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Atma (Windows)

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Developed by
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Written by  :  piltdown_man (166033)
Written on  :  Jul 22, 2019
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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So different yet so familiar

The Good

My first ever computer game was Monkey Island, a classic among classic point and click adventures. This game has many of the features of those old games
  • puzzles to solve to move barriers
  • text dialogue
  • pixel art
  • pressure plates that flip a switch somewhere
  • a bit of block moving
  • locked doors that are opened not with a key but by solving puzzles
It's the genre that I grew to love so I will always have a soft spot for games like that & games like this.

So having established that I start out predisposed to liking this kind of game, does it stack up. Well, on the whole, yes it does. The artwork is blocky by today's standards, and it's a bit weird in style, but it works and adds to the character of the game.
The game mechanics work well. I played with a keyboard/mouse combination rather than a gamepad/controller whadjamacallit, I did have a couple of minor issues where Shaya had to ascend a curved staircase and I had to do it more as a zig-zag but I'm OK with that - the game played well.

The game has music too, it was pleasant and sounded vaguely Indian to my ears, and I didn't turn it off while I played the game which is unusual for me so it must have been 'better that OK' even if I can't say hand-on-heart that it enhanced the gaming experience.

Now, for me, the main thing about games like this are the puzzles and the humour. Well, humour is in short supply - after all Shaya's lover is sort of dead and she's on a mission to salvage his soul - so the dialogue is pretty much businesslike and there to advance the story, set up puzzles and quests etc.
I haven't finished the game but I've played a couple of hours, died three times, and the game is getting into its stride. I've had puzzles that need creative spellcasting to solve, others that need switches in one part to be flipped so that a barrier opens elsewhere, I've had block moving, pressure pads, bridge building and more. I'm happy.
This game has no inventory system, so every puzzle I've faced so far has to be solved using the spells I have at hand. Not sure I completely like this approach, on one hand you're never stuck because you didn't pick up some obscure item at the start of the game, on the other hand it does mean that the range of puzzles may seem to be a bit limited if I get deeper into the game.

I like the way the mantras / spellcasting has been implemented. I'm not good at it, I try and use it when it's not needed and in combat I'm not fast enough, but that's part of my learning curve. As far as the game is concerned, the mechanics work well.

The Bad

I'm still not 100% sold on the art style. It's well done, it's different and it's consistent. I think the developers are trying to give the player a large game area to explore rather that the 2D side scrolling games of the past and they do that very well. It's just that the way that it's done seems a little too much like 'art for art's sake' rather than 'art to enhance the gaming experience'.
One of the consequences of the artistic style is that Shaya, the central character, is small and can get lost among some of the busier backgrounds. On balance I have to say that I admire the artistic talent and what they have done but it doesn't quite work for me.

Dying. I don't like dying, not in any game. Dying and restarting is like failing an exam and hoping you'll get the same questions in the resit. Now I've died a few times in this game and this led to a feeling that somewhere down the line there was going to be more fighting and probably a boss battle. Sure enough, there's a YouTube video of just that, so I am disinclined to complete this game. Puzzle solving is 'my thing', fighting isn't.

The Bottom Line

This is game has enough in common with the old style point-and-click games to make me happy. It also has its own art style and takes the point-and-click beyond the side scrolling 2D screens. However, it has upcoming combat elements that I know I'm not going to like so I probably won't complete the game.

This doesn't mean it's a bad game, I happen to think it's a good game, just that certain elements do not match my personal preferences.