It’s time to say goodbye to a series of crazy slapstick moments, whacky characters and a protagonist who’s more than a little full of himself. But is Daedalic Entertainment’s Goodbye Deponia a satisfying ending to the point-and-click saga or is it going too far with its humor and obscure puzzles this time?
Goodbye Deponia (PC)
(Germany 2013, developer/publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
Egoistic Rufus who also starts to feel a bit of remorse for his actions is on his way to Elysium to save his girl Goal, maybe even his home planet Deponia and its inhabitants, while being confronted by his three split personalities who bring even more chaos.
A question of tasteful or tasteless humor
Comic adventures aren’t well-known for their intricate storytelling, relying too much on slapstick humor, eccentric characters and weird situations the protagonists find themselves in. Despite Jan ‘Poki’ Müller-Michaelis’ ability to weave some more adult themes into his former Edna & Harvey: The Breakout or Harvey’s Eyes, the Deponia series has been an example of how an unlikeable main character steps from one catastrophe into the next, causing havoc on both his environment and abuse on the people he meets on the way, with mixed results.
Goodbye Deponia is no different and again offers questionable humor. The problem with this is simply that the nastiness in which some scenes play out and the one-liners Rufus delivers come across as very forced, simply for the sake of being controversial. This goes so far that there is one location in which audience laughter and applause is heard after each comment he or other members of a dysfunctional family utter. This is meant as a parody, but it simply turns out to be the kind of come-on rolling-one’s-eyes sense of humor. It’s refreshing to have a not-so-nice character like Rufus take the lead instead of a two-goody-shoes like in many other adventures, but this still doesn’t excuse some offensive remarks just for offensive’s sake with no subtlety whatsoever, something other comic adventures manage far better by walking the line between silliness, nonsense and funny word plays with memorable and surreal situations.
Story’s my second best nuncle
Another problem comic adventures with an emphasis on one humorous sequence following another face is that the plot and character development usually stops or loses its momentum. The Deponia series has always tried to make Rufus’ character a tragic anti-hero, and as a conclusion to the trilogy, the third game does this again by making him realize what consequences his actions have. Sadly, this feels as forced as the humor, and as these moments are rare and usually interrupted by a series of nonsense and slapstick humor, the effect of really sympathizing with him is lost. There are a few rather touching moments, and the whole concept of three Rufus personae is an interesting one, but as these still share the same DNA and don’t really work as three memorable characters, the drama elements don’t gel very well together with the overall silliness.
There are of course also some very funny moments in the story which usually originate from the weird characters Rufus encounters, and it’s here that the developer shows that he almost hits a level of LucasArts quality, only with a mean streak. There’s a sect of doomsday advocates who still have to wait for their master who is too hygienic for his own good, a shopkeeper who sells nooses in various forms, an organ grinder’s monkey who’d rather have his master play the instrument, and many other strange beings. These are obviously always a part of specific puzzles and rarely contribute much to the overall plot, but at least they provide some laugh-out-loud scenes.
There are also situations in which pop culture references can be found which are handled in various successful ways. For instance, a pop/rap musician from Germany (Smudo from the Fantastic Four, not the superhero ensemble, mind) has a cameo in which he does not only sing a song which is too long, he also appears as a character Rufus has to interact with in order to proceed. There is another scene in which various guests of a bar are turned into famous arcade videogame characters, which is funny and surprising at first but gets old soon together with other meta-gaming scenes, while it also shows how inconsistent the puzzle design is.
Puzzle hard and break some heads
Daedalic games and in particular the Deponia titles have always featured obscure puzzle solutions, and the third entry in the comic saga follows in their footsteps. However, things are made more interesting and difficult by introducing three Rufus characters who can be controlled at the same time and who can swap items. Despite a high number of locations and objects to pick up, the different goals to achieve are usually clearly defined, while not all places can be visited at the start. How the Rufuses interact is also limited to specific turns in the story and certain scenes. Although some puzzles require team work, it’s usually about acquiring one item with one character and giving it to the other who needs it somewhere else. It never reaches the mindbending but also fun way of the classic Day of the Tentacle by fundamentally changing the environment of each character, but at least this design choice adds variety to proceedings, while the number of items is still manageable.
The overall quality of the puzzles has its highs and lows, which has not only to do with the sheer number of problems to solve, but also how they’re integrated into the story. Skippable mini-games also make a comeback, and they’re surprisingly better implemented than some of the more filler puzzles. Just like the forced humor, one can’t shake off the feeling that the developer wanted to include as many crazy ideas as possible, and at times it’s simply frustrating to guess one’s way through the game with few hints and even less logic. Granted, some solutions could almost make it into a classic LucasArts title, but there’s a thin line between rewarding gameplay and a simply annoying trial-and-error method which follows the same procedure of if-the-straight-path-is-too-easy-put-more-and-more-problems-in-the-way-of-the-player.
No change of scenery
On a technical standpoint, not much has changed since the beginning of the trilogy. The hand-drawn backgrounds have the same detailed comic look, while the cutscenes are simply perfect renditions of a crazy animated movie. Still despite some fluid animations in slapstick scenes, the puppet-like few facial and gesture animations during conversations in addition to the environment’s small moving objects show the problems of an old graphics engine.
Voice acting (in the German version) is of a high quality as always, although the music is just as repetitive as it always was, with a sometimes annoying hipster mix of rap and techno beats which might suit the indie punk attitude of the title but is getting boring pretty quick. There are also a few graphical bugs and glitches which could have been avoided as well.
Third time’s the charm or not?
Goodbye Deponia continues the tradition of its predecessors with a questionable anti-hero, off-the-wall humor which doesn’t always work, like the drama elements, and a stellar comic presentation with lovely backgrounds and great-looking cutscenes despite the usual flaws in the few character animations. The puzzle design is hit-or-miss as always, and the conclusion feels a bit rushed, also due to the slow progress of the story with all the various tasks to do. But the inclusion of three playable characters lifts it up from the same problems the first game had, although it lacks the scope of the second one. Hitting a fair middle ground in game design, the title is recommended for fans of obscure puzzles and slapstick humor who can forgive some odd design choices and an even odder storytelling approach.
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