30th Dec2019

‘Chaos on Deponia’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Chris Thomas

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I am a 30 something (pushing 40 something) who owned an Amiga and wasn’t allowed to own a games console back when the Amiga was a thing.

The Amiga was a brilliant machine, with terrible anti-piracy protection, but to be fair the state of the games on those floppy disks was so poor you genuinely had to back up your purchased games if you wanted any degree of security. It also had two distinct things holding it back – it didn’t have a very powerful processor and those dodgy floppy disks were also unable to store a great deal of data. This was naturally very limiting in what games were likely to work well and were not. I had Streetfighter 2 on the Amiga and amid all the disk swapping between bouts your mind will explode when I tell you we used to play Streetfighter 2 on a joystick with a single button (what madness was this? How did you manage to precisely move the character on a single joystick and 1 button!).

Having said that, it is incredible how games designers of the time managed to work within the very tight limitations to make something like Frontier: Elite 2 (and get that out on a floppy disk in a day when patches were not a thing). Lucky for us, the Amiga was capable of looking quite pretty (as long as games were not too demanding) and we had wonderfully creative people using imagination and humour to tell stories through games.

This goes a long way to explaining why the point and click adventure game was so incredibly popular at the time and really captured the imaginations of people “of a certain age”. On the Amiga the best example that springs to mind is the Monkey Island series. Ron Gilbert told a fantastical and genuinely funny adventure that seemed to somehow raise itself from the beige plastic confines of my Amiga 600 and into my imagination.

These games were fun, funny and, due to the typically young nature of the people making the games and the similarly immature nature of the games industry, it really could seem like anything could happen (even if it usually didn’t).

As you can see, it is easy to get nostalgic about this time, I was young, the world was ahead of me. Point and click adventures were a huge genre of the time, and one which was particularly ill-suited once Doom hit, then PlayStation hit and suddenly point and click adventures seemed to be redundant.

It is the nostalgia of my generation that has, for better and for worse brought the genre back from the grave.

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I picked up the original Deponia title in a Humble Bundle years ago and it is on my shamefully long list of Steam games I really, really mean to get around to playing at some point, before I die. Jumping into the sequel, cold, is relatively easy to do. The game does a good job with giving us an intro as to what we might have missed in the first game while also giving us a little tutorial.

Chaos on Deponia is a beautiful game. Lovely, pretty vistas and cinematography and beautiful animation. The music is also wonderful, it is a joy to hear the swooping music married with the terrific art style. The voice acting is also extremely good. The German developers are clearly huge fans of the genre, the style and tone remind me greatly of Terry Pratchett’s much loved Discworld series. In a really nice way, our clumsy, conceited and often arrogant and unlikable “hero” (“Rufus”) reminds me of “Rincewind” the (occasionally upward) failing wizard.

Playing Chaos on Deponia now brings back to me the limitations and frustrations of the genre. We are collecting items, then using them to interact with more items of wacky characters to unlock more items and the loop continues. There are little quality of life improvements here that were not available on all games back in the day (e.g. hold a button to highlight all the points of interest in the current room). The puzzles are (in keeping with those from the 1990s) occasionally abstract and getting stuck can mean you have to keep hearing the same audio loops over and over again, which, is not great.

There is however, 1 huge advantage when playing these games now rather than back in their heyday. Back when I got stuck playing Beneath a Steel Sky I didn’t know anyone else in the playground who had played the game and thus, when I got stuck on a puzzle I got stuck and that was the end of it (imagine that for a moment, how could people live like that). Now we have the internet! And, as someone who gets impatient, frustrated (and feels stupid) quickly this makes playing such games far more enjoyable.

Chaos on Deponia the game is going to charm those who have the nostalgia for the genre, such as myself. If you love the things I have mentioned, and you are a certain age, I have no doubt you will enjoy this fun, silly, occasionally touching adventure. If you are curious, give it a go, but the game is unlikely to make converts of people who have never been interested by this genre or are perhaps not triggered by the same nostalgic charms. Chaos on Deponia knows what it is, what it isn’t and it does what it sets out to do well.

Chaos on Deponia is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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