Primordia is almost a five-star game. The writing, voice acting, plot and some of the puzzles are top-notch. However, it’s held back by its length and some reliance on poor puzzling conventions.
As the graphics would suggest, Primordia is a game in the spirit of the old classics. In particular, an instance of the “straight man and comic sidekick” a-la Sam and Max. The game pulls it off wonderfully. Both Horatio and Crispin’s dialogue is very well written, Crispin delivering witty comebacks and sarcastic observations with perfect comic timing.
The plot itself is also quite good, though it’s easy to predict from early on. This is handled well in-game though, so there are no instances of Horatio acting too stupid to live in order to justify the “twist” ending.
The game offers multiple endings, but all can be experienced in a single play-though, meaning there is one divergence point at the end from which you’re free to choose your ending. Some puzzles have more than one solution, but that only affects achievements and not the story path, as far as I can tell.
I normally don’t comment on the sound department, but voice acting for this game is above and beyond. This is one of the few games where I didn’t find myself skipping ahead in dialogue when I was done reading the subtitles, simply because the delivery and the voices themselves (modulated human voices, of course) were so uniformly excellent.
Beyond multiple solutions, the puzzles are for most part well-made. Being a builder, Horatio spends his time building and/or repairing machines, which implies puzzles around finding pieces and putting them together, i.e. inventory.
There are also some dialogue puzzles (where there’s probably an alternate solution, because refreshingly, you don’t get to try over and over again until you pick the right answer), and some environmental puzzles.
Puzzles are well-integrated and are usually quite satisfying. They’re slightly more difficult than is common today due to the inclusion of red herrings and doing away with some conventions for signposting. One particular puzzle, a virtual scavenger hunt of sorts, seems to divide reviewers - I personally found it challenging and fun.
The big issue about the puzzles is an over-reliance on pixel hunting and some arbitrary item appearances. The latter is what took me the longest to overcome, but it only happens twice that I’ve noticed, once in an optional puzzle. The pixel hunts, however, occur often. This time it’s not about finding a small area colored slightly different - inside a junkyard, you have a continuous area labelled “junk”. Turns out some areas of that junk are worth looking into. It’s slightly alleviated when it comes again later (the interesting hotspot has a very slightly different name), but in all instances, it’s just not fair. There’s nothing fun about clicking around the screen over and over again, and there’s no in-game reason to expect to even find anything there.
The other issue is the game length, though this is as much a compliment as it is a point of criticism. The game is very good, and when it ends rather abruptly, you wish it’d have gone on for longer. It still took around 4 hours, so there’s value for your money, but it just seems they could’ve done so much more with that setting. I truly wish we’ll see another game in the same universe some day, expanding on the same plot outline and characters.
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Time Played: 2-5 hours
Difficulty: Just Right