2D has made a remarkable comeback in recent years. Games like Rayman Legends and Oddworld: New n Tasty are not only stellar titles but have successfully catapulted their respective series back into the limelight. They took the original formula and innovated it It’s truly heartwarming to see icons of a bygone age gifted with the prettiest graphics money can buy, but one such mascot is still withering away in MegaDrive land.
Let’s face it guys, we all want a new Earthworm Jim game.
Even if you don’t know who Earthworm Jim is (If so, shame on you), his legacy in gaming is still going strong, despite that awful transition into 3D. He’s a cult favourite but Jim has yet to resurface. However his creator Doug TenNapel has returned to the gaming world following a very successful crowd-funding campaign. Teaming up with animation company Pencil Test Studios, he has created a spiritual successor to his lesser celebrated games; Neverhood and Skullmonkeys. I haven’t played either of them, but after getting my hands on the beta for Armikrog, I’ll be rectifying that pretty soon. TenNapel’s work shows a knack for surrealism, utilising various forms of animation to create unique aesthetics. In the spirit of his previous work, Armikrog puts players in control of space explorer Tommynaut and his canine sidekick Beak-Beak who crash land on strange planet full of hostile creatures; and that is as far as my understanding of the plot goes.
It’s your traditional point-and-click adventure game full of tricky puzzles that require lateral thinking. The interface is simple; you move from screen-to-screen clicking where you want to go and what to interact with. You’ll also spend your time picking up items and interacting with other characters; it’s fairly standard for the genre. You can also switch between Tommy and Beak-Beak at will, Tommy is the more able of the two, being bipedal and all, so most of the puzzle solving is handled by him. Beak-Beak however can use his small stature to access areas that Tommy can’t. He is a dog after all, so we also get to see the world through his eyes, which is necessary for finding clues to solve puzzles. When Beak-Beak is separated from Tommy, all colour drains from the environments and is replaced with a mix of greyscale and negative that let’s you see things that Tommy can’t. It’s a neat little addition but quite jarring at first.
The gameplay overall is solid and true to form, but the real appeal however is the visuals. Using clay-mation and green screen, the majority of what you see on screen was hand-made, then photographed and scanned into the game. A labour of love if there ever was one, it shows great commitment to a vision on the creators part. The plasticine models add a lot of character that I immediately warmed to and the mishmash of textiles found littering the many rooms adds to that whole hand-made vibe. From what I gather it’s the creator’s trademark, TenNapel’s previous works used this same motif, but system limitations of the time never let it realise it’s full potential. Thankfully we’re now at the point where these kinds of bold artistic choices are feasible and us players get to see them in full 1080p glory.