Here’s something I’ve wanted to cross off the bucket list for a while now.
For the past five years, game marketplaces across the consoles and PC have been seeing an influx of cheaply-priced Adventure games, all of them published and developed by Artifex Mundi. Upon further inspection, it seems that every title they have ever made is a cheap point & click adventure game, and have released over 50 games since 2011. Pretty impressive, but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check the latest title on the Xbox One, Eventide 2.
It might be unwise of me to attempt to review a sequel to a game I’ve never played, but as far as I’m aware, each game is its own self-contained story, with small connections to previous games. In Eventide 2, you are Mary, a botanist with a passion for adventure, as well as plants. She’s out in the middle of Absolutely Nowhere, Eastern Europe, to rock-climb with her niece, but she somehow doesn’t see the evil Tvardovsky conjuring up a monstrous green mist all around her until it’s too late.
Now she has to save her niece and.. I don’t know actually, she gets roped into helping a bunch of villagers who are being held hostage by Tvardovsky, and this is where everything falls apart. Somehow, this villages’ population and the area around it is from the 1300s and she is set in the backdrop of it, with her new-age equipment and Swiss Army Knife. Hmm.
Beyond the fact that this makes absolutely no sense realistically, due to the existence of satellites that can cover the entire world if they wanted to, there’s a lot more going on. Tvardovsky also resides in a massive tower, owns many magical objects, and somehow has imps at his disposal. Imps that couldn’t care less and would probably leave if they didn’t get mesmerized by a shiny fork.
If you’ve heard of Artifex Mundi, then you’ve already heard about the gameplay that follows. Really, they’re the bare minimum of what can qualify as a video game, left to be played by the ones who care about gamerscore and achievements. They’re the most basic hidden object puzzles you would find on the back of a cereal box, paired with pre-school level adventure mechanics and some hilariously awful voice acting, which we’ll get to.
There is minimal puzzle variety, which all falls underneath the cereal-box tier. You’ve got a Towers of Hanoi knock-off, picture matching and a few others I don’t know the name of, but fit underneath the usual “Beginner’s Guides To Puzzles”. They do offer some sort of stimulation, but without any form of repercussion for messing up, there’s no real stakes, which basically means you can just fumble about and not care, much like the developers, ho ho!
The ONE positive trait that I’ll give the game, is how adventure game solutions make sense. You need to drag over something out of your reach? Just grab a broken hoe and tie it to the end of a stick. Need to distract a dog? Grab some meat and throw it to the dummy. It’s incredibly relieving to see a normal approach to these puzzles and for that, Eventide 2 gets +1 point. Well done. You’d get more but everything else splutters and dies before it can even begin.
Look, I can tell that this is meant to be a casual experience enjoyed by people who probably think UNO is too taxing for them, but for the ever-loving forgiveness of Christ, please put punishments in your game. The fact that I can beat this game just by fiddling my left stick and spamming the A Button doesn’t make me feel proud. It just makes Eventide 2 a movie which gets paused every five minutes while lobotomy patients attempt to recite the scenes.
The audio quality needs to be mentioned, because it sounds like Artifex were recording actors in a Skype chat via dial-up. Almost everyone reads their lines like a shopping list, and the stiff animation makes it even worse. It’s like watching a shot-on-home-video film from four aliens, it’s surreal to see such a monumental failure from a supposed company who take pride in their pedigree. I mean no hyperbole when I say that the voice actors couldn’t act wet in a thunderstorm.
Maybe we’re supposed to look at it from a narrative standpoint, yeah! Well, that goes hand-in-hand with the acting, which is awful. That and the fact that there’s holes in the narrative so wide that you can drive an 18-wheeler through them. For one, it’s clear that this game takes certain liberties with Slavic mythology, and I can get behind that, but why is Mary here?
This isn’t a hard question, why exactly does Mary fall into place, HOW does she fall into place? She just so happens to be rock-climbing underneath an ancient Slavic village and falls right by the entrance. How did she not notice it in the first place? How does nobody in the world notice a giant medieval village covered in impossible vines and green mist? How? As I’ve said, Satellites and 7 billion people exist on Earth and NOBODY noticed this?
Eventide 2 fails as a game, and that is pretty obvious. Its pathetically casual approach to video games is insulting, even to somebody looking for a laid-back experience. You need a punishment for a video game, otherwise it’s not a video game, it’s just a teacher taking pity on you as a child because you don’t know your ABCs.
Really though, it doesn’t matter. The actual game of Eventide 2 is merely a part of a bigger picture. And that picture is Artifex Mundi themselves, a true enigma if ever I’ve seen one. As far as I can tell, they’re a Polish company that arrived on the scene in the early 2010s and since then, have been bombarding the market with the same low-budget casual games that you can complete in less than 3 hours.
On their website, they proudly boast an employee count of 140+, along with being able to produce a game once every 3 weeks. That’s not something you should boast about, that implies that you could not care less about the state of your games, and would rather see to it that you flood the market with aged tripe that wouldn’t fit in the decade it was inspired by.
Looking back on their history, you see a few titles that gained positive reception, look and play like an actual game, but that’s clearly no longer the goal here. The goal is to amass the most money possible while spending as little of it as you can. And that depresses me because there’s no reason you should treat a marketplace and genre like this.
Honestly, the best thing for Artifex to do, would be to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Collect your resources and work on something that matters, a title with heart, with soul. Not another hidden object game, but something with a limit, a goal, and a feeling of life given to it. Not another one of these miserable shovel-ware titles that wouldn’t stand out on the Nintendo Wii’s library.
A shovel-ware title on consoles that deserve better, with as much appeal as a bag of wet gravel.