached by a dangerous robot of few words called Scraper. After shooting Horatio with his laser arm, Scraper proceeds to steal the ship’s power core before floating off and disappearing. This sets up players with an immediate short-term goal – repair the emergency generator for UNNIIC and restore the power.
This task soon proves to be trickier than initially thought – conditions in the surrounding wastelands are harsh and despite the large amounts of junk and discarded machinery lying around, the specific items they need are seemingly rare. This opening section proves useful in two ways: it allows players to familiarise themselves with the game’s traditional point-and-click interface (including a Data Pouch that allows fast travel via a map and the storage of collected data), and it also sets the scene nicely by driving home the fact that Horatio and his sidekick are scavengers who must continually fight to survive.
Sadly, this opening section also immediately highlights some glaring faults that continue to run throughout the course of the game. The puzzles are hard – it’s not that they don’t make sense, but rather the game often does a bad job of pointing players in the right direction. Crispin will occasionally give a hint, but most of the time he just offers wisecracks. Many puzzles rely on a throwaway bit of dialogue or an obscure number or even worse… random clicking. The graphics are also extremely blocky – the native resolution is 320×200, upscaled to 640×400. Many games built with Adventure Game Studio have used this resolution to great effect, but paired with Primordia’s murky, predominantly brown art style, hotspots and fine details become completely lost.
Even the aforementioned Data Pouch, which could have easily helped to alleviate the often exacerbating difficulty level, is shown on a tiny display that makes it a nightmare to navigate and read – the Oracle wrist watch in The Feeble Files did a much better job way back in 1997. However, things do pick up slightly once Horatio and Crispin travel to the city of Metropol. The plot thickens, several other well-written robotic characters are introduced and a true villain to be reckoned with emerges in the form of MetroMind. The puzzles and low-res graphics continue to aggravate (consulting a walkthrough is practically a guarantee for all but the most patient of players), but the story actually starts to become engaging and there is a real sense of ingrained history and the passage of time. What happened to all of the humans? How exactly did the world end up like this?
Primordia’s saving grace is the voice acting of its two lead characters, which helps to sell them as robots with real personality despite their often stuttery animations. Logan Cunningham (the narrator of Bastion) as Horatio and Abe Goldfarb as Crispin (a regular on the Wadjet Eye Games voice acting roster) play off each other perfectly. For some players Crispin may ruin the otherwise gloomy mood, but for this reviewer he kept things moving along even when they were chugging, providing much-needed comic relief.
Primordia is a good game – but it’s kept from being a great one by its uneven difficulty and mood, coupled with overly pixellated graphics and underwhelming sound effects (although the understated music is rather nice). It’s a shame that despite only clocking in at 5-6 hours, Primordia feels like an overly long game. Still, there is much to enjoy here (the art style, the world, the surprisingly deep storyline, the multiple puzzle solutions and endings) and it remains exciting to see what Wormwood Studios will come up with next.
7 OUT OF 10