It’s been a while since I’ve had a good story first pixelart game come my way. It seems the indie scene has begun to move away from them as they seek out more profitable ground in zombies and survival simulators. That has left something of a void behind, leaving only those with a real passion for this particular style of games behind. So whilst I may not be spoilt for choice like I once was I can’t deny that the quality has definitely gone up a notch or two, especially from my favourite publisher in this genre. The latest title from Wadjet Eye Games, Technobabylon created by the developers at Technocrat Games, is no exception to this providing the kind of deep story and fanciful pixelart that has become a signature of all their published games.
In the distant future of 2087 the world has changed dramatically with the wonders of science working their ways into our everyday lives. Genetic engineering is commonplace with children and adults shaped by gengineers, allowing them to sculpt their perfect human form. The story takes place in the City of Newton, the ultimate expression of a science based society that is controlled by a benevolent AI called Central who handles the daily machinations of the city. Many now choose to spend their days in the Trance, a fully simulated reality where ideas flow freely, consciousnesses meld and drift apart and, of course, anything goes. It seems like a picture perfect future but there are many actors that would upset the balance or turn it in their favour.
Technobabylon brings the standard pixelart affair making no use of modern graphics tricks to jazz up the visuals. It was interesting to see so many different rendering options available through the setup program however none of them seemed to make much of a difference to the graphics on screen. I’ll admit I only played with a few of them, mostly to see if I could get it out of the 4:3 aspect ratio it runs in (you can’t) so there’s potentially a setting in there that makes everything look amazing. Still Technobabylon has its moments where I was thoroughly impressed with what they managed to accomplish (the final 3D-ish scenes are a good example of this) with the pixelart medium, something I’ve come to expect from the games Wadjet Eye publishes.
Technobabylon is your typical pixelart adventure game, taking it’s cues from the multitude of titles of yesteryear and those from the renaissance period that pixelart games have recently enjoyed. At it’s core Technobabylon is a puzzler, challenging you to find the right thing to combine with the other thing, which dialogue options to choose to get someone to say the right thing and figuring out what you need to click on to make something happen. Like most modern incarnations of this genre Technobabylon has an improved and simplified inventory system making it a lot less of a bother to try item combinations than it once was. Unlike some previous titles though there’s no combat to speak of and any situation that may result in your untimely demise will simply respawn you right where you left off. So overall no real surprises here in terms of mechanics as is pretty standard for many games in this genre.
The puzzles are pretty well done for the most part, ensuring that you soak up every skerrick of a clue to make sure you can progress to the next stage. Some of them require you to have a little bit of knowledge of how some kinds of systems would work (say for instance what security mechanisms a hand print scanner would employ) but for the most part you should be able to figure them out based on clues in the current room/level. I will admit that I got stuck about a half a dozen times, reaching for the walk through guide (which I honestly wish all review copies would come with) to get me past a section I just couldn’t seem to figure out. The puzzles I figured out on my own though were quite satisfying, especially when I felt I figured something out that the developer obviously thought would stump me for a while.
I can’t remember what the engine was that Technobabylon mentioned it used at the end however it suffers from probably one of the most annoying bugs I have ever come across. Should you use SHIFT + TAB to open up the Steam chat window whilst playing the game all the dialogue boxes from then on flit past, as if you’re holding down the space bar or left mouse button. This issue will persist for as long as you remain in the game and can only be fixed by exiting out and coming back in again. I first noticed this with A Golden Wake (although it was triggered by ALT + TAB) which, I’m guessing, uses the same engine. It’s not so much a critique of the game per se, the developers fixed numerous issues that I saw during my playthrough before release date, more something that budding indie devs might want to be wary of.
As is trademark for nearly all Wadjet Eye games Technobabylon carries with it a fantastic story, one that’s steeped in futurism and radical ideas about what technology can bring us. All the main characters are given plenty of time to develop their back story which are expertly intertwined with each other. Most characters have oodles of non-critical dialogue options which serve to build out the story. Even better still is the fact that the vast majority of content within Technobabylon is voice acted so you’re not going to be stuck reading walls of text for hours on end. The only fault with Technobabylon’s story is that it lacks a really deep emotional hook to draw you in, something like the opening minutes of Ori and the Blind Forest, which would really seal the deal on this otherwise great story.
Technobabylon is a great example of the modern pixelart adventure game, bringing along with it a great story that’s just oozing futuristic tones. It might not be the most revolutionary games, playing it safe by keeping the mechanics simple and the puzzles accessible, however the experience it provides is above many of its competitors. If, like me, you had been left wanting for a good adventure game for some time then you really can’t go past Technobabylon as it’s sure to provide you with many hours of enjoyment.
Technobabylon is available on PC right now for $14.99. Total game time was approximately 7 hours. A copy of Technobabylon was provided to The Refined Geek for the purposes of review.
I guess you could call me a transhumanist as I’ve got a keen interest in any technology that has the ability to augment us humans in some way. For a long time much of the stuff I dreamed or postulated about was firmly fixed in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. However the past couple decades have seen technological changes happening in such a fast pace that, at least in some form, have technologies that boost our attributes beyond what they were capable of naturally. I’d never really thought about it until I started considering how I use technology in my everyday life and just how far technology had advanced some of my abilities.
The best example I can think of this is probably my career. You see whilst I owe much of knowledge in the area of IT to the fact that I’ve been exposed to it for so long the vast majority of my knowledge doesn’t reside in my head, it lies out there in Internet waiting to be called upon. For many of us who’ve reached the upper echelons of the IT world our real ability isn’t the rote memorization of solutions, more it is our ability to search the Internet and the heuristic approach we take to tackling new problems. In that way then the Internet, and really all forms of information storage that preceded it, act as a kind of external memory that we are able to call upon to augment our own when required. In that sense we have already taken the first steps into the world of transhumanism and you’d be surprised at just how far along we are today.
For the everyday person in a developed world I’d say that they’re already augmented in several ways. With Internet penetration exceeding 60%in the developed world there’s a sizable amount of people that have at their beck and call untold seas of information. Additionally many of those same people would cellphones which, in addition to their capability as a memory enhancement device, also vastly increase the ability for someone to communicate with other people. Whilst this isn’t your traditional sci-fi type transhumanist idea it is in fact the beginnings of such a movement. This feeds into the fact that many technologies now seek to integrate more personally with our lives, with some coming to the point of being a necessity.
For all this wishy-washy type transhumanist stuff there is in fact some recent developments that, until quite recently, were completely sci-fi. Take for instance robotic exoskeletons, something which everyone is familiar with since the release of the movie Aliens. At the time it was pure fantasy as such a suit would require an energy source that just couldn’t exist at the time. Whilst we don’t have powerloaders today we do in fact have two devices that are quite closely related to it. The first is the HULC exoskeleton which is capable of carrying itself and an additional 90kgs of equipment, placing no burden on its wearer. The second is the REX robotic exoskeleton which gives back the ability to walk to those who have lost it. Humanity it seems is on the cusp of overcoming nearly all of our limitations, even those that were once in the realm of fantasy.
Take a step back and look at how augmented your life is today. Since you’re reading this blog you’ve already got more information at your finger tips than any of your ancestors had in their entire world. There are more subtle things, like say your dish washer, that enable you to complete many tasks at once. Each one of those is an augmentation to you allowing you to achieve much more than you would’ve been able to in the past. The effects of such augmentations are wide spread and all of them have an accelerating effect. The next decade looks to be bright with innovations that bring human capability to places that are still in the realms of sci-fi and I for one can’t wait to see what it brings.