For a lonely shepherd in a normal world, seeing a mechanical bird seemingly preying on your flock must be a terrifying experience. It certainly was for the hero in Alchemia, which is why he killed it. But it turns out that even mechanical birds have souls. And so the hero and the bird set out on a quest to find a new body for its soul to inhabit in the wonderful web-based adventure Alchemia.
For the most part, Alchemia plays out like any other point'n'click adventure on the market. If you're familiar with the genre in the least, there's very little in the gameplay to surprise you here. What will fill you with wonder and awe, however, is the slick presentation and tender ideas that fill the story. There's nothing wacky or off the wall in this adventure. No rubber chickens on pulleys. No maniacal purple tentacles. Alchemia values simplicity and beauty over the silliness or suspense that most adventures are built on.
Take the calendar wheel puzzle, for example. You'll set a calendar wheel in motion. As it spins, a tree in the room will go through its annual life cycle. It will grow leaves, bear fruit, lose leaves, die, and then bloom once more. Little touches like these weren't only aesthetically pleasing and humbling in concept, but they served as central elements to the puzzling. With the tree, for example, you'll need to stop the calendar when the fruit falls off to collect it for your inventory.
Everything you do in the game feels as though it has a sense of purpose. There's a certain depth to the puzzles that isn't merely an endless series of figuring out which items to combine with which other items. You won't merely feed sausages to the dog to distract him – you'll need to attract the dog to a bucket with the sausages, and when that bucket begins to lower your bucket will your bucket will provide safe passage for escape. It's this added level of depth that really helps Alchemia to stand out in terms of adventure gameplay.
While most of the puzzles are environment based and require only a little logic to solve, occasionally the game will trip into more challenging puzzles that are a little more eclectic than the rest of the game. These breaks from environment puzzles aren't nearly as intuitive as they should be. With no basic instruction given, the only option is to either poke around to see what items react when you touch them or to take a gander at the provided walkthrough to see what's supposed to be done. It would have been nice to see some basic on-screen tutorials for some of these levels – maybe even just highlight objects that can be manipulated. Anything to bridge the gap between befuddled and a ruined surprise via the provided walkthrough.
In terms of visuals, there seem to be elements of Nick Bantock or Tim Burton influence in the presentation, yet what's created here is something that's wholly unique. Alchemia is almost a living children's story book presented in a mildly steampunk future. The vibe is so familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on why.
A sombre yet optimistic original score combined with an appropriate selection of sound effects helps keep the audio in tune with the visuals. The presentation in Alchemia helps to make this a thoroughly engrossing experience. While you'll be able to get from beginning to end in under 30 minutes, the team at Springtail Studio have managed to create a captivating world that you'll have no difficulty losing yourself to.
The short length is also a great compliment to the story as well. Alchemia tells a very simple tale and it didn't go to any lengths to stuff it full of filler in an attempt to lengthen the experience. Sure the art style may seem a little too strange for the sake of strange, but so is the story, and they're both wonderful.
Adventure gamers looking for a fresh experience can't go wrong with Alchemia. It's unique, it's quick, and best of all – it's free.