Chaos on Deponia is a “Graphic Adventure Game,” which are in some ways forever doomed to being compared to the classics that defined the genre. It’s a trap that is all-too-easy to fall into. Chaos on Deponia deserves a brief comparison of that kind, however, as it largely captures the spirit of both the genre and those defining games and strikes a familiar chord for long-time fans of a series like Monkey Island. All the right notes are there: beautifully painted landscapes, a satisfying cast of well-animated characters with their own flaws and qualities, a story that manages to make even the most mundane achievements exciting components of an epic tale and perhaps the most important element of all… off-the-wall humour that often manifests in the gameplay itself, making you a participant in the gag rather than a mere audience member.
Chaos on Deponia reveals it’s comedic chops right out of the gate as it delves into meta-humour concerning Rufus, the inelegant protagonist and his reluctance to participate in a tutorial that seems awfully familiar. Unlike many game tutorials, this only takes a couple of moments and familiarizes players new and old with the gameplay and interface before moving into the game itself. Differing from many modern attempts at revitalizing the Graphic Adventure genre with 3D graphics and interface gimmicks, Chaos on Deponia stays the course plotted by the defining classics and gameplay is incredibly straightforward and smooth. Through a sequence of interactive gameplay and animated cutscenes, we’re brought up to speed on the story so-far (assumably reflective of what took place in the first Deponia game), only to be dumped immediately into a crisis situation that begins the new game.
“I was prepared to do just about anything to solve puzzles from that point on short of physically drowning/burning/freezing/stabbing my computer.”
It doesn’t take long for the game to start really showing off it’s strengths, many of which are outlined above. There are a few minor flaws and nuisances not in the gameplay itself, but rather, in how it flows and the ways important elements are presented to the player. The number of non-interactive cutscenes in the first bit of the game can become a bit tiresome but before too long you’re left to your own devices. The puzzles and the actions that need to be taken are often cleverly queued by being nested into bits of dialogue with other characters in a way that flows naturally and quietly guides you. Sometimes ideas are presented in ways that are far too obvious to leave any challenge to the player and it becomes easy to barrel through a number of puzzles without stopping to think.
This seems unnaturally opposite of some puzzles that take place throughout the game, however, that require an incredibly abstract approach to finding a solution. Some of them require a combination of brute force trial and error and probably a very creative or strange mind. One should never assume the game plays by it’s own rules as a video game, as some of the problem solving requires you to do things you would never expect to do in a game of any kind. I’m ashamed to say that for one of such puzzles, I had to find hints from an outside source. I would have never progressed in the game further, but the solution required was so comical and genius that I felt as if I had somehow robbed myself of something by cheating in this way. Nonetheless, it was entertaining and I was prepared to do just about anything to solve puzzles from that point on short of physically drowning/burning/freezing/stabbing my computer. Sadly, there were no other puzzles that went to these depths from that point on and I found most of them to be challenging only because of the patience and monotony involved. One mechanic that was used frequently, however, was in using a character almost as an item of their own in a wide variety of situations. Going into detail shall be avoided for fear of spoiling an element of the story, but a character is used almost like a multi-tool… swapping one set of skills for another and bringing out what’s needed at different moments to complete a task.
The game was also peppered with mini-game puzzle events. A zany rock-paper-scissors variant… a joust-like event… a creative “whack-a-mole” challenge… these were always exciting and interesting, but mostly far too easy, ended too quickly and happened too seldom to take advantage of the break they offered from the usual gameplay.
The story was a little disjointed at times but progresses mostly in the manner you would expect. Something that would have been very helpful is some kind of journal that kept track of what recently took place what the character’s current tasks were. It can become easy to lose track of what one needs to be focussed on while exploring Deponia at a few spots in the game.
Keeping you company the entire time are the wonderful talents that have voiced the characters in the game. Almost all of them have done excellent work and really bring their respective characters to life. This is helped by the writing, which is much of the time very clever. I did often find, however, that occasional journeys into very silly or juvenile dialogue took away from the experience. It would sometimes take a dirty joke to be reminded that it wasn’t a game for 12-year-olds… but those moments usually didn’t last too long. Overall, the characters were complete and loveable and really made the game what it was.