Build Your Own Tedious, Samey Point-and-Click with Adventurezator

Adventurezator: When Pigs Fly bills itself as an emergent adventure game about making emergent adventure games. What it actually is, at this stage of development, is a bare-bones point and click toolkit with streamlined but ultimately limiting scripting and design. Buying games on early access is kind of like speculating on housing developments. You see the frame of the game, without its façade, but also without many of its most important features. In some cases you can see right away that a game will be solid – your Prison Architects and Rusts – but more often than not you have to wait and see what the finished game is like. You don’t need to wait for Adventurezator, though. It’s clear from the word go that it’s being built on rotten foundations.

Before I start ragging on it, I will say that Adventurezator does a few things right. The scene editor itself is quite well-made. Objects drop into the environment with a satisfying “plunk,” and creating buildings with doors and windows feels seamless, not unlike building a house in The Sims. If you make a mistake, you can blow up any unwanted set pieces. The creation interface feels nice (except for the camera controls, which are awful) and offers solid feedback – which is more than can be said for a lot of tools like this. Unfortunately, while getting a scene running is straightforward enough, you’ll be hard-pressed to make anything worthwhile.

Screenshot 2014-08-05 15.35.04

While the scene creation interface works well, the in-game interface is pretty atrocious. Adventurezator makes use of a clunky verb coin for most interactions, rather than the simpler two-button interface that’s become the norm in almost every other point-and-click. It takes between three and five clicks to get anything done. The game also uses a weird top-down perspective, not unlike an old-school RPG. The camera has a bad habit of sticking on whatever objects you choose to examine, and moving it back into a useful position using WASD is a pain. Future updates might fix the camera, but I don’t see the interface getting any better – not unless Pigasus revamps most of the game’s logic.

Another part of the problem is a lack of content. All you have to work with right now are some thatched cottages, a few fantasy creatures, and the three bears (of goldilocks fame). If you don’t want to make a fairy-tale-themed adventure, you’re more or less SOL. That will likely change with time – the intro movie indicates we might get materials for other settings – but for now your options are extremely limited. Don’t expect to see inventive user-generated content any time soon.

But again, those are problems that could potentially be fixed down the line. The bigger issue with Adventurezator is that it’s based on a few fundamentally bad ideas. Adventure games are by their very nature meticulously crafted and directed experiences. Emergent mechanics, meanwhile, are inherently directionless. All of the objects in Adventurezator have set properties that allow them to interact with each other – for instance, water can be poured into a glass and used to put out fires – which means that all of the object puzzles in the game use the same internal logic. Once you know what the items in Adventurezator do, you know how to solve any puzzle that might be thrown at you. Rather than being a matter of deduction and inference, puzzles become about finding specific objects. The core dynamic of this game isn’t puzzle-solving, it’s tedious pixel hunting – in full 3D space, no less.

Screenshot 2014-08-05 15.25.04

Adventurezator also features “combat,” though I use the term very loosely. Each character has set HP, defense, and attack stats, which can be augmented by giving them weapons and shields. When characters decide to fight (which happens if the player picks the “fight” option or an NPC is set to be aggressive) they get wrapped up in a cartoon dust ball and start trading hits. The outcome of each fight is a foregone conclusion, but you still have to watch the entire thing, and they go by at an inexorably slow clip. Combat in adventure games is more or less universally reviled, but Pigasus have somehow managed to do one of the worst takes on the concept yet.

Adventurezator: When Pigs Fly is a mess, and while some of its problems will improve with time, it needs a ground-up overhaul before it’ll ever be worth buying. I get where the developers are coming from conceptually. It’s annoying when adventure games force you to use one specific solution when you have ten other items that might work sitting in your inventory. However, the problem with those puzzles isn’t that the solutions feel arbitrary, it’s that the designers crafted scenarios with several obvious solutions in the first place. Homogenized item logic will just make for boring, unimaginative puzzles. Give this game a pass.