Pixelhunter – Presenting Daedalic Entertainment

Once upon a time, deep in the nostalgic past of the point and click adventure, there existed many great studios including Sierra, Revolution and Lucas Arts. However, since Lucas Arts abandoned the genre in favour of endless iterations of their Star Wars licence, drawing a curtain on the golden age of the genre, most point and clicks seem to have come from fairly indie origins, with the breakout Machinarium a fine example of the new cottage industry. But there are still studios out there that seem to share the scope and ambition of the classic labels, and you can certainly count German developer Daedalic Entertainment amongst them. In the last couple of years Daedalic ‒ named after the Greek inventor who created the Labyrinth and wings for his son Icarus ‒ has not only created a couple of modern day classics, but also now acts as a publisher, handling the likes of Machinarium (as well as Amanita’s forthcoming title Botanicula) and Tales of Monkey Island, and even branching into other genres with games like Torchlight 2.

Sadwick soon regretted feeding Spot that bowl of Tabasco

Daedalic first crossed my radar with The Whispered World in 2010, which was saved by the studio from the production limbo that designer Marco Hüllen had found himself in. Set in the fairytale world of Silentia, elegantly realised by Hüllen in a style reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, it presented a charming story shot through with surprisingly mature existential themes. In it you play as Sadwick, a melancholic clown who is doomed to end the world. The game is filled with charming characters and clever puzzles, many of which utilise the shape-shifting capabilities of Sadwick’s pet caterpillar Spot.

Fay overlooks the vista of post-apocalyptic Earth.

Daedalic have continued their interest in mature themes and hand crafted aesthetics with their recent A New Beginning, an eco-thriller that wraps a story of corporate conspiracy and time travel within a deep environmental message. The ragtag survivors of a doomed future Earth develop machines to travel back to our period with the rather naive goal of convincing us to stop messing up the planet. The player assumes the role of Fay, a low ranking radio operator who becomes the saviour of the mission when she discovers scientist Bent Svenson, creator of a renewable energy source derived from algae. It’s always impressive to see a video game tackle big, important issues, but A New Beginning is far from heavy handed and the story is as much about Bent overcoming his own demons, in particular recovering the relationship with his son Duve.

Deponia presents another, although somewhat more quirky, apocalyptic vision.

But it’s not all serious, as Daedalic have also created Edna and Harvey: The Breakout, a delightfully twisted and stylised game (reminiscent of the legendary cartoons of the National Film Board of Canada) that evokes films from the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari to James Stewart’s Harvey as it follows a young girl and her pet rabbit’s attempt to escape a mental institute. The game recently picked up several trophies at the German Game Developer Awards alongside another little German company called Crytek, developers of Crysis 2 (which some of you may have heard of, ahem).

There’s much more to look forward to from the studio including Deponia, a point and click that promises to fuse the rich aesthetics of The Whispered World with the madcap humour of Edna and Harvey. In a nod to Metropolis as well as Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita, the game follows Rufus, an arrogant and delusional  inhabitant of the eponymous garbage planet who dreams of joining the elite living on the clean cities above. When a mysterious woman falls from one of those cities he hatches a plan to pose as her upper class husband, triggering a road movie romance fuelled by puzzles that make full use of the world’s surreal and cobbled together technologies. Then there is The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, based on one of Europe’s most established pen and paper RPGs, which looks to bring the medieval setting to life with vibrant watercolours, and follows the travails of Geron, a bird catcher assigned to rid the kingdom of pestilent crows by the king.

Chains of Satinav: getting medieval on your ass.


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