September 4, 2013

Puzzle crafting for point and click games can be tricky. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the aim is to attain the big picture by piecing together whatever’s available in your inventory. Making this too obvious leads to a boring puzzle, too abstract and you’re left with a frustrated player. Memoria is the latest title from Daedalic Entertainment, and while it’s riddled with puzzles, most fall into these two categories, rarely finding that perfect balance.

It’s not that the puzzles are necessarily bad, it’s just that when they are good there is no true satisfaction, no great feeling of reward. When it comes down to it, puzzle lovers are common addicts: we live from puzzle to puzzle, fuelled by logic in our quest for the hidden answer, jumping through mental hoop after hoop to eventually emerge with a euphoric sense of achievement. But to achieve something requires risk, a seemingly foreign concept to Memoria as in most cases failure isn’t followed by consequence. A wrong answer can be remedied by simply clicking every other answer until you find the correct one, working the muscles of your index finger rather than the mind. Sure, a clever mind can flawlessly master a puzzle, but the thought that any dingus with a clicking finger can achieve the same result makes for a bitter trophy.

The narrative follows Geron, a simple bird-catcher struggling to cure his friend of a bad case of “crow-itis”, that is, being trapped in the form of a crow. To do this, he must solve a riddle for a travelling seer, the answer hidden somewhere in the lost tale of Princess Sadja.


The game jumps between these two characters, unveiling Sadja’s adventure as Geron digs deeper into the past.   Sadly, Geron is a highly unlikable character. He’s nosey, repetitive and speaks with the tone, diction and intonation of a play-school host. Not to mention he bears the resting face of a man holding back a serious case of the “hot sloppies”. Sadja, on the other hand, is the opposite of Geron. Sadja is likeable. She is strong-willed, determined and runs the fine line between clever and ruthless. As a result, her goals are clouded: she aims to join the impending battle against the Demon horde to save the world of man, yet she also wants her name to go down in history – no matter the cost. Geron’s motives aren’t so enticing, being questionable at best. His goal to transform Nuri seems completely unreasonable, as each conversation rests on how unhappy she was in her previous form and how carefree her new life as a crow can be. What’s more, he rarely comes to any conclusion of his own merit, being spoon fed answers by those around him. At first glance he fits the fantasy archetype of the unlikely hero, but his acts of heroism are few and far between, shifting the balance more towards the “unlikely” end than anything.


Personality aside, each character plays as a standard point and click character should. Movement is controlled by the mouse, and clicking on objects will cause you to interact with them. Collectable items are stored in an inventory that sits at the bottom of the screen and can sometimes be combined to create different items. On top of a few unique objects, Memoria spices up a formulaic genre by giving each character their own set of magical abilities. Sadja, for example, commands a magic staff, giving her the power to activate enchanted beings, turn plants into stone and even manipulate thoughts through an environment-based puzzle. Good ol’ Geron, on the other hand, wields a flimsy repair/break spell which, as you might have guessed, does just as the name suggests… on occasion. Basically, Sadja harnesses the wicked power of a Jedi whilst Geron’s tricks are interchangeable with a screwdriver.

The powers come as a cool addition to the point and click genre though, forcing you to think outside your inventory and manipulate your environment. Another nice feature of Memoria‘s gameplay is the space bar function, which reveals all the clickable locations on a  screen, saving you from clicking tirelessly at every object as if you were Prof Layton on a hunt for hint coins.


Memoria‘s shining glory comes from its epic environments, providing sweeping landscapes that give the illusion of depth and movement to what are, in essence, still images. Each area is so full of colour and detail that they manage to tell a story all on their own, capturing the descriptive heart of The Dark Eye universe, an RPG so large it rivals that of Dungeons & Dragons and the source material for Daedalic Entertainment’s last two adventures. Combined with a well crafted soundtrack that utilises the relaxing sound of the lutes and the epic highs of orchestral strings, the land of Aventuria is admirably realised, doing high fantasy a great service.


Character design is strong (with the exception of Geron’s perturbed resting face of course) creating some delightfully creepy characters. Stilted vocals and occasional awkward movement work against this however, as the vocal tracks seem to be recorded in fragments meaning that conversation doesn’t always flow. A character can go from talking gently to speaking frantically all in the same sentence for no reason whatsoever. There is also very little breathing space between tracks, meaning lines become rushed and tend to trip over themselves.

Movement combines 2D character skins with an impressive 360 degree rotation, but the resizing of characters as they move closer/further away from the camera can sometimes lag behind, looking awkward and clumsy. In addition, Geron’s movement seems stilted as his arms sway back and forth but the rest of his body remains rigid. This again may be attributed to a fault in his initial character design and that ‘derp’ expression I keep harping on about. But in all seriousness, he’s ‘derp’ personified.

A good puzzle is a trickster at heart: simple puzzles that are deceptively complex, for example, or complex puzzles that are actually quite simple. Despite being filled with lesser attempts, Memoria’s storyline proves to be the greatest puzzle of all, redeeming its parts by intelligently binding the narrative with what ends up being a rather well constructed riddle. It is for this reason that fans of The Dark Eye series should fork out the twenty odd dollars that Steam asks. Hell, depending on your end-game decision “Mr Unlikely” himself can even exhibit a moment of redemption. A brief moment, mind you, but a moment all the same.


Environments | Score | Princess Sadja's storyline


Geron | Voice acting | Puzzles lack reward

Overall Score: