Indie adventures: “Demetrios – The BIG Cynical Adventure” (PC)

Heroes and heroines in point-and-clickers are usually a nice bunch of people, but COWCAT‘s Demetrios – The BIG Cynical Adventure does things a bit differently.

Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure (PC)
(France 2016, developer/publisher: COWCAT, platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One)

Antique dealer Bjorn Thonen gets robbed after a drunk night out and soon finds himself involved in a mysterious hunt for a legendary treasure with his neighbor Sandra.

A laughing matter
Humor is difficult to pinpoint, because it’s so subjective. While some people will already have a problem with the main character and his often misogynist remarks, others will embrace the underlying subtext, because just like Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, Bjorn isn’t really lucky with women or in his life. While it’s unfair to compare them (after all, Larry wants to bed women and find true love), the way how they find themselves in situations that get worse and worse is very similar. Only the antique dealer… well, deals with everything happening to him in a cynical way. This doesn’t go so far as that one starts hating his comments about people and the world (unlike Rufus who took things too far in Deponia, Chaos on Deponia, and Goodbye Deponia). But one certainly has to have an affinity for this type of humor to have fun. If one decides to still play the game, there’s the option to tone down the toilet humor thanks to a recent update.

Characters Bjorn meets aren’t very nice and can be quite annoying, although it again depends on how one looks at their presentation. His neighbor Sandra is a life-embracing, happy young woman who isn’t that bright at times, her daughter Caroline is a snobby little pest, while Bjorn’s best friend Tom doesn’t seem to care very much about him, either. During his journey to the foreign country Nogo, even weirder people are introduced, e.g. a shopkeeper who gives away stuff for free but always bugs his customers to do business, another seller in front of the store who only has junk (although in the eyes of Sandra, he sells pretty things), or a clairvoyant woman who is more than a little crazy with her nonsensical talk.

Conversations with all of these people are often pretty funny, and the way how Bjorn comments on items and environmental objects is very enjoyable. If only the plot wouldn’t move at such a slow pace. What starts out to be engaging as a mystery story and finds quite a good conclusion, is marred by some boring innuendos. How everything is explained at the end might be all well and good, but a bit more suspense and fewer not-so-funny toilet humor and self-awareness moments would have done the story a lot of good. However, if one accepts that every action Bjorn performs and reaction he witness isn’t taken that seriously, then there’s always enough to do in each chapter to keep on playing. Even trying out various silly actions that result in expected and unexpected death scenes are fun diversions and allude to the many Sierra adventure deaths of old, although their sheer number can also become a bit frustrating for some people.

Puzzling like in the old days
The variety of puzzles is quite impressive and leans towards the object combination, dialogue tree, and environmental interaction template of classic titles. Even if the solutions never reach the same high quality of a Day of the Tentacle: Remastered, they’re still fun to find out, despite the occasional obscure trial and error method. So many items in the inventory and locations to visit might be intimidating, but the game mostly does a very good job of providing specific goals and sufficient clues to what to do next. If one still gets stuck, there’s a hint option that uses cookies which can be found in almost each screen. As in the Professor Layton games, a few are well-hidden, but the way how each eaten cookie only gives hints and finally a solution is commendable for beginners and advanced players alike.

Usually, mini-games in adventure games are an annoying inclusion, but these arcade-style games like fishing, animal plate shooting, random wheel turning at a funfair add to the entertainment factor, because they’re not too difficult and actually a lot of fun. So there’s always something to do for the player, while there are even a few meta-fictional elements when one can type in messages that later find their way into dialogues. At some point one takes control of Bjorn’s neighbor who has a different approach to solving problems. It’s quite nice to be given another perspective on things, although her lines are nowhere near as funny as Bjorn’s. Still, providing new puzzles with the same locations couldn’t have been done better.

Comic looks and sounds
The graphical presentation shows that this is an indie game with all its technical strengths and weaknesses. While cut-scenes feature comic-strip like scenes that are as well-drawn as the characters and backgrounds, the re-use of the same animations and rather limited action on screen that is reminiscent of visual novels makes everything quite static. Much worse is the sound design with repetitive effects used ad nausea. There’s only so much throwing up one can listen to before it becomes tiresome. Having no voice acting is negligible, although there’s a lot to read, but having the same music pieces played again and again can become very annoying. Granted, these are all well-done with some catchy rhythms, but a bit more variety or at least less noisy versions in certain scenes would have made them easier to bear.

Guilty gaming pleasure
Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure is a surprisingly fun and rather long game with 8-10 hours of playtime that might not have the most intricate of plots or most memorable of characters, but that is often witty and delivers what many modern comic adventure games seem to forget: fun puzzles that aren’t solved with bending one’s mind around so many corners. It’s all a rather silly affair that could have been less focused on toilet humor, but it remains a guilty pleasure to accompany a hero who is refreshingly different from what one is used to in the genre.

Voice acting and more fitting music tunes would have been nice, too, although the colorful illustrations in cutscenes, character portraits and backgrounds indicate that COWCAT has a lot of talent (especially considering almost everything was done by just one person: Fabrice Breton) that will hopefully be put in another fine game soon.

Score: 7.5/10

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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