Cyberpunk stories aren’t new in the adventure game genre, and the retro pixel look isn’t, either. So does Technocrat Games‘ Technobabylon have different qualities to make it stand apart and fit in the Wadjet Eye Games indie catalog?
In the City of Newton, A.D. 2087, agents Charlie Regis and Max Lao investigate a mindjacker, a person who steals information out of people’s heads and leaving them dead, while net addict Latha Sesame finds herself to be the next target.
Different characters, different stories
As it is so often the case with many playable characters in games, one has to be careful about how much time is spent on each individual. While Technobabylon does a good job of introducing two agents and a cybernet addict, there are often segments which are too long. With constant jumps in time, place and characters, the plot also suffers from this. It’s already complicated enough and isn’t made easier to follow with dialogues discussing personal freedom, genetics and sexuality in great detail. These are certainly interesting and important topics, but it’s one thing to have characters constantly talk about them, and quite another to actually make the player find out or simply experience them via signs in the game world.
Different places, different voices
Fortunately, there is a great sense of place throughout the game with characters who have their own agendas and who aren’t portrayed as black and white, good or evil. Their cultural and social identities as well as self-expression make them interesting to play as or talk to, driving the character development further than the plot itself does. The problem is again found in the dialogues which spent more time on using jargon the player has to understand than on the actual story that has enough potential to be suspenseful.
However, by being too expository and explaining the order of science, society and the world in general, there are too many breaks to make the plot engaging enough. This might be a general problem of cyberpunk stories, but it’s a shame that the dialogues are getting more and more out of proportion, especially in the last part of the game which almost consists of endless talking. On the plus side, graphic violence and a bit of gore aren’t used gratuitously but are shockingly disturbing in some scenes. The way internet culture, gaming and advancements in technology are satirized is also much more enjoyable than getting to grips with characters who’re not so easy to relate to.
Different puzzles, different solutions
Gameplay-wise, the title offers quite a lot for a Wadjet Eye Games release in terms of puzzles. These are well integrated into the story and not only varied, but also quite original, e.g. when an A.I. with three different personalities (a maid, barman, and cook) has to be interrogated or when people in the real world and cyberspace have to be disconnected or beaten at their own games. There are different solutions to some problems, while three playable characters approach situations and tackle problems in different ways as well. The inevitable co-op play with changing between them only takes play at the end, though. Still, these various conundrums are what keeps the player motivated, as they’re refreshingly different from other point-and-click games, using the cyberpunk themes to great effect.
Different decisions, different endings
One should also mention the moral decisions concept. While it doesn’t go all the way like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season 1 in terms of building and breaking relationships, one has to choose in various parts of the story who to trust and who has to die, resulting in different endings and some alternative scenes. These segments are usually well done and implemented in the story without being intrusive, with some moral dilemmas not easily to be solved. If only there were more of these and less scientific talk, then one could overlook the problems in the narrative.
Not so different looks and sounds
Technically, Technobabylon is very similar to Wadjet Eye Games’ own games, with a pixel art look that is functional, but has some lovely backgrounds which are especially prominent in the cyberspace sections or where nature and concrete meet. Voice acting is quite good with only a few exaggerated exceptions, but that’s to be expected from an indie title. The same holds true for the music that is varied with many synthesizer sounds, but not very memorable, even if one particular 80s-style instrumental rock track is quite catchy.
A different, but also same-y game
Technocrat’s Technobabylon is a typical Wadjet Eye Games release with a pixel art retro look, good music, voice acting and a mature story. Branching and interconnected narratives in games aren’t always successful, and this cyberpunk adventure struggles with this as well, spending too much time on exposition.
The game is much better with puzzles than with storytelling, as these are more memorable than the actual over-complicated plot. For cyberpunk fans and adventure gamers who don’t mind characters who discuss science topics in detail and throw jargon at them, this comes as a recommendation. For all others, be prepared to get through lots of text before solving the fun puzzles.
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