Game

Review: Encodya Squanders its Gorgeous Setting

Screenshot: Encodya

I’ve played a lot of point and click adventure games in my day. In fact, there was a time when my favorite game was a point and click adventure. I have some hearty nostalgia for the genre, and the genre itself is now full of nostalgic throwbacks to those older days of point and click. Encodya is full of its own callbacks to those retro point and click games—but while it’s paying homage to classics, it makes few steps into new territory.

Encodya is a point and click adventure game with a cyberpunk aesthetic. Starting off as a Kickstarter backed game, its Kickstarter page described it as Blade Runner meets Studio Ghibli in terms of art style. You play as a little girl named Tina, who is accompanied by her massive robot guardian SAM-53. Your goal is to gather items and bypass obstacles to help Tina unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance. This journey will bring you across Neo-Berlin and beyond as Tina seeks to discover her past.

Screenshot: Encodya

Encodya is a pretty run of the mill point and click adventure. You have an inventory that is shared between SAM-53 and Tina, which is good, because both SAM-53 and Tina are technically playable characters. For the most part, where one goes, the other goes. SAM-53 is Tina’s protector, after all. He’s also able to do some things she can’t—namely, talk to certain robots, and a few other tasks that might be too technical for a nine year old girl. Conversely, there are some tasks that only Tina can perform—some people, for instance, will only talk to humans. This is immediately an interesting concept, but it’s something I don’t feel is utilized to its fullest. But that’s fine, I don’t necessarily need novel gameplay to enjoy a point and click story. Unfortunately, Encodya falls a little short in both story and gameplay.

First of all, it’s an unusually easy point and click game. There are two difficulties—Hard and Easy. Easy allows for hints and for you to highlight items on the ground, while hard eliminates the ability to highlight and receive hints. Even in Easy, it’s best to limit the amount of hints you ask for—something SAM-53 even warns you about. But the thing is, you can save everywhere, and that includes being able to ask for a hint and reload a save before you did—if you want to cheese the game, that is. Otherwise Easy mode allows you to highlight objects that you can interact with—at least, in theory. Some items highlighted for me—even though it’s hard to see the highlight—but other items just didn’t. And that’s not the only bug I ran into in my playthrough.

Screenshot: Encodya

Encodya bills itself as a comedy, but it’s not. It’s not really a drama either. It takes place in a fantastical, often whimsical future full of strange characters. But I never found myself laughing out loud, and even felt a bit of sorrow for the inhabitants of Encodya’s bleak vision of the future. It doesn’t even seem like it’s trying to be a comedy. Instead, Encodya seems more like a satire that slips into more wacky caricatures. One such caricature is that of Mayor Rumpf, full of impotent rage and a diminished stature. He’s an obvious stand-in for Trump, and a major antagonist. The story’s mystery kept me mildly intrigued, but it doesn’t live up to its fantastic setting.

Made up of a series of well-traversed point and click scenarios, Encodya seems to relish a look back at the past while representing the future. Technology is strangely old-but-not, with an almost retro vision of the future—and it keeps that theme even in its gameplay mechanics. If you’re stuck, it’s best to try every inventory item on every interactive object in the world until you unstick yourself. Thankfully, Encodya doesn’t rely on moon logic, though it doesn’t necessarily have solutions that are immediately apparent.  Unfortunately, there are few standout scenarios in Encodya, with its production values perhaps the thing I appreciated the most.

Encodya is fully voice acted, and while all of the actors do a good enough job, its most compelling aspect is its art. The backdrops are gorgeous, and there are lots of locations to explore. Unfortunately, many of these locations are empty—some completely empty—with entire screens dedicated to sections that are meant solely for traversal, with sometimes only one object at the end. It’s strange that so much detail is put into the art, but there wasn’t nearly enough to fill out these gorgeous settings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Encodya’s gorgeous world being so uninteresting is.

Encodya is a strange game. By far, for me, its best aspect is its art. The rest of it—gameplay, puzzles, exploration—is a bit lacking, and well-tread. I did run into a few bugs that made me start from a previous save, but nothing game breaking. In the end, Encodya is a game that is chock full of potential, but never really quite lives up to it. It’s got a great setting, an intriguing storyline, and a lackluster execution—check it out if you absolutely have to.

 

Encodya is available January 26th on PC via Steam and GOG.

 

 

 

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