I've got a confession to make: I'm actually an android. That's right, I'm not human at all — I'm a human-like robot programmed solely to write reviews. It's not the easiest existence, but I can afford oil and a recharging station with a little honest work. That's more than you can say for the down-on-their-luck robotic protagonists of Primordia, a new adventure game developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games, the adventure mavens who brought classics like Emerald City Confidential, Gemini Rue and Resonance.
As Horatio Nullbuilt Version Five, you and your floating spherical partner Crispin Horatiobuilt need to explore a post-apocalyptic world while searching for your stolen power core. Along the way you'll encounter plenty of other robots both good and bad, but not the mythical Man, the original builders who vanished from the world in ages past. Maybe you'll even find out what happened to them during your search... assuming you don't end up in the scrap heap!
You control Horatio with the mouse and little else. You'll talk to fellow robots to dig up clues using a dialogue tree and, true to the adventure genre, you'll also need to collect items to use and combine from your inventory. You also have a Datapouch, a handy-dandy map/diary/notepad system that allows you to take notes and fast travel between locations to minimize the pain of backtracking. Finally, your most useful tool might actually be your partner Crispin, who can be used like an inventory item to solve puzzles or offer hints in a manner reminiscent of the Lucasarts classic Sam and Max Hit the Road.
Also like the Lucasarts games, there's no death or failure state in Primordia. You're free to explore and experiment without fear of getting destroyed for being curious, though it might still behoove you to keep multiple save slots in case you want to play around with alternate puzzle solutions.
Analysis: Like many other Wadjet Eye-published games, Primordia is essentially a love letter to adventure games of decades past. In this case, the clear inspiration is the aforementioned Sam and Max Hit the Road. Horatio and Crispin, like the dog and rabbity-thing protagonist of that title, serve as a straight man and comic relief duo when it comes to their commentary. They've got tons of personality and spice up the game quite a bit, which otherwise would be fairly bleak and dreary. The setting and backstory are post-apocalyptic, after all, and this theme is conveyed by the fantastic setting art and music. It's hardly a spoiler to say that the tone becomes more serious toward the end of the game but the characters are endearing enough to keep things entertaining all the way to the end.
As adventure games go, Primordia is fairly simple to work through, as there aren't any instances of bizarre game logic when it comes to puzzles, and if you're stuck for too long in one place you can always ask Crispin for hints... if he doesn't just pipe up and offer them himself! One unique feature is that several puzzles have alternate solutions available, which offers a bit of replay value. Primordia is also a fairly short game, clocking in at perhaps five hours, though there are multiple endings to uncover. The length is hardly a strike against the game, however, as the story is told remarkably well and without any instances of padding out the length with needless backtracking and nonsensical puzzles.
Primordia's a great choice for fans of the genre, and those new to adventure games should be pleased with the moderate difficulty, ample guidance and intriguing plot. It's certainly a visual and aural tour-de-force that's easy to recommend. Humans, cyborgs and androids alike are bound to find something to enjoy here.