Adventure Gamers Awards
Keptosh: The Search for Junc is a rather disturbing venture from the mind of "Juncmodule," as the author prefers to be called. It's made with AGS (Adventure Game Studio), and enjoyed a brief splash in that community a few months back. The game failed to generate much interest beyond that, and this is a shame. Keptosh is a very unique kind of game and should be played by anyone interested in seeing what the genre can do. From start to finish, Keptosh never failed to keep me intrigued, although it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. It's not the engaging dialog, because there isn't much. It's not the clever puzzles, because there aren't too many of those either. What this game DOES have, in spades, is the most brilliantly realized vision of a dystopian future I have ever seen in an adventure game, plus the capability to mess with your head in a disturbingly subtle fashion.
It's the year 2084, and humans have come to rely on electricity and data to sustain their lives. This city is controlled by a massive corporation called ServaCor, which supplies the citizens with free services in exchange for what is almost slave labor in huge robot factories. These free services include food, beer, shelter and "junc." Junc seems to be a slang term for a highly addictive, electronic form of drug that's administered to the citizens through various terminals scattered throughout the city.
You're Adis Keptosh, a goateed young man living in ServaCor City with his girlfriend. The game opens up in your apartment. You're lounging around wondering where your girlfriend has disappeared to, so you walk yourself out of the apartment to look for her. Finding your girlfriend, however, is only a small stepping stone leading to your bigger mission -- it turns out the supply of junc to the city has been stopped, and you must venture forth into ServaCor Headquarters in order to turn it back on.
The graphics are drawn in 320 x 200 EGA graphics (think old-school Sierra style, circa Space Quest I/II). The low resolution seems to be a deliberate choice, as the heavy pixilation gives the city and its characters a cheap, dirty, and gritty feel. The graphics portray ServaCor just as it should be -- colorful and bright, but rundown, ramshackle, and stale -- almost as though there is still a spark of life in the air that's slowly being smothered. From the deep cracks that cross-cross their way across the sidewalk, to the deep pile of trash that covers a section of the street, the lethargy and decay of this society is prevalent.
The sound, too, seems to be a deliberate choice. It consists of various 3-5 second music clips that loop over and over. Each location of the game has different music, so there is some variety, but if you spend too long in any one location the monotonous repetition of the music starts to drain you. The music reminded me of the movie Clockwatchers, where the soul-less corporation pipes monotonous music into its workers' cubicles in order to "inspire" them, but instead drives them slowly insane. In any other game this type of music would be considered annoying, but in Keptosh it is entirely appropriate. Fortunately, the game is short enough that the music shouldn't become a bother at all.
Juncmodule has even taken the time to populate the city with quite a number of men, woman and (oddly enough) robots. As you wander the streets of ServaCor, you'll run into a number of citizens running errands of their own. These other characters will walk into a store, enter the bar for a drink, or just wander the streets. It's unfortunate that you can't interact with these characters much, and talking to them only elicits one of a few random responses. It's ironic that while Keptosh contains a large number of NPCs, the characters are its weakest point. You never really get to know any of the people you meet -- the bartender at the local watering hole, your girlfriend, the local prophet, or any of the random NPCs wandering the streets. None of them are particularly interesting or noteworthy. Even Adis himself is pretty bland and nondescript person, and his motivations for taking on ServaCor aren't made very clear.
Another of the game's weak points are the puzzles; there aren't many. The ones that exist are very simple, and it's usually very obvious what needs to be done. This is hardly a crime, since the author is more concerned with story than puzzles. However, there is one "puzzle" that deserves a special stinker award. There is a room littered with electrical wires, and you must painstakingly navigate your way through them. One false step and *bzzzzzzt!* -- you're electrocuted and die in a silly and cartoonish fashion. This puzzle is very frustrating, and requires a lot of saving and reloading in order to complete.
Despite these flaws, the world of Keptosh is well worth exploring. The game touches on some heavy and controversial themes, contains more atmosphere than you can shake a stick at, and will leave you thinking once the game is over (despite a very sudden and "huh?" type ending). For the adventure fan who is looking for something different, you need to look no further than Keptosh: The Search for Junc.
(The game is freeware, and can be downloaded from the author’s website.)