DEVELOPER: Pirita Studio
PUBLISHER: Application Systems Heidelberg

Classic style point-and-click adventures seem to be making quite a comeback, and joining this growing revival is the strange and whimsical Mutropolis. In it, players take on the role of Dr Henry Dijon, an archeologist who really cuts the mustard. During a routine survey of old earth ruins (the Earth having been decimated by a – refreshingly unspecified – cataclysm and humanity relocating to Mars), the team finds records of the fabled city of Mutropolis. However, the moment this marvellous find is uncovered, the head of the department, Totel, is kidnapped by forces unknown, and it’s up to Dr Dijon and his friends to variously find Totel, locate the lost city, and thwart the end of the universe as we know it. And pretty much in that order, too.

As mentioned, this is a pretty whimsical game, from the colourful, almost painting-like artwork, to the strange cast of characters. These include, to name but a few, the softly spoken Dijon, the computer-wizard Micro (who got sacked for hacking into Securi-Cop databanks to delete a fine, and then solved the sacking by hacking into HR), a blood-thirsty garbage can, and the goddess Isis. Yes that’s correct. Egyptian deities feature in this game. Also, when you first encounter Isis, she’s wearing a bird outfit to blend in – it’s been a few thousand years since she last dealt with humans and is a little rusty on protocol.

‘But what about gameplay?’, I hear you cry. I’m glad you asked. It’s a classic point-and-click game. By the expedient of clicking on where you want to go or what you what to interact with, you explore the environment, talk to people, collect items, then attempt to use them, combine them, or use them on people or the environment in order to surmount whatever obstacle is blocking your progress – whether it’s a tetchy, alcohol drinking desk-plant, or the not-a-smuggler-and-just-a-pilot who needs convincing in order to get your team to where they need to go.

To be honest, puzzles are a very difficult thing to try to review, as what may appear obvious to someone, may be quite obtuse to another. Personally, I found most of the puzzles fairly logical – but you have to first get used to that logic. This is perhaps easier in the opening stages of the game, where the environment, and who you can talk to is fairly restricted. Basically, if you find yourself stuck, make sure you’ve interacted with everything and talked to everyone (more than just once), or offered them an item you think is relevant. Even offer the ones which don’t seem to be immediately relevant (the answers do make sense, but often rely on a bit of information you may have dismissed or forgotten about). And do make sure you use the button to highlight points in the environment which you can interact with.

While this isn’t too much of an issue in the opening of the game, towards the end, when the environment has opened up far more, it can become a distinct challenge in its own right. More so, as the game offers little in the way of hints, meaning you have to rely upon memory – and an actual real-world notepad. Actually, you will need the notepad in order to solve some of the puzzles, unless you have a photographic memory. In these instances it certainly offers players a stiff (and sometimes maddening), but rewarding challenge. It is worth noting that some of the puzzles may prove a more distinct challenge than others, with in one instance there is a very distinct red herring (not literally, it’s more blue in colour), and the fragments of numbers you encounter are drawn in the European style (which isn’t the same in Australia — a European 1 can like an Aussie 7, while a 4 can pass for a 9).

Also, while the artwork is quite enjoyable, the animation good at conveying character, and the voice acting excellent, there are two niggles. Firstly, the save/load interface is slightly clunky, which resulted in me accidentally loading an old save game, instead of saving where I was then, meaning I had to redo about 30 minutes worth of game (though, once you know what you’re doing, this only takes a few minutes). Also, and I’m hoping this is something that will be fixed in a future patch, some vital dialogue with your robot companion, Max, does not become available unless you’ve actually examined the remains of Rubins the Brave. This completely blocks progress, and, as there’s no gameplay or puzzle reason why this should be the case, it caused me to initially believe that my game had become corrupted. That said, that was the only time I encountered anything like this.

All up, Mutropolis is an enjoyable escape into a strange world, with a whimsical story and a pretty good, funny and somewhat bizarre ending. If you’re an aficionado of the point-and-click genre, then Mutropolis is definitely worthy of your attention. If you’re new to the genre, there are probably more forgiving games to start your point-and-click adventures on, though if you love puzzles and don’t mind getting occasionally stuck, it’s still worth considering. ■

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