Review

Goodbye Deponia Review (PC)

I make no apologies for utterly hating Deponia, a game that was to comedy adventures what Stephanie Meyer is to vampire novels (has fans but is a blight on the genre). It wasn’t funny in any way, puzzles were the worst kind of adventure game nonsense, the plot felt like it consisted entirely of padding, many major goals just felt unsatisfying like “get a cup of coffee” or “go upstairs”, and worst of all main character Rufus was a copy of Guybrush Threepwood with all the wit, sweetness, and likeability stripped out. Fortunately Daedalic have redeemed themselves since then with the excellent Night of the Rabbit and two great The Dark Eye adventures, so maybe we’re ready to return to Deponia now. Just in case though I have my Monkey Island 2 code-wheel on standby in case I need to slit my wrists with something symbolic.

The Deponia series follows Rufus, professional ego-driven incompetent, as he attempts to escape from the trash-covered Deponia to Elysium, the floating city of the rich. This plot is in no way a rip-off of Matt Damon’s recent movie Elysium despite sharing the name of their floating rich-people city since the first game came out last year and didn’t have Sharlto Copley in it. In Goodbye Deponia the Elysians are planning to destroy Deponia so Rufus and his Elysian “girlfriend” Goal have to quickly figure out a way to stop them... or just escape together and let the planet be destroyed. Surprisingly enough it doesn’t come to that.

We’ve had one of Leisure Suit Larry strutting his stuff on the dancefloor, now here's Rufus and Goal

There is no catch-up for people who haven’t played the first two games so don’t start here - Deponia isn’t so much a “trilogy” as it is one story split into three and padded to within an inch of its life. That’s why the first big chapter after the rather incomprehensible opening (if you haven’t played the last game that is) is set around a hotel where interesting things happen but have zero relevance to the overall plot, plus the goal is literally just a bit of pointless busywork to keep Rufus occupied. Amusing, but all padding, and having to play a minigame and through various overcomplicated means collect a pie, a urinal cake, a pile of dust, pepper, and toothpaste just to get a towel which is just one part of collecting some clothes from the laundry... well, it makes you wonder what the point of it all is.

Still, a lot of adventure players won’t care since most just want the puzzles and aren’t worried if they’re pointless or not (in Deponia’s defence Sam & Max Hit The Road consisted mostly of plot-irrelevant puzzles, but then that game was funny so it got away with it). Fortunately after the hotel things get a lot more interesting. The second half of the game, through means I won’t spoil, introduces the ability to switch between three characters a la Day of the Tentacle. At this point the game becomes a lot more challenging, adds some truly clever puzzles, and even features a couple of genuinely funny scenes – Rufus sitting on a therapist’s couch matter-of-factly recounting the utterly insane things he’s had to do, and the ultimate temptation for a child-eating slime monster. Despite a few moments of sheer fluke guessing (but of course weighing down a paper airplane with a keyboard key and throwing it at a therapist would get it to a giant tower that can’t be viewed from this scene) the adventuring quality of the final act is spot-on and contains most of the fun of, well, the series. There’s still no hint system though, not even the basic version in Memoria, which irritates me greatly. There are a lot of minigames this time around as well, which will either tickle your puzzle-bones or deeply frustrate, so I’m relieved that Daedalic allow all of them to be skipped. They’re just meant for fun.

Well, I’m convinced

What baffles me though is how dark the game gets on occasion. There are several moments done in the name of “comedy” that had me shifting uncomfortably, like the paedophile (who actually turns out to be... a paedophile! Wait, that’s not funny), a woman being forced to dance naked for money, and the deaths of at least two small children. What’s worse though is one dark moment halfway through is actually done in the name of drama, which just doesn’t fit in with the screwball silly comedy vibe the rest of the game strives for. You can’t have a dramatic emotional plot-twist in the middle of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I’m talking silliness here, not quality).

Then there’s Rufus. Despite some effort being put in to make him actually a hero of some sorts in a few scenes (particularly around the finale) it’s utterly at odds with how he is the rest of the time, which is selfish, vile, and does some truly astonishingly terrible things. Even when Goal, the one person who likes Rufus, is thrown into mortal peril (in her underwear, thanks to him) he stops trying to rescue her to have a long talk with an admirer. Or gets small children killed. Or breaks up a loving relationship and gets the girlfriend sold into naked dancing slavery. Or bounces back from being miserable to making stupid wisecracks at the drop of a hat. To be fair Daedalic have actually tried to make him less hateful this time, actually doing things to save other people, but it’s still hard to warm to him. That’s probably at least partly down to the badly translated jokes which occasionally just don’t make sense, or the deeply annoying voice actor.

I’m not kidding about the jokes either. Bad jokes are one thing (and Goodbye Deponia is almost entirely stocked with those) but nonsensical baffling ill-translated jokes are another. Several times I was left scratching my head when the writers obviously wanted me to at least smile. “Good thing I don’t suffer from vertigo, or any other sign of the Zodiac!” and “Two lights are blinking on the radar panel, a small green one and a big red one. It can only mean one thing – we’re out of confetti!” for example. Answer in the comments below if you get either of these jokes. The translation issues extend to the end-chapter songs, which scan and rhyme so badly I’m wondering if Daedalic just stuck the German version into Google Translate and got one of the writers to sing it. Still, Goodbye Deponia has more good jokes than the first game at least.

Best scene in the series

The game looks fairly nice too. It’s still nowhere near as good as most of Daedalic’s other stuff but despite sharing the cartoony style it’s much better than the last two games, oozing detail and grime in every corner of Deponia. It’s fun to catch the little details, like a giant bug scuttling out of a sofa or a baby crawling around a construction site in the background of a scene. I never gaped at the game in awe, but it was all nicely animated and felt like playing a cartoon. An adult, stupid, badly-translated cartoon, but still a nice looking one.

Give Goodbye Deponia its due, it’s the strongest game in the series so far, but it pales in comparison to Night of the Rabbit, Memoria or the Monkey Island series Daedalic are so desperately trying to imitate. Despite some adventure-game-logic-overload and an ultimately pointless first chapter set in a sleazy hotel the puzzles remain enjoyable throughout, particularly ramping up in the second half where three concurrent playable characters come in. The story tries to be too dramatic in parts, with a few out-of-place dark moments and a slightly unsatisfying ending that seems entirely written to tell me off for saying that Rufus was a selfish unlikeable dick (you’ll see). Still, I can’t deny Goodbye Deponia had some fun moments with puzzles on just the right side of the entertaining/frustrating border. If you stuck with the series this far I think you’ll be satisfied. I still maintain that Rufus is a jerk and that the trilogy is just one game split into three with a load of padding, however.

Top Game Moment: Rufus on the psychiatrist’s couch: the scene I’ve been waiting three games to see.

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Comments

By Atomsk1 (I just got here) on Oct 23, 2013
Atomsk1
“Good thing I don’t suffer from vertigo, or any other sign of the Zodiac!”


He's hilariously* confusing "Vertigo" with "Virgo".



*not hilariously