Primordia: The Legacy of Point-and-Click Continues
The point-and-click adventure game lives on through Primordia, one of the latest in a string of titles from indie developer Wadjet Games.
Developed in conjunction with Wormwood Studios, Primordia is an absolute gem of a game and should be held up as an example of the point-and-click genre. Point-and-click puzzle adventures have fallen out of favor over the years as development cycles have focused instead on 3D graphics and fast-paced, skill-based gameplay mechanics, but sometimes the classics never go out of style; Primordia is such an instant classic and would have stood out as an industry benchmark if it had been published in the early 1990s, easily competing with the Monkey Island or King's Quest series.
The Ballad of Horatio Nullbuilt
Primordia takes place on some unnamed world far in the future where the only inhabitants are sentient robots. The game's protagonist, a humanoid robot named Horatio Nullbuilt, spends his days with his companion Crispin, a sarcastic round little floating companion bot that constantly complains about Horatio building him without arms, as they both tinker in the wreck of the crashed airship out in the desert that they call home. Or at least they did, until one day another robot breaks into their airship and steals its power core, setting off a chain of events that sees Horatio and Crispin set off in pursuit of their stolen power core, embroiling them in a conflict that has the potential to change the fate of their world.
Like typical point-and-click games, Primordia is a hand-drawn 2D sprite game that focuses on exploration, puzzle solving, and inventory management. Primordia's writing and dialogue are top-notch, and the interactions between good-natured snarkbot Crispin and perennial straight man Horatio are worth the price of admission alone. The voice acting in Primordia is well-directed, featuring the considerable vocal talents of Logan Cunningham, the narrator of Bastion. Here, Cunningham displays his vocal range in his role as Horatio, portraying our hero as a brilliant, fiercely independent robot with a surprisingly deep spirituality and a dry, deadpan sense of humor that acts as a perfect counterpoint to Crispin's more zany antics.
The Triumphs of Primordia
A point-and-click game needs to overcome several limitations inherent in the genre in order to be a success. Playing a game like Primordia requires puzzle-solving skills and critical thinking abilities in that the game is often less about finding innovative ways to progress through the story and more about figuring out how the developer wants you to do so. Point-and-click games are all about scavenging inventory items in the environment and then using them to solve puzzles so you can gather more inventory items so you can use them to solve more puzzles until you get to the end, and the sometimes twisted logic of these puzzles can be frustrating for a player if they don't approach challenges in the same way the developer does; you might think that crowbar in your inventory would be great for bashing your way through an obstacle, but instead the game wants you to bypass it in a way that might strike a player as convoluted, counter-intuitive, and unnecessary. It's a common complaint with the point-and-click genre, and it's the hallmark of a good game that the puzzles either offer several different solutions or provide enough narrative support as to provide a coherent reason for the solution.
Primordia hits these targets with grace and clarity, taking the focus away from the purposefully limited game mechanics and instead shifting the focus on the story. Puzzles make sense in the context of the game world, and the story is so engaging that even those rare moments of frustration are minimal enough that a player is driven to keep plugging away at it until they arrive at the right solution. While the story is decidedly linear, there are several different branching pathways a player can take that will eventually lead back to where the narrative is heading, and they're constructed in such a way that they can be approached out of order to some degree. There's no actual "wrong" way to play Primordia, and there's no way to actually end the game prematurely as Horatio can't die and the player can't make such a bad mistake that your progress is hindered permanently. Some players may see this as a negative value since there's ultimately no danger of failure, but point-and-click games like Primordia aren't about failing - they're about being an active participant in a narrative with several different outcomes. No matter how you play the game, you can reach the end of Horatio's story, but it's up to you to determine which ending you get.