Reviewed on PC
I love point and click adventures, they have been among my favourite gaming genres since I first started getting serious about the medium, and it has been disappointing to see the genre take such a steep decline over the years, so any possibility of it making a comeback is always going to pique my interest.
Unfortunately, Encodya is not the game to give the genre a much-needed boost.
Encodya is based on the 2018 short film Robot Will Protect You and follows the exploits of a little girl named Tina, an orphan whose only company is her robot guardian SAM-53. Tina is trying to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance, and this will take her through the streets of Neo-Berlin and beyond. The story hook is emotionally compelling, the cyberpunk inspired world is definitely in vogue right now, and who does not love a kid being friends with a robot? Unfortunately, the game lets all of this down by not being very engaging.
Encodya is a point-and-click game of the Day of the Tentacle variety. Meaning you can switch between Tina and SAM and perform actions unique to those characters. The game plays fine, it's all very user friendly with classic controls and a clean, understandable interface. But it's all in service of an uninspired game.
The puzzles are largely dull, lacking in any spark. A lot of it is self-explanatory stuff. While 'Lucasarts logic' (where a thing makes no sense in reality but is consistent with the game world; see the monkey wrench puzzle in Monkey Island 2) can be frustrating, it actually challenges your brain. When every puzzle is spelt out for you, it does not motivate you to finish it off.
One of my favourite elements of any good point and click is their personality. Whether it's a madcap spoof like classic Lucasarts titles or the knowing yet earnest charms of Broken Sword, the game needs to have a distinct and consistent personality, or I will struggle to care about the puzzles or the unfolding adventure. Encodya struggles to know what it wants to be, listlessly swaying between genres and, as a result, doing none of them true justice. The game feigns towards being a comedy, but it is never actually funny. When you have been raised on the likes of Monkey Island and Sam & Max, having a crooked political figure called Rumpf is not going to cut it. Most of the invention seems to come from its designs, there is no real wit being deployed here.
The game looks alright but very outdated, almost akin to early era CG, where the artform was still finding its feet. Aside from the robots, not a lot felt distinct here. The people just lack an immediate visual personality.
Similarly, the voice track lets a lot of these characters down, bringing to mind the early days of voice-over work in games where there is a lot of stiff line delivery from people not entirely convinced by the roles they have been given. This robs every moment of its intended effect. Jokes fall flat, sincerity feels anything but, and the world simply does not feel believable.
As insane as Lucasarts' classics could get, the writing and the voice-acting (when the games eventually started using them) made me believe in that world. Same with Broken Sword and its wild world of conspiracies and mysticism. Encodya never convinces me it is a world worth exploring. I am moving from screen to screen purely to find the next appropriate item for a puzzle rather than through genuine curiosity.
Many of Encodya's problems seem to stem from playing like a retro rather than capturing what made those games work and doing nothing to move the genre forward.