Developer: Amanita Design
Publisher: Amanita Design
Format: PC (browser/flash)
Ah boy, is this a nostalgia trigger for me. I remember way back when my uncle first showed me Samorost, in all of it's bizarre beauty. The first Samorost is but a quick little flash game by Amanitia Design, the people behind games such as Machinarium and Botanicula. Like all of these titles, Samorost is a point-and-click adventure game, and a decently unique one at that.
The narrative is one of the key elements that usually makes a point-and-click adventure game so great, but this game instead goes for a simple route. The story here is that Gnome (the player character so to speak), while on his little island floating in space, spots another floating island floating fast in a direction that would crash both islands. So, in an attempt to steer the ship away, Gnome goes to the other island on his rocket ship to try and do just that. It's a simple narrative that while not doing anything too outstanding, serves it's purpose to give purpose to the player character's adventure.
Another thing well known about point-and-click adventure games are their puzzles. In most point-and-click adventures the player character does everything. They interact with people, keep and use objects, and just about everything else. Samorost does something different though. Instead of Gnome walking around and interacting with everything the player clicks on, things just happen when they're clicked on. Gnome just kinda sits somewhere on the screen while things in the world just kinda seem to happen around him.
Puzzles require looking around the world and interacting with just about everything you can. The real puzzle is connecting the dots between everything you can interact with and then figuring out the order in which you should do it. They all take place on a single screen and only involve the things on that screen. Considering that Gnome doesn't really do much himself other than explore, it's reasonable that he doesn't pick up items to use in puzzles. Failing a puzzle doesn't result in death, but is merely a setback at most. Some are laughably easy, but others can make no sense at first. They're not particularly difficult, but there can be times where things aren't totally obvious.
The true beauty of Samorost is in it's world-building. Navigating puzzles is fun, as it leads to exploring the world of this little island you're trying to keep from crashing into Gnome's. The wildlife, citizens, and even landforms are all so unique, interesting, and bizarre. As puzzles are worked through all of these things and more are interacted with. Watching each creature work with or against each other is like watching an active ecosystem at work, and the citizens utilizing their technology is nothing short of intriguing. It's a beautiful world to explore, with some areas full of life or bits of civilization, and others seeming so desolate and empty. Going to each new screen means you get to see a whole screen's worth of the world, and every piece of the world adds more and more development to the already interesting environment.
Visuals are what makes the world look so unique and weird, which works amazingly in conjunction with the concepts of the world design. It's a mixture of mostly realistic images and photoshop with most of the things requiring legitimate animation done in a minimalistic style with lots of basic shapes and solid colors. The combination works beautifully and adds a lot of charm to the whole thing. The visuals are what make this game so great, as without them the world would look bland and then the sense of exploration would be lost. The wacky world looks wacky, and that's just how I like it.
Music design is a unique bit too. There's not a lot of music. The only times when music plays is in the beginning, in the end, and during two puzzle segments, both of which were very clever. One had a generic electronic loop that fit very well with the machine-heavy environment. The second was part of the puzzle. You have to get one guy to play music on his record player to wake up an owl, and the different music loops each play as he cycles through them. Other than that sound bits are good, fitting, and charming. To be honest the sound department is kinda weak, but when it does its job it at least does it right.
Over all Samorost is a simple and charming piece of exploration/world-building porn disguised as a point-and-click adventure game. It's a fun and short, with the whole game probably begin around 10 minutes after you know what you're doing. It's an interesting experience I remembered fondly, and for good reasons. This first game is a full flash game, and if I'm not mistaken the second game's demo is a flash game too, so why not check both out?