ENCODYA Review – Wrong Decision
Developed By: Chaosmonger Studio
Published By: Assemble Entertainment
Story is always at the forefront of a point-and-click adventure game. Well, that and arbitrary solutions to arbitrary problems. So it’s those two things that make up the core of this classic genre that hasn’t seen much of a comeback in recent years. We haven’t seen a game like The Secret of Monkey Island come out, but that seems to be the very inspiration for one point and click adventure game titled ENCODYA.
ENCODYA is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Chaosmonger Studio. Based on the short animated film made by the same studio, Robot Will Protect You, ENCODYA was a stretch goal from the Kickstarter for this film. With it, they wanted to mesh all the qualities of Studio Ghibli and Blade Runner into an experience they likened to The Secret of Monkey Island.
The art style of ENCODYA is pretty unique, where the robots are these asymmetrical machines with very expressive designs, and the humans are more caricatures of what a real human looks like. What’s tough about this is that I’m pretty split on my opinion about this. On one hand, it’s unique, and there are some good designs in there, while on the other, it’s not very appealing to look at. This is a shame, considering you spend most of the time with or as a human child.
ENCODYA takes place in a hyper-satirized cyberpunk Neo-Berlin, a city where most people are addicted to cyberspace, so much as even overdosing on it. You play as a young orphan named Tina and her nanny robot given to her at birth named SAM. What seems to be a normal day of scavenging for them turns into a dangerous adventure to find out about Tina’s father. The city’s fate hangs in the balance as it’s mayor, Mr. Rumpf, and his security detail go on a manhunt for the little girl and her robot.
ENCODYA’s story does some things well enough, but other things not so good. The world is well-realized, giving out bits of background info from time to time so that it doesn’t feel like worthless exposition. This is nice, but I do wish we spent more time with this world, interacting with it and such, so that we could get a better feel for it with its history.
Have A Baby, Get A Robot
The same can be said for the plot. There are interesting concepts and ideas, but we don’t spend enough time with each of them to really get a feel, as it’s usually on to the next thing. Some story beats, especially emotional ones, aren’t given the room to breathe, as we are moving on and forgetting what just happened so we can focus on another thing. The pacing can feel way too fast to let this story develop, which does make the characters in this story suffer.
The two main characters, Tina and SAM, have a nice rapport with each other. Seeing them interact is always a treat, though it did feel like this nine year old girl knew a bit too much about politics. Their interactions with others can range from well done to poor, especially if they try to inject a little humor into it. Humor is subjective, but this story’s form of humor usually consists of references to other media or a fourth wall break. Having gotten too many of these, I felt taken out of the story each time it happened, but the quality of the main character’s voice actors did help rein me back in.
The Secret of Blade Runner Island
In gameplay, ENCODYA is your average point-and-click with some QoL improvements. While the characters do move slowly when walking, and their running isn’t much better, if you double click on the transition area, you will just instantly teleport to that area. This helped a lot during my many treks through the city, searching for the one small pixel that provided me the solution to a puzzle, which happened more times than I liked.
Now, I get it, it usually devolves into pixel hunting whenever a point-and-click is involved. ENCODYA shouldn’t be any different, but what sets ENCODYA apart from other games is that its clues to discovering some of these pixels are unhelpful. You find an item, examine it to figure out what to do with it, and the line is the most useless sentence ever spoken by an adventure game protagonist.
What makes it worse is that you can switch between Tina and SAM on the fly, both with their own abilities and strengths, adding another layer onto solving puzzles. I’m not saying it’s hard, it’s just tough to find what you’re looking for when the game has no sense of direction, forcing you to just scan every environment with your cursor for that small item.
Sounds of Neo-Berlin
This process, which I’ve had to do multiple times throughout my entire playthrough, was made less irritating by the music and sound design. There are many unique sounds crowded into the streets of Neo-Berlin, it does bring you into the world for a bit. Combining this with a soundtrack that has a nice spectrum of genres to fit into each event and location, it does make the instant transmissions through downtown to be a little less aggravating.
However, the best music in the world can’t fix what seems to be a timing issue. As you get nearer to the end of the game, beats build up to a speeding pace, with no time to even breathe a word of relief over a puzzle well done.
All this coalesces into a barebones final encounter that has looping dialogue paths until you pick the right one, rife with just the same phrases and terms, alongside an entire puzzle based around being arbitrary. It feels like the entire final act of this game was rushed, delivering an end that feels jarring and unsatisfactory.
ENCODYA was an interesting game to play, if annoying at points. It had the building blocks to be an adventure worth remembering, but it falls short due to a rather rushed ending. For twenty-five dollars, I can’t recommend this in good faith, and say to wait until a sale brings it down to ten or fifteen, but only if what I’ve talked about intrigued you in any way. I feel like if this game had some more time, with a little more depth to a story that slowed it’s pacing down a peg, I would be able to appreciate what it’s going for.
Not Quite There
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Reviewed by Freelance7. Game received by Chaosmonger Studio.