Initial Release Date: 19th July 2017
You awaken in a stone bath after hundreds of years of sleep in a cavernous room with a glowing path on the floor, but with no idea how you got there. So begins your journey to discover what happened to the others, and to find out who you are…
Aporia, from the Ancient Greek meaning “a philosophical puzzle,” starts your immersion into the game right from the menu, setting the atmosphere with tranquil, ethereal music that transports you from your mundane surroundings into an unknown fantasy world. After your awakening in the cavern you will quickly realise you are on your own – Aporia is not your average hand-holding game with a nice easy tutorial section to let you get a feel for the game. With zero text or dialogue throughout, you must have your wits about you to ensure you can figure out the puzzles and progress through the story. That isn’t to say they are completely heartless, however; your instructions come in the form of icon prompts for game functionality, and story projections for game progression.
The developers have definitely got a firm understanding of the importance of the visual cues and graphical elements to Aporia, considering their decision to leave any text-based information out. This could have been a massive obstruction in player comprehension had they cut corners in this respect, but fortunately they made sure to enhance the other aspects of the game so as to make the textual elements redundant. Even the story, told using puppet-like projections as you complete each puzzle section, is easy to interpret, and this method of storytelling draws the player in to make them eager to discover what happens next.
Speaking of the visuals, the graphics are absolutely stunning, and combined with the musical and other audio elements of the game you will find yourself completely sucked in to Aporia. Immersion is one of the most difficult aspects of gaming to pull off, but Investigate North have really pulled out all the stops to keep you feeling like you’re truly wandering around this uninhabited wilderness. Whether it’s the ethereal glow from your magical glowstick, the shafts of light from the gorgeous sunset, or the way ripples of water bounce off obstacles as you move through pools, you can tell they have spent a lot of time considering how to make this game feel truly realistic.
The music from the outset is completely relaxing and very zen, it’s the kind of game you go home to after a stressful day to play so you can relax and re-centre. At least, it is at first. As you progress through the game you will find yourself in increasingly difficult situations, either because the puzzles are becoming harder or because there is a creepy bird-like alchemist chasing you. The audio cues are very important for this as they help you determine if you’re in danger, and learning to recognise them will bring your heart rate up and amp up your sense of danger.
The control system is largely very intuitive, and makes sense from a realistic perspective. For example, if you’re wanting to pull a raft along a rope then looking ahead to the furthest point you can and then dragging to the furthest point behind you will speed you along it and make progression easier. Utilising your magical glow stick is also vital, as it will grow vines for ladders and bridges or plants for healing when you get damaged, so it isn’t just meant for opening doors or lighting dark areas.
As with all games, it isn’t without its flaws. Not having any text or dialogue means that you are quite literally able to interpret the story in any way you want to, but it also means you have no way of knowing if you’re doing the right thing or going in the right direction. Also, if you miss the small icon that indicates what you need to do for a certain task in the early stages of the game and manage to complete it by pure coincidence, you will come across puzzles later on that you have no idea how to complete. However, these are not the end of the world and they have designed the game to actually make sense, so that if you think about it logically you should be able to come to the right conclusion.
Aporia is an absolutely stunning adventure game that is reminiscent of Samorost, Botanicula, and Machinarium in terms of graphical beauty and, largely, dialogue-free storytelling. If you’re into classic point and click games you will love this modern evolution of the genre into 3D, and truly the graphics, music, and atmosphere of the game really do speak for themselves.
RATING: 9 out of 10