Samorost 3

Year: 2016
Platform: Windows/Macintosh
Developer: Amanita
Genre: Puzzle
Review Date: 4/16/16
Rating: ***

A gorgeous, but infuriating point-and-click adventure from Amanita Design ("Machinarium" and "Botanicula"). The main character is a non-descript little gnome in a white jumpsuit, who lives in a quaint little tower and dreams of traveling to the stars (or at least the nearby planets that he can observe with his telescope). One day, a magic bugle falls from the sky, and our little guy decides to build a spaceship and do battle with a rogue monk who's bent on destruction. Along the way, he meets several eccentric characters and interacts with a wide variety of exotic plants and animals, including singing termites.

Similar to Amanita's other games, the artwork and art direction are simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, the game design and gameplay are completely maddening, and I was hopelessly stuck on the very first puzzle, not five minutes into the game. The interface is vague and contains no explanation whatsoever. It's not clear how to save and load games (or if that's even an option), and it took me several minutes to figure out how to even close the application. Like many games in this genre, the puzzles require unconventional logic to solve, which means all you can do is hope to get lucky by clicking and dragging everything on the screen numerous times. Even so, the puzzles in "Samorost 3" are insidiously difficult, and some are literally impossible. One particularly nasty example is when you're required to enter a six digit combination, with no clues at all. Unless you've got a walkthrough handy, you've got a 1 in 4096 chance of solving the puzzle on your own, and that's assuming you know the number of inputs beforehand (which you don't). That's just bad design. The majority of puzzles in the game offer such subtle and vague feedback that having a walkthrough is mandatory (and the one I had was littered with mistakes, which created even more challenges). And even with that, I found the execution extremely frustrating.

Ultimately, it was the artwork that kept me coming back to try again, as I was always looking forward to seeing the next area. The story is charming, although I didn't find the main character to be very interesting, and his annoying voice was a constant irritant. The music is pretty good for the most part, although it sometimes devolves into random chaotic noise, like Amanita's earlier games often do. If you're a fan of their style, then this is definitely a game worth picking up. But if you're more into engaging gameplay and puzzle solving, you're probably better off looking elsewhere.