Despite their often bleak narratives, there’s a massive lure to the cyberpunk genre at the moment, and this Encodya review will give you an idea if it’s any good. Well, that’s the aim.
From Assemble Entertainment, clearly on fire at the moment, it follows the story of orphan Tina and her protector, SAM-53 an imposing, but thoughtful companion and friend as they uncover a sinister plot involving the Mayor (James Corden with a tash).
Beginning with creator (not the Creator) Nicola Piovesan’s Kickstarter campaign, the development of Encodya has expanded into a much bigger game than was proposed. So, is it a point and click dystopia or utopia?
Straightaway, we’re in familiar territory as Encodya shifts into gloriously rendered cutscenes for the intro and intermissions between key events, then seamlessly melts into the story.
You play both Tina and SAM-53 and can switch between the two on the fly. Both usually offer the same results, but with a response based on their character. Tina likes to bend the rules a bit, while SAM-53 likes to follow them but breaks them for Tina.
But she’s ultimately a good girl and far from a brat. She will be your doorway for human communication, while SAM-53 engages with fellow robots. Sometimes, NPCs will refuse to speak with one of them, while other times, the respective protagonist will unlock a secret of sorts.
A Point Here, A Click There
As a conventional point and click, you use the cursor to navigate and interact with this futuristic world. An inventory is on-demand, flicking the mouse wheel back and forth to have it appear on the screen, and your options include inspecting the item or combining/using with something else.
The locations in Encodya echo a classic, with slightly limited places to visit, gradually unlocking new ones, accessible from a fast travel map, eventually interconnecting with the last.
Without a doubt, the art style is superb; Tina is the cute Vanellope von Schweetz with an oversized head, as cruelly (but amusingly) observed by a bouncer. SAM-53 is a gentle giant, similar to The Iron Giant or perhaps the Laputa robots in Laputa.
The voice talent for the leads are spot-on, but there were a few weak links, and I’m going to assume they were pulling in a few favours, Kickstarter backers or the developers. As for the score, it’s excellent. It’s a bit like a subdued Vangelis (that’s a compliment).
The Future In Your Hands
It wasn’t entirely clear what the plot was, as Encodya is classed as a cyberpunk title, so other than being set in the future, does it have any of the hallmarks such as evil corporations, hacking, and the like?
It does, though it’s not a conventional type. In the year it’s set, 2062 and Neo-Berlin, cyberspace is a big deal, and most people are jacked in, and quite bizarrely, on the streets.
Coined cyber junkies, they litter Neo-Berlin locked into cyberspace where there are no rules. Tina is anti-cyberspace as her mother died from too much cyberspace – not a spoiler, it’s stated very early on. As a result, she’s from the school of hard knocks, streetwise, but likes to keep a low profile.
There’s a disclaimer at the beginning of the game, not that the developers need to explain themselves, but people with the internet are sensitive, so understand their motivations. The one clear message is about taking a break from tech every once in a while. Encodya is not remotely preachy, just a way of exploring our evolving habits et al.
Rubber Chicken With A Pulley
This Encodya review wouldn’t be complete without a generic point and click checklist. Illogical puzzles? Check. Quirky characters? Check. In-jokes to classic adventure games? Check.
Fellow adventurers should be part of a guild, like the camaraderie at a metal gig where everyone is welcome, and the crowd gush about in-jokes and Easter eggs. Well, you’re in for a treat as there are references galore, without it being too much.
There are three-headed monkeys, pixelated effects and fourth wall breaking monologues that won’t have you laughing aloud, but will bring a smile to your face if LucasArts or Sierra are a part of your gaming history.
One NPC is the epitome of a tech nerd, making a few pop culture references, and cynical comments that resonate throughout. Digging through his pile of retro computers, I found an Amika 500, RAM, and many other titbits. You’re even presented with a floppy disk with the acronym D.O.T.T. Whatever that is.
Encodya Helpline 1-800…
In case you get stuck, there are hints on command from SAM-53. Talk to him, and he’ll ask if you need one. Hints are counted, even if you repeat the same one, so if you’re aiming for 100% completion, you might want to shy away from that.
Encodya did stump me quite a bit though, but this was a combination of two things: knowing what to do, despite a checklist being available, and missing an item. The graphics in this game are much better than its predecessors that it’s easy to miss an object in the foreground.
In the games of old, they’d stick out like a sore thumb, but here, I’d go back and forth and find a missing ticket or rock on the floor that I’d overlooked countless times. A testament to the gorgeous artwork, but it highlights your observation skills at the same time. Still, any game that casually refers to Darude’s Sandstorm is ok with me.
Encodya Review Summary
Encodya is an upbeat approach to the cyberpunk genre featuring two loveable characters and their friendships. It can be a bit on the challenging side at times, not necessarily the puzzles, but overlooking something under your nose. Still, it’s a beautiful game and gets the seal of approval my fellow adventurers.