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As a child, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales obsessed me. The gritty adventure and suffering the characters went through was thrilling to read and made Disney movies even more unbelievable. How protagonists were never guaranteed to survive their trials, or how they were never shielded from the horror that the world could show them. And how this either broke them or made them.
I remember the book being quite antique, with that old book smell and crinkled yellow pages of Norwegian drawings. And since then any dark fairy tale, in games or books, has always peaked my interest.
So, when playing Apocalipsis, I was drawn back to my childhood years of reading the book curled under a blanket. Apocalipsis is a point and click indie adventure that requires you to solve puzzles for one simple task. To rescue your love, because she has had the unfortunate accident of being dead. You begin by pulling bodies out of streams, killing rats and following squawking ravens to rituals.
This, of course, sets the tone for the entire game.
Although I will be the first to admit, puzzle games repel me, I was curious enough to continue. I spent a solid fifteen minutes observing and trial testing how to complete a ritual to go forward, and when I completed it, felt the same kind of satisfaction as when you manage to find a key in your house. You don’t know what it unlocks, but at least you’ve cleared the first step. You squash some bat wings if anyone was interested.
The design is entirely 2D, to reflect medieval art that the game took inspiration from. The colours range from browns to greys to blacks for a claustrophobic feeling of illness and decay. And yet the scenes are never dull enough to let your mind wander or your eyes stray away from the screen. It creates specks of interest. Humans are naturally drawn to the horrid. And when a man has been spiked with arrows, or you are slowly poisoning a guard, you catch yourself already thinking of the next move and how you will overcome the next objective.
One aspect that did pull me out of the experience was the sound element. Although there was nothing obviously wrong, the sudden blaring and the predictive sound became irritating. I know I’ve spent a long time trying to hit this bird out of a tree but having the bird squawk at coded three second intervals for ten minutes straight can become grating after a while.
Some character animation is also jerky, such as the music stopping a second too early before your character moves. Normally these faults are small, but when a game such as Apocalipsis centres itself around the creation of an intense scene with story telling aspects, fine tuning becomes paramount to remaining immersed.
Apocalipsis was created by punch punk games, an independent studio based in Warsaw. Having an impressive resume of working on games such as Dead by Daylight and Dying Light, their creation of Apocalipsis is more impressive. To step away from a known format and revenue creating template is ambitious. It is not without rewards, mainly seen on indie platforms, games can roar to success for the simple reason that they are different and engaging compared to the next heavy-duty shooter or MMORPG. The only dialogue in the game is provided by Nergal, leader of the band Behemoth. The only colours are limited browns, relying on drawn art and texturing to provide the details.
And the differences continue. The story is based on Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, the artwork from sourced 16th century artists.
So, a far different conception than other games, but it grabbed me for an unusual reason. I could do little but click and point. I could look around, try and place things with other things, and solve puzzles by step by step actions. There were no quick sequences or mind-numbing explosions. Just Harry, avoiding torture and the plague whilst trying to hit a distract a vicious guard dog. Apocalipsis is now live on Steam, available on both Mac and PC. Should your mind grow bored and stray from the predictable plots of loadouts of other games, consider picking up Apocalipsis for a fresh take.