Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: Early 2017
A Little Less Desperation is a forthcoming title from Deaf Bird Entertainment, a German point-and-click adventure house making its first foray into games. Slated for an early 2017 release, the game is a quirky space adventure that combines old-school puzzle logic with unusual graphics and an unlikely hero. I recently played a demo and saw the potential for a refreshing take on the genre if the game can successfully convince the player of its own internal logic.
The story stars Jacob, a gangly organic vegetable farmer with the clothing and beard of a Mennonite. From the backstory we’re given (in rhyming verse no less), it seems Jacob was wandering through the woods one night when he sighted a UFO as it crashed to earth and went to investigate. Jacob helped an errant alien named Harold fix his craft but was then kidnapped and entrapped by other spacegoers.
The demo I played began with Jacob trapped in a cargo bay. He was able to wander around the room, examine the space, tinker with his surroundings, and pick up objects to use elsewhere. I became frustrated fairly quickly with the logic of the game—Jacob refused to do certain things and being dropped in the middle of the story meant I didn’t understand him well enough as a character to puzzle out what approach would work best. At one point I was able to fish a mousetrap with a dead rat in it from behind a wall. When I tried to pick up the rat, Jacob refused. After attempting other actions around the room, I clicked on the rat trap a couple more times and was startled when Jacob pocketed the rat on the third attempt, saying that he would pick it up since I clearly wanted it so badly. This kind of logic and humor can work in a game, but not if I haven’t gotten to know the character yet.
The demo I played was slim, confining, and undynamic, but it suggests a promising world beyond the bounds of what I was given. The game has a wacky slant that would have been better articulated had the demo involved more of the story, writing, and characters. The aesthetic has a childlike, kooky charm—comedic body shapes, bumbling adversaries, crimped and inefficient bouquets of drainage pipes—that will appeal to people who are tired of their outer space stories filled with slick, lifeless technology and scientific jargon. The parts of the gameplay I’ve seen suggest a callback to the whimsy of retro games like Grim Fandango and Monkey Island — once I got hold of that rat, it turned out not to be useful as a gross distraction but as a sharpened skeletal knife blade.
Though I haven’t seen much yet, I expect a promising game in A Little Less Desperation. As long as it rounds out its offbeat aesthetic and gameplay with a compelling story and strong writing, we can expect something stellar.