Adventure Gamers Awards
Rufus is baaack. Though we thought we’d seen the last of him in 2013’s Goodbye Deponia, he’s returned to his old tricks in Deponia Doomsday, the unexpected fourth part of Daedalic’s series that is part-prequel and part-sequel to the original trilogy. This new adventure is Deponia meets Groundhog Day, with Rufus and everyone around him caught in time loops that only a never-ending (anti-)hero can escape. Quirky new characters and familiar faces follow Rufus through the topsy-turvy trash planet Deponia, the sumptuous towers of Elysium, plus a series of in-between, patchwork landscapes. Naturally, space-time and other continuums are disrupted as they go. The wacky puzzles, oddball surprises and pleasing eccentricities kept me smiling through each outlandish twist all the way to the unnerving end.
The first cycle begins innocently enough when Rufus meets fellow tinkerer McChronicle. This engineer-on-the-loose has invented a device that can “avoid accidents after they have happened.” At first this appears fortuitous, because Rufus has caused so many mishaps and blown up so much stuff that the people of his hometown now fear his very presence. You’d think any gadget that could reverse Rufus-inspired fiascos would literally be a lifesaver.
Shattered crystal stemware is the ideal experimental sample for rewinding time, and after multiple attempts, Rufus and McChronicle manage to undo the destruction of some wine glasses. But just as they stop accidentally re-breaking them, a pink elephant appears from out of nowhere to make sure everything stays smashed. Why the glasses are so vital to the future of Deponia, what to do to finally escape the time loop, and who is controlling the pink elephant are some of the factors that become entwined (and re-entwined) in this mad caper through garbage-strewn terrains, peacock-baroque suites, and the cobbled-together environs of Paradox City.
Just as they were in the previous games, the graphics in Deponia Doomsday are elaborately stylized and brightly-hued. The game features a variety of environments, from snowy expanses to celestial towers and surreal carnival rides. Details abound: on Deponia you’ll see rusted walls, lumpy vegetation, Chinese lanterns, and unexploded ordnance. On Elysium you’ll marvel at the golden arches and scrollwork, the futuristic amusements, and the Disney Land atmosphere. I was startled to discover that Rufus was right to pull out all the stops to visit this city-in-the-clouds, as the Elysians are remarkably Rufus-like in their rejection of hard work and responsibility. Background animations bring liveliness to this wide range of locations: body-armored lobsters frolic, clock hands race backwards, and flies buzz among the carcasses. These are supplemented by ambient audio: metals creak, flames crackle, time portals swish, and caddie unicorns fall ker-splat.
An intriguing visual effect occurs when time is rewound (which happens frequently). There’s a pause, and then the view is distorted by waves that recede as Rufus finds himself right back where he started: just getting out of bed, pounding on a window and screaming, or listening to a stranger singing in the shower.
Speaking of singing, the music in Doomsday is unusual – much of it is sung by the cast itself. Usually having characters burst into song functions poorly in games, but here it works charmingly. The famous hobo minstrel is a favorite of mine, so I listened with a huge, silly grin as he sings: “Suck it up princess, no one cares for your tears” and “Huzza, still wond’ring what if.” Pimpy the Clown croons about the terrors of love. Ronny the daisy avatar warbles about extracting fingernails. Maybe we’ll someday see “Deponia the Musical” on Broadway. The sets and stage effects would be eye-opening.
Characters are once again cartoon-like with penciled faces, freakish hairstyles, and eccentric clothing. Rufus wears an aviator cap, a frock coat, and leggings. McChronicle sports a blue jumpsuit, a tinfoil hat and a fishing rod with an hourglass at the end. And he’s not the only new character. There’s Maggot, reminiscent of Spot from The Whispered World, only with gigantic black eyes and a cute little mouth with a single tooth. Yellow Fewlocks swarm throughout the game, displaying their large, muscular bodies, evil tusks and threadbare breeches. You’ll also encounter new platypuses – some you observe as they snooze, some you stick in your coat pocket, some you write into a marriage proposal, and some you metaphorize (don’t ask).Continued on the next page...