Rufus has a plan. His plan is to escape from the garbage-strewn world of Deponia, where he lives with his despairing ex-girlfriend and scheming, moleish best mate, and flee to the off-world paradise of Elysium. Of course, like all plans concocted by egocentric bungling halfwits, things soon go pear-shaped. After inadvertently ‘rescuing’ an Elysian girl (aptly named Goal) from some cloaked deviants by pushing her off a spaceship, Rufus finds himself hunted by a sinister organisation - and even worse, discovers that his newly appointed girlfriend already has a fiance...
Deponia is a traditional point-and-click adventure game that blends the same daring adventure and thick dark humour of classics such as Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. It’s refreshing to dive into a cartoony 2D adventure instead of the clunky 3D versions we often see these days. For one, control is as simple as it comes - right click on an object or person to examine, left click to pick up, operate or talk. No cycling through hundreds of different options (push, pull, prod etc.), which minimises the amount of trial-and-error problem solving you have to endure and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
Deponia does a great job when it comes to setting goals. Often in point ‘n’ click adventures your objectives can be a little vague, but never once in this game were we left baffled by our next steps. That’s not to say that Deponia is easy, although difficulty is certainly scaled back from the LucasArts adventures of yesteryear - definitely a good thing for us, as our patience is thinner than a book of Memorable David Beckham Quotes. However, it’s always clear what you need to do to proceed, and characters deliver useful hints if you find yourself stuck.
Rufus is an excellent protagonist, starting the game as a cocky ill-tempered boy whose only ambition is to leave the planet - think of a volatile Guybrush Threepwood and you’re pretty much there - before falling into the hero role when the plot properly kicks off. The story does take a good few hours to gain momentum, but we weren’t bored during the early stages thanks to the bizarre-yet-strangely-logical puzzles and the colourful cast of characters, most of whom hate Rufus’ guts.
A lot of the game’s goofy humour comes from Rufus’ interactions with Deponia’s inhabitants. There are plenty of oddballs, from the transvestite receptionist to the mayor who sleeps inside his own desk, and most of them will stick in our memory for some time. One of our favourites was Gizmo, who operates as the sole policeman/fireman/doctor in the town, complete with changeable outfit. Even his office transforms depending on the current emergency, which leads to some of the more memorable puzzles from Deponia’s first act.
Deponia's puzzles are mostly inventory-based: find certain objects, use them in the right places, and you’re golden. A number of mini-games and challenges are also thrown in, although you can skip the tougher ones if your brain begins to melt. We did have to resort to a walkthrough on a couple of occasions, purely in the interests of getting this review done in a timely fashion, but on the whole we managed to piece together solutions using a combination of hints from characters and some occasionally twisted logic.
Don’t worry, there isn’t anything here that compares to the infamous duck puzzle from Longest Journey. Just pay attention during conversations and try playing with everything you come across, because chances are that if you can look at it, it’ll be useful at some point.
Deponia’s graphics reminded us of the cartoony design of Curse of Monkey Island. Characters and environments are beautifully drawn, with full video cutscenes to break up the action. Finding hotspots on each screen (objects that you can interact with) is generally simple as important items usually stand out, but if you find yourself struggling you can hold down the spacebar to highlight them all. It’s a neat little touch that again helps prevent frustration.
Finally, the ever-delicate matter of voice acting. Why delicate? Well, to be perfectly frank, voice acting in adventure games veers wildly between brilliance and absolute garbage, especially when the developers take up the task themselves. Thankfully Deponia features some excellent acting, with the mostly-British-sounding cast providing the perfect level of quirky cartoonish delivery that suits both the game and its bizzaro characters. Any hammyness is played up to great effect, and adds to the overall enjoyment.
Feel the length
Those looking for a sizeable adventure to get stuck into won’t be disappointed by Deponia. We’re finally within sprinting distance of the ending after a dozen hours of gameplay, so you’ll easily get a full weekend’s entertainment for your hard-earned cash. If you’re after a well-designed and funny point ‘n’ clicker, Deponia gets the Game Debate thumbs up.