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Oooh, atmospheric

With many modern adventure games devolving into quick-fix episodic chunks that seem to snub tight plotting and characterisation for surreal puzzles and wacky humour, it’s both reassuring and wonderful that developers such as Wadjet Eye continue to crank out top-notch retro point ‘n’ click adventures. Following the excellent Gemini Rue, ‘Primordia’ is another gritty sci-fi tale that melds fantastic storytelling with old-school graphics, doing it the way Beneath A Steel Sky et al used to back in the day.

Primordia review: Plot

Like all great tales, Primordia’s starts relatively small. We’re introduced to the two robot protagonists, Horatio and Crispin, as they conduct essential maintenance on their spaceship on a dusty, junk-ridden world. Things quickly go pear-shaped when another robot, this one hulking and menacing, busts his way in and steals their power core. With no power, the two friends have only a few hours before their batteries run dead and it’s game over, man.

And so begins a simple quest to hunt down the cybernetic thief, which blossoms beautifully into an epic century-spanning opus. From initial feelings of isolation, the cast of two soon expands into dozens of secondary characters, and the most impressive part is that pretty much every NPC feels like a living, breathing entity, even though they’re made of metal. We enjoyed every minute we spent interacting with them, even the robots who barred our progress with their troublesome requests and demands.

Primordia review: Presentation

Point ‘n’ click fans will feel right at home thanks to Primordia’s simple interface – just left click on an object or character to interact, or right click to examine. You control the thoughtful, straight-laced Horatio for the duration, but can command his sidekick Crispin – a floating robot of his own making – to help out at any point. The kicker being that Crispin is a sarcastic little bag of bad quips, who often refuses to play ball (while bemoaning his lack of limbs). He does occasionally chip in with advice or venture into otherwise inaccessible areas, but he’s mostly there as a sounding board for Horatio, as well as some light comic relief. Comedic sidekicks are tough to nail, as it’s so easy to sway from charming to irritating, but Crispin gets the balance just right and manages to grab our sympathies at the same time.

Primordia’s graphics are distinctly old school, favouring a dark orange/metallic colour scheme which looks suitably grim and industrial. We did occasionally struggle to find hotspots in amongst the clutter, and things can get a little pixellated at times, but we still prefer this retro 2D engine to some of the overly glossy/cartoony graphics that many modern adventure games resort to. The locations are surprisingly varied and a joy to explore, thanks to the rich atmosphere. Voice acting is also superb throughout, with Crispin and Horatio proving stand-outs.

Primordia review: Puzzles

Primordia’s puzzles are well integrated into the world, rarely coming off as forced. However, because of the technical nature of the game’s story and setting, a lot of the brainteasers involve complex fictional machinery that might completely baffle non-techys. In fact, we’d be shocked if one binary-related puzzle is solved by anyone that doesn’t love reading computer textbooks. We occasionally resorted to some trial-and-error clicking to get past some of the more obscure puzzles, but Primordia rarely baffles with hazy logic.

Primordia review: Verdict

If you’re hankering for an adventure game with a deep story and memorable characters, Primordia is a great bet. As long as you can get past the pixellated graphics and techy puzzles, you’ll find a deeply rewarding and engaging game that’ll keep you entertained for many, many hours.

So the dongle slides into the fuzz port?