By Marcus Estrada
If one thing is certain about the current state of gaming, it’s that adventure games never actually died. As of late, the genre seems increasingly active with new titles arriving with increasing frequency. AR-K is one such adventure game from Gato Salvaje Studio which, thanks to Kickstarter funding, may finally become the episodic series they had longed to create. The first episode was created prior to the funding campaign but will be improved thanks to it.
AR-K focuses on a college student named Alicia Von Volish. We quickly learn that she used to be a cop but had that future smashed when someone planted an illicit object in her bag. Since then, she’s studied journalism with the hopes of uncovering the answers to her wrongful conviction. As far as the storyline is concerned, there’s a pretty interesting tale being weaved in just the first chapter.
The world is futuristic – so much so that humans and non-Earth races coexist. Everyone has their own distinct personalities as well, from the kind-hearted barkeep Franky to a dim-witted, but eventually helpful, cop. Alicia herself is not exactly a typical adventure game heroine. In fact, we first meet her as she parties with some no-name hunk. Apparently this is just a part of her life and there’s no shame in it. Players quickly come to realize Alicia is a very independent and incredibly sarcastic. She is never “toned down” which makes her feel like more of a real person rather than a comedic archetype.
Although AR-K sells itself as an old-school adventure game, it isn’t particularly rough in the puzzle department. Classic games were known for their confounding puzzle solutions and pixel hunting and, thankfully, none of that is to be found here. That’s not to say every puzzle is easy. There are a few that might take a few minutes to dawn on you. The trickiest part of the puzzles might just be the interface, though.
When pulling up the inventory screen, you see the items randomly scattered about in Alica’s purse, as well as depictions of each character. One thing that took me a long time to discover was that these pictures are actually used as inventory items! Basically, if you want to talk with a character about someone else you just need to pull the appropriate character image out of the inventory. Also, be aware that some items can be combined, although this is used sparingly in the first episode.
For all that goes right with AR-K, there are many features that show it isn’t ready for primetime. This definitely explains why the developers are revisiting it alongside the second episode. First, there are a handful of issues with the interface that could easily be resolved. Sometimes, it is hard to know where the exit of a screen is which requires you to walk along the edges before discovering it. Only sometimes does the game alert you to the next area when hovering your mouse over the proper spot. There’s also no method of fast traveling or skipping animations. Considering the world is so small currently, this isn’t a huge deal.
Then there are more painful glitches such as the fact that sometimes objects cannot be pulled from the inventory menu. The only solution that I found to this was simply exiting and restarting the game, which would make them functional again. Unfortunately, at the climax of the game, I used this tried and true method because an item wasn’t functioning. Upon returning to the section, it turned out that my “state” had not been reset, but a necessary action had been. Basically, this meant my game was eternally stuck as the game both thought I had completed a part while showing it as incomplete. There is only one save in AR-K and it is an auto save so there was no way to get past it without restarting entirely.
Considering the experience lasted only about two or three hours, it would not be impossible to do, but what player would honestly take the time to do so? Issues with glitchy items and only one save are a tremendously frightful combination, as I found out during my play through. Most players will likely drop the game once they encounter a game-stopping error for the first time instead of trying to work around it. Even though the story and characters are humorous, that does not balance out the bugs.
I am hopeful that Gato Salvaje Studio will fix the biggest issues with AR-K because it is pretty fun when it works! By having glitches here and there they are only managing to ostracize a potential audience prior to Episode Two’s launch. As such, I suggest holding off on playing at all until the new edition of Episode One is available. Not only should it solve these problems but also add in improved visuals, animation, and voice acting. With such improvements, AR-K should finally have a suitable game to wrap around its intriguing world.
Game : AR-K
Developer : Gato Salvaje Studio
Platforms : Win / Mac / Android / iOS
Current Status : Beta