Originally, this was going to be about Samorost 1. But 20 minutes later, I was on to Samorost 2. So this review is going to be about both Samorost games.
Samorost was the first game published by Amanita Design in 2003 and is a browser-based, point and click adventure game that utilises Flash. And it’s FREE!
You play a little elf… thing (not the Lord of the Rings kind, more the Santa’s helper kind), that lives on a gnarl…thing, that is floating through space (I think the word thing gets over-used when discussing any game by Amanita Design). Whether your elf is capable of navigating this gnarl or whether it just floats aimlessly through space, I’m not sure. This does pose some interesting questions as to why there is an elf living on and inside a gnarl that is floating through space. Where is the gnarl headed? Does it have an atmosphere or maybe the elf doesn’t need oxygen to breath. Well it’s all pretty irrelevant because another gnarl is on a collision course with your gnarl that will result is disaster and carnage.
So with the plot of Armageddon spelled out, you take your rocket over to the other gnarl to solve this problem. This game, like Botanicula, is a self-contained, puzzling, point and click and adventure. What I mean by self-contained is that each area you move into has a puzzle or problem to solve. Once you solve it, you move into the next area and onto the next problem. As far as point and click adventures go, I love this set-up. It means you have less places to travel to and each puzzle has more to it than just “let’s try and use every item in my inventory on every click-able object and hope that something happens”. At most, you barely have more than one object at a time and it’s always made clear what you have to use where. The puzzles themselves follow a very logical train and are intricate without being unnecessary complex. They are relatively easy, assuming you actually think about what you’re doing.
Before I say anything more, this game was produced, designed and created in 2003 the founder of Amanita Design, Jakub Dvorský, with the soundtrack being composed by Tomáš Dvořák. So with that all said, the fact that this is the first game from Amanita Design is very obvious. Being a flash-based browser-game, the graphics are obviously limited in what they can achieve. But they do achieve a high standard… for Flash. Sometimes it’s a little unclear what you should be clicking until you’ve panned your mouse over the entire screen and waited for the mouse to turn into a hyperlink hand. And even once you’ve worked out what to click, clicking these things in the right order is another challenge, though not an unachievable one.
Well, now on to Samorost 2, the first chapter of which is available for free on the Samorost website. In this game, our elf-hero returns, navigating the same gnarl through space. But this time, aliens come to your gnarl and not only steal your fruit, but your dog too. So you take your rocket over to the alien gnarl to rescue your dog.
This game follows the same area-by-area, puzzling set-up as the first Samorost, but is a longer game divided into seven distinct chapters. The game is also bigger with several chapters letting you move around different areas. While this sounds good, I found it meant that you had less direction and less of an idea where to go.
Even though this game was produced in 2005, I still found it old-school that each level has a password system that allows you to skip ahead to particular stages. The last game I remember having this was Megaman for the gameboy.
Also, for further reference:
Like the first game, it is still flash-based and still has slightly undefined places to click. You still often have to pan across the screen to discover what you’re capable of clicking on. The puzzles are also still logical and well thought-out, though generally a bit more intricate and elaborate, though no less intuitive.
There is also a subtle improvement on the design and style with some extra lighting effects and still a great soundtrack. There’s even a cute little effect where as he searches, the hero whistles for his dog.
While there are seven levels, the game seems to be in two distinct parts; the first being where you rescue your dog from the alien gnarl and the second part being where your ship runs out of fuel and crashes on a random gnarl. This second part seemed tacked on with only a vague goal of trying to get home. Though it wasn’t until the end of the game that I (and the hero for the matter) worked out how exactly he was going to get home.
This game probably would have taken less than an hour to complete if it wasn’t for this one stage that stumped me for 20 minutes. Without giving anything away, turns out I was clicking the right thing but not at the right time. This was incredibly frustrating, but was achieved in the end. Maybe I wasn’t thinking laterally enough…
Finally, the last puzzle did drive me insane a bit. This is how it rolled (yes there will be solutions):
I finally found a way off the gnarl via taxi. First I had to wake the taxi driver which was simple enough by going into the lighthouse and concocting a brew through trial and error (trial and error that I over-complicated for myself; the answer was easy) that would wake him. Once I did this, I needed fuel for the taxi. So taking a balloon off the fuel pump (which resembled a vacuum cleaner), I traversed the mountain and attached the balloon to another exhaust sticking out of a hill. I then had to shovel muck (which I assume consisted mostly of prunes) into a trough from which the flying seal-cows ate, who then farted gas which I had to catch in a pipe and absorb into the balloon. This had to be repeated two times before the balloon was full. Then going back down the mountain, I attached the balloon back to the vacuum-machine-fuel-pump and used the bellows to send the fuel over to the taxi. Not simple, but wasn’t hard to figure out. Oh wait! Turns out the taxi wasn’t docked low enough and I just shot my fart-fuel into space. REPEAT ENTIRE PROCESS!
Overall the Samorost games are unique, quirky, a bit of fun and a great example of an excellent point and click adventure. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Samorost 2 was worth the $5 I payed for it, but if you buy it as part of the Amanita Collection, it’s a nice little hour of play.