An adventure game I enjoy is a rare thing to come across so it’s always worth talking about when one is found. The Critter Chronicles, a prequel, has been released and it focuses on by far the best character from the original. But is that enough to recreate the magic? This is what I think.
I haven’t got along with point & click adventure games for a long time. The last one I remember actively going out and buying was Simon the Sorcerer 3D. That’s possibly the one that turned me away, I remember liking the first and second but not that one. This avoidance lasted until early this year when I bought The Walking Dead and absolutely loved it. After that I dove in and, on the back of good reviews, bought The Book of Unwritten Tales. It had a few flaws here and there, having some of the illogical puzzles that lead me to drinking, as well as some technical issues. Some of the characters, Nate in particular, were also annoying. However, it was funny. It also had Critter, who is possibly the most adorable character in video game history and I wish I had him as a friend.
The Critter Chronicles takes you back to the first meeting of Nate and Critter. Rather confusing, considering the name, is the fact that the first chapter is spent exclusively as Nate. He is being chased by a bounty hunter, Ma’Zaz, and eventually runs into the Critters who are trapped in the Northlands. It’s the second chapter onwards we are able to use Critter. Here the Critters are shown to be a race of aliens who’ve fallen on hard times. After visiting for a research expedition they’ve had their heart, a red glowing crystal that powers their technology, stolen by Munkus – one of the baddies in the first game – and they can’t go home without it. Nate inevitably helps them out and while in the Northlands he meets a few others along the way including an overzealous animal rights activist and a scientist with two personalities, the second being a man-eating yeti.
It doesn’t turn out to be a bad thing that we spend so much time with Nate. In the original he was an unlikeable git, making sexist remarks and other unpleasant comments. Here he is far less irritating. While he still makes some comments that border on the inappropriate, most now favour a slapstick approach. Like the original, Critter is all slapstick and cute comedy. The adorable nature is only amplified as he is in love with another, the daughter of their leader, and she’s called Layla. The other major comedy is delivered by what I class as the third major character, the Penguins.
The penguins play a part in a number of larger and more elaborate of the puzzles. One such example is when trying to get in a submarine guarded by two guards. You need to make a vacancy to get you the job so eventually I found the way to get in was to give Critter a bottle of brandy. Since he had less inhibitions in doing things to Penguins he forced it to drink the bottle, getting it drunk. It then attacked the guard, causing it to jump onto a thin patch of ice and sink into the water, leaving a vacancy for a new guard.
This is a problem featured in most adventure games and particularly here. The first few chapters had fairly simple puzzles that left little to the imagination and required little thinking, it was all just clicking and mixing what could fit together, generally knowing what would work. However, as it got further on the puzzles became much more complicated and had little rhyme or reason to them, often feeling detached as if thrown in to meet a quota, not really continuing any sort narrative.
Like with characters, some locations are also re-used here. One whole chapter takes place in the archmages tower and the square just outside, a location featured in the original. With the use of these, from the antagonists to areas, it does start to feel like more of a budget saving effort than a story based decision.
As can probably be guessed, the visuals haven’t changed in the slightest. Not that they needed to. This is still a very beautifully made work of art. There is a large amount of detail in every scene, characters like Critter and the Penguins are adorable to watch in almost everything they do. The voice acting has stayed at a high level and now, with the absence of any technical issues, it is possibly some of the best comedic voice acting you will find in a game. This still especially applies to Critter, with the outstanding animation combined with his barely legible attempt at a language, he turns out to be just as endearing as ever.
The strange thing is, no matter how many praises I sing, this is still a bad adventure game at the core. The puzzles barely fit in, even taken in a traditional adventure style where logic is the first casualty, these defy any attempt at explanation. They’re either not challenging and you just mush whatever you can together, or they are outstandingly elaborate and difficult, requiring the foresight and patience of a god to see through.
Also strange is that I still want to recommend it and that I’ll be the first in line for the next game in the series. This is thanks to the endearing characters, some extremely funny penguins and a story that touched me in a place long thought lost – my heart.