The best Lucasarts-style game to come out since Lucasarts stopped making good games

I sometimes ask myself, “Do I like adventure games for what they are, or do I just like the idea of them?”

My Steam library is full of them.  The Dig, Indiana Jones, Loom, MachinariumThe Secret of Monkey IslandSam & Max (lots of Sam & Max), Time Gentlemen, Please! — I have quite a backlog.  Of these games, I’ve played only a quarter of them to some degree of completion.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the genre.  But when I sit down to play a game, my first thought is almost never to fire up an adventure game.  Usually, when I decide to play a game for fun, I pick something twitchy and mindless that will distract me for a while — something like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.  If I’m looking for something a little slower paced — something to become engrossed in — I’ll find a nice RPG to play.  Even though I consider myself a fan of adventure games, I almost never play them.

Deponia

Maybe I’m just lazy.  It’s sort of like reading.  I find it easier to unwind with a mindless movie than I do with a thick, new book.  Cracking open a book is far more satisfying, but, honestly, sometimes I just can’t be bothered. Every once in awhile though, you will crack open that new hardcover and it will suck you in.  For whatever reason, you just can’t put it down.  You know the feeling.  And when you’re done with it, you think, “I should read more.”

Well, Deponia has given me just that feeling again — except, of course, for adventure games.  I’m blown away.  I had never heard of this German gem from developer Daedalic Entertainment.  Hoodwink, the last adventure game I reviewed for Gamezebo, left me all excited after watching the trailer.  Unfortunately it turned out to be a stinker, so after being assigned Deponia I didn’t let myself get my hopes up.  Before I had even finished Deponia’s tutorial, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Let me first say how gorgeous the art is in this game.  The environments are illustrated brightly, lushly — like the cartoons that filled your Saturday mornings as a child.  Love on the part of Deponia’s artists is obvious — the intricate detail of the backdrops creates a world that truly is its own.  The trash filled planet that our hero Rufus so desperately wants to leave is a place you will become more and more attached to with every screen.  Deponia reminds me of the Lucasarts games of yore.  If The Dig was released today, it would look like Deponia.  This may sound silly, but the way the pixels of Monkey Island looked in my imagination as a kid is pretty much how Deponia looks on the screen in front of me.  The animation is top notch.  The art style is elegant and stands apart from other adventure titles.

Deponia

It’s well written too, which means a lot to an adventure game.  Deponia will make you laugh — so long as you have the right sense of humor.  One thing I appreciate about adventure games is their gleeful adherence to corny jokes.  There are few art forms where puns and cheesy one liners are tolerated, let alone embraced.  Adventure games — and Deponia in particular — place that same cheese on a pedestal.  Some lines of dialogue might have lost a little in translation, but for the most part, not.  Even the voice acting is good.

If you are an adventure game fan (and I have to assume you are if you’ve read this far into the review), I imagine you’re curious about the puzzles.  Well, rest assured, they are here, and they are exactly what you’d expect.  As with any self-respecting adventure title, the twisted logic of a deranged maniac is a requisite to solve any problem you encounter.  Luckily, other lunatics — the charming and humorous characters that populate the world of Deponia — will happily egg you on in your mania.

Deponia is the best adventure game I’ve played in a while.  If you miss those Lucasarts games you played in the 90’s, this is a reminder of why they are something to be missed.  If you have never heard of Monkey Island, Deponia is a perfect primer for why adventure games are something special.  They may not be the easy choice when it comes to getting a little r and r with your game collection, but Deponia is proof they can be the better choice.