The story of Samorost 2 is a simple one, starring a little fellow named...I just realized I have no idea what his name is. I've been calling him "Samorost," but the game doesn't ever actually state this: there is no text or dialogue besides the occasional "HNNNNNNGGGRRRKKK" from the wildlife or the weird semi-comprehensible mutterings from the hero when you try to click on something the game doesn't want you to click on yet. This was a bit of a downer at first, since I personally tend to think of the adventure genre as the one type of game in which the dialogue is something I look forward to rather than something which makes me want to take an electric drill to my eardrums.
That's not to say that the minimalist approach in Samorost 2 is a bad thing; heck, it might even be a blessing, considering that the writing in the last Eastern European game I played was centered around the use of domestic abuse as comic relief. What Samorost 2 lacks in riveting storytelling, it makes up for with a combination of surreal visuals and a nice electronic/jazz/new age/klezmer/I-am-bad-at-identifying-musical-genres soundtrack. You'll guide the little hooded hero through a strange world which combines whimsical characters and grungy environments into something that I can only describe as Jim Henson's Fallout 3.
The visuals and soundtrack are really the main draw, since Samorost 2 isn't exactly heavy fare as far as adventure games go. Inventory? Lists of actions? Branching dialogue choices? Nope. The game mostly progresses in a "room by room" manner without any free wandering. Each "room" is its own self-contained puzzle, and unlike other games in the genre, you won't be performing advanced techniques like duct-taping a filing cabinet to the severed head of a giraffe in order to produce a new puzzle-solving implement. Instead, it usually comes down to figuring out what is clickable, what happens when you click it, and then what order you need to click all the clickables in.
It's not always obvious what you need to do or what exactly you're doing until you've finished doing it, and there are a few areas where the wacky art works against the game: all the organic grittiness starts to blend together, and it's hard to tell whether something is a significant object or just part of the background. I wasted a great deal of time on one particular screen before I accidentally clicked on the mountain in the background and realized "Oh. I can go up there." The easily frustrated will be pleased to know that this doesn't happen too often...mainly because the game is beatable in a single short sitting.
Samorost2, as the name indicates, is the sequel to Samorost. It stars the same little simply attired man from the original title. As the game opens, we see a strange spacecraft approaching the protagonist's home. We then cut to a close-up of the protagonist's house and yard, where we see a dog (which obviously belongs to the protagonist) bark frantically at the approaching ship before fleeing into his doghouse. The ship lands at the edge of the yard, and a blue-skinned, bug-eyed creature cautiously steps out of the craft. After determining that the coast is clear, the creature and its companion walk over to a small grove of trees and start plucking fruit from them.
The introduction pauses here, but clicking on a certain item makes it continue. When the correct hotspot is clicked on, the protagonist's dog charges the invaders, barking madly. Rather than run away, however, the creatures throw the dog into a sack and start making their way back to their ship. The noise made by the dog attracts the protagonist's attention. He looks out the window just in time to see the creatures getting into their ship and taking off. He immediately takes off in his own ship and follows the creatures back to their own world: an enormous, organo-mechanical fortress. Once there, he is faced with the problem of how to get inside the fortress and rescue his dog.
The sequel shares the same surreal design as its predecessor. In fact, both games are so unique that is difficult to describe them satisfactorily. The graphics are a combination of simple cartoons and photorealistic objects that mesh together remarkably well. Every scene has its own unique flora and fauna - gigantic pill bugs; tall, segmented, bare trees with branches jutting out at 90° angles; creatures that look like a cross between an anteater, a rabbit, and a monkey; and even slender, luminescent mushrooms.
The game's backgrounds often combine organic with inorganic elements, sometimes to the point where it is difficult to tell what is natural and what is not. This is especially true when it comes to the various worlds of Samorost (which the game is named after) that are bizarrely shaped structures seemingly floating in a starry void. Some of them vaguely resemble planetoids, while another is reminiscent of a space station. There is even a world that looks almost like a gigantic living creature.
The game's interface is about as simple as an adventure game's interface can get: there is only a single cursor, which changes shape when it is over a clickable object. Clicking on an object may push it, turn it, open it, move it, pick it up, or make the protagonist interact with it in some way. The way you interact with the game is interesting as well: at times it seems as if you have taken on the role of the protagonist and are controlling his movements, but at other times it is as if you are looking into a living diorama, manipulating parts of it for the protagonist. There are also some elements of certain scenes that cannot be clicked on but react when your cursor moves over them: slender grasses unfurl and umbrella shaped flowers shut themselves.
The structure of many of the puzzles draws much parallel to the puzzles in Coktel Vision's Gobliiins series, in that you have to try interacting with various elements of the scene to observe what happens and then perform a single or a series of actions in combination to solve a puzzle. For example, in a scene from early in the game, you need to pump water through a pipe, but there are a couple of creatures sitting on the pipe, the larger of which is sucking the water out of a hole in the pipe. Clicking on the smaller creature makes it fall off the pipe, causing the larger creature to stop drinking, pause, then lift the smaller creature back up onto the pipe. If you manage to plug the hole immediately after clicking on the smaller creature, you will have succeeded.
There is hardly any text or dialog in the game, thus avoiding any issue that may arise from different language localizations. With few exceptions, the characters in the game speak in unintelligible mutterings. The game's sound and music are both quite atmospheric and fit the surreal scenes perfectly, ranging from a dark, subterranean network of pipes to a peaceful, twilit forest.
You cannot save your progress in the game (akin to most Flash games), though you can jump to the beginning of each level by entering a code given to you whenever you reach a new screen. Since the game is not exceedingly long and there is no chance of dying, the inability to save your game at any time you choose is not a major problem. However, there is a particular point in the game where an option to save and restore would still be welcomed. Here, you have to perform a number of actions before solving the game's last puzzle, and the puzzle itself requires precise timing in order to solve. If you do not have the timing exactly right, you will have to go through the required actions all over again.
The game is available for both online and offline play. The first half of the game is available in the free version to play online, but the second half of the game is only available in the paid full version that must be downloaded or installed from the CD.
Overall, Samorost2 is a worthy successor to the original Samorost. The gameplay is longer, the graphics have improved, and the game retains the same charm as the original. Some gamers may find Samorost2 a bit too short or be put off by the occasional pixel hunt. However, for those gamers who have a fondness for adventures with plenty of puzzles and little dialog, Samorost2 is a game definitely worth playing.
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