Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: March 31, 2016
One of my favorite things about the current state of adventure gaming is the emergence of the independent game developer. With the advent of crowd funding, electronic delivery, and web-based marketing, a new generation of talent can now make it's vision a reality and provide us with some wonderful entertainment. I admit that I have a deep admiration for the courage and tenacity that is needed to risk it all, develop, and launch a game.
Enter Fabrice Breton. Hailing from St. Etienne, France, he is a writer, artist, composer, and programmer all rolled into one. After years of creating games for fun, he formed Cowcat, ran a successful Kickstarter, and has just released his first commercial title. Demetrios – The Big Cynical Adventure is a 2D point-and-click game done in the style of a graphic novel. Scenes are not fully animated and dialog is presented as conversations between the character’s heads. Cut scenes are presented with a mix of still pictures and animation. There are no voice-overs which means that you're going to do a lot of reading. For me, this is a plus. Instead of narration, there is mix of background music which enhances the game experience. You navigate and act by clicking your mouse or dragging and dropping objects. Some screens have special instructions which are clearly indicated when applicable. To put it simply, the game interface is intuitive and easy to use.
Demetrios includes a diverse array of puzzle elements. Much of the game involves find-and-use problems solved with inventory items. In addition, there are two scavenger hunts in which protagonist Bjorn is tasked by another character to retrieve a list of items to exchange for his true object of interest. There's a Fun Fair carnival in Paris with playable mini-games (claw machines, the Big Spin, a Plate Shoot, Earthworm Races, etc.). There are several game segments that require hand-eye coordination in the form of fishing, retrieving keys, and dodging bullets. There's a game of graveyard pinball and a number of logic puzzles that require a bit of pattern memory, basic math, and message decoding. In short, there's something for everyone. I'm happy to report that all puzzle solutions made sense and those that require timing and coordination are easily accomplished by someone without an advanced degree in mouse control.
The protagonist, Bjorn Thonen, is an antique dealer with a smart mouth and (as the title implies) a cynical view of the world. The story begins when he awakens to the sound of someone breaking into his Paris apartment. He's thumped on the head and regains consciousness only to discover that he's been robbed. The police are unwilling to investigate so he embarks on a personal quest to find his assailant and recover his property. In the true spirit of adventuring, each answer leads to a new set of questions that ultimately send him on an archaeological trek through the fictional African country of NOGO. He's joined on his journey by his beautiful blonde neighbor, Sandra, and her smart, but wholly obnoxious daughter, Caroline. The story is filled with interesting characters, plot twists and turns, and an unexpected yet satisfying ending that ties all loose ends together.
As Bjorn, you must decide how to respond to a variety of people and situations. More often than not, the wrong decision results in death or incarceration – two outcomes that prematurely terminate your adventure. But Demetrios is a forgiving game. You're immediately provided with the chance to return, without penalty, and rethink that fatal decision. A tally is kept of the number of "game over" experiences you've accumulated and this is one area in which I excelled!
This isn't a game that should require a trip to the Internet in search of a walkthrough. As stated earlier, puzzles are solved through common sense and making the right moves. If you do get stuck, Demetrios includes a unique hint system. In each scene, there are 3 hidden ‘cookies’ (as in chocolate chip). Finding these hidden objects results in a cookie count which can then be "spent" on in-game hints at the rate of one hint per cookie. For less confident gamers, building up a cookie inventory provides insurance in case of troubles later in the game. True to his cynical nature, Bjorn is highly critical when he's forced to eat cookie after cookie because you, the player, are too lazy to figure things out on your own!
As I played Demetrios, I was struck by the care with which this game was crafted. Each scene is artistically drawn, with hints of animation. Balloons flutter, a bird flies, a lizard scurries. If you're paying close attention, you’ll catch some background surprises such as a boat running aground and sinking in a distant lake or a mirage of a Paris ice cream cart towards a desert horizon. If you're a poor decision-maker and experience multiple "game overs," you'll note that each R.I.P screen has a custom epitaph that directly mocks the decision that killed you. There is an inordinate number of items that can be clicked on. Some can be picked up immediately. Others aren't retrievable until they're needed later in the game, and others are simply part of the environment. All generate unique commentary from Bjorn in terms that range from inane to silly to crude.
While Bjorn isn't a guy that you'd want your daughter to date, his quirky personality and smart mouth grows on you over time. In one section of Demetrios, Sandra becomes the main character and you have a chance to see the world from her more optimistic perspective. And, as annoying as Caroline is, you come to appreciate her presence as she plays a major role in saving you on several occasions.
Overall, Demetrios – The Big Cynical Adventure is just that. It's a well-written ‘big’ adventure game that's fun to play. There's enough diversity within the game to hold the interest of most players. At times it gets a bit wordy, as Bjorn does like to talk. However, this can be solved by speed reading and clicking through dialog (while paying attention to content, of course!).
+ Good story with an interesting plot line
+ Diverse puzzles that are solvable with common sense and a bit of coordination
- Unnecessarily verbose at times which may wear on players wanting to "do" more and read less