By Tyler Lubben / September 11th, 2014
To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve played an adventure game (at least one that didn’t leave me emotionally scarred). When I first caught wind of Adventurezator, I was looking forward to playing a good ol’ fashioned adventure in a medieval setting and going on fun adventures. After doing a little research on the side, though, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I fired up it for the first time. If it was just a straightforward ready-to-play game, I might have been OK with it, but one of the major selling points of Adventurezator was the ability to create your own puzzles and share them with other players. As someone who has dealt with less-than-simple interfaces in DIY games before, I was apprehensive. The real question, then, is whether or not even a dumb guy like me could pierce the veil of creativity with the tools handed to me.
The main thing players need to know is that there’s more going on with Adventurezator than there initially seems. On the surface, the game is a simple 3D puzzle adventure in which you help a pigman regain his human form with the help of a garden gnome. Pretty standard stuff, really. However, the When Pigs Fly campaign – as named by the developer, Pigasus Games – is actually just a demo of the pretty robust puzzle creation tool found within. While we’ll get to that in a bit, the campaign included in the game still bears mentioning.
When Pigs Fly tells the story of a travelling potion salesman named Edmund who gets transformed into a pigman by an angry wizard duped into buying his fake concoctions. Shortly thereafter, Edmund meets a gnome called Zookwinkle, who tells him that the entire gnome race has been cursed, as well, by being turned to stone whenever they are exposed to direct light. So, with a common goal to dispel their respective maladies, the pair begins to search for the ingredients to a supposed curse-curing potion. So, with the premise now laid out, how exactly do players go about meeting their goals?
In a lot of ways, the core gameplay of Adventurezator is strongly reminiscent of The Sims with elements of point-and-click adventure games sprinkled throughout. Environments are fully 3D, and Edmund and Zook will move wherever you click, when possible. Common impediments are fences and locked doors that will either require keys to pass through or pressure plates on the ground that will need to be stepped on. Almost any element during gameplay – from characters to items to pieces of the environment – can be clicked on. At this point, a variety of options will appear around the object. Depending on the context, players can inspect the target or interact with it in some way. Small items like potions, lockpicks and food can be taken into your characters’ inventories for later use. Bigger items that wouldn’t fit in a pack, like street lamps, can often be activated and deactivated. NPCs, on the other hand, can be conversed with or attacked.
Combat is a pretty simple affair – characters take turns dealing damage to each other until one loses all their HP. As far as I could tell, players have no control over the outcome of battle once it has been initiated, but they can give themselves an edge by equipping weapons and shields before getting into a scuffle.
As you can see, Adventurezator includes two quite distinct art styles. Standard gameplay features a nicely stylized 3D style with cel-shaded graphics. Movement as characters move around the map is smooth, and lighting is wonderfully realistic as an accelerated clock has the sun’s light move shadows from one side of the level to the other between the day/night cycle. This also factors into gameplay, as Zook is only controllable during the night, or he must stick to the shadows during the day. The game’s cutscenes feature static, hand-drawn scenes that look nice on their own, but I found a bit jarring transitioning from one art style to the other.
Sound-wise, the game was passable. Most of the time, you’ll just be hearing the clicks and beeps of opening menus and choosing actions, but they worked just fine. This may sound strange, but when I heard the musical tracks in the game, the first thing that sprang to mind was the first level from the original South Park game from 1998. I don’t mean that as a jab — I actually found the track to be charming, with a nicely orchestrated composition of the show’s theme song. In much the same way, I found Adventurezator’s music to be relaxing, and kept me entertained as I went about my business. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s narrator. Most (all?) of the game’s voices are delivered by Grampa Mike, who simply does a fantastic job. My favorite was his normal voice as the narrator. Here’s a sample, plus, it’s a great way to see the game in motion.
The levels available for play are pretty simple. In the first stage, players are able to ease into the game’s basic mechanics – learning how to move, interact with objects and talk to characters. In the second mission, combat is explored, though, against the Papa and Mama Bears of Mother Goose lore, it’s better to just avoid them. Finally, players are able to try their hands (or hooves, as it were) at a little alchemy with the help of Isaac Newton. Using an Alchemy Table allows players to transmute various objects into different potions and items to help them with their quests. That’s about as far as I can go at this point, however. As the game is still in the beta stage, the complete campaign has yet to be accessible. Even so, the amount that I was able to play was satisfying enough, and I look forward to trying out the different quests and branching paths once the full game is released. Now, however, let’s take a look at the meat of Adventurezator; the Sandbox.
If you’ve been following my writing in any capacity, you might remember that my very first review was of a fast-paced racing title called Race the Sun. While I generally liked it, the game lost big points with me because of the nigh impossibly-confusing interface of its stage creator. This was what was on my mind as I fired up the Sandbox Mode of Adventurezator. I was initially overwhelmed with all the options presented to me, but, if nothing else, everything made much more sense in the interface, and I was eventually able to decipher it well enough to start putting together a little game. Plus, there are helpful question mark button found everywhere to explain how everything works. Having just come off a brief stint playing The Sims 4, my architectural muscles were stretched well enough that I didn’t have too much trouble throwing together a little dungeon for my short quest.
If you get tired of small cast of characters that Pigasus Games included in the Sandbox, you can also make use of the Actor Creator to make your own original characters. It’s a fairly barebones system – basically having players pick a character’s race, sex, clothing and facial hair – but I wouldn’t be surprised if more options were added for the full release. Not only that, but later updates also promise additional actor types, like skeletons, and pet type characters like dogs and gremlins. If you still find the Actor Creator lacking, it’s also possible to make just about any character you want through the use of a nifty mask mechanic that lets you take about any face — cartoon or otherwise — and slap it onto a character, no 3D modelling skills required.
The frustrating part about the Sandbox, however, was that I constantly found that I was limited in what I wanted to do. While, yes, part of that is due to the fact that not all the different tools have been implemented, it also isn’t clear whether other factors will be included at all. I had dreams of creating trap-filled dungeons where players must find clues, solve puzzles and defeat monsters to advance, but, at this point, that just doesn’t seem to be possible. The only real thing to stop players from reaching their goals is to place hostile NPCs before them. No fire traps, no pitfalls, no darts shooting out of the walls to fill my dungeons. Granted, this stuff wasn’t in the When Pigs Fly campaign, but this is the kind of stuff that I felt would be a given in a dungeon/puzzle creator. As such, if you’re not interested in making a level that involves fighting or acquiring items, you’re out of luck, at least for now.
It would also be nice if there were more character types to work with. At this point, players can only create human, orc, dwarf and pigman characters. While that is generally fine for most situations, Pigasus Games would do well to include more monster-class creatures in subsequent updates to help create the potential for more fleshed-out levels.
With the system integrated into Adventurezator, the only limit is your imagination… and the features that have yet to be implemented. Even so, I have high hopes for this title as it continues development. At this stage, it’s already quite fun, but with a little more polish and the inclusion of more creative features, I envision players really being able to run wild with it. Considering that the full version promises Steam Workshop integration, the sky very well could be the limit for the types of games fans might come up with. For now, if nothing else, it’s a fun preview of things to come. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, check out the official website or Steam, and show your support.