Last year’s Steam Game Festival events gave me a chance to play plenty of demos in the comfort of my own home. One of these was for an upcoming point-and-click called Mutropolis, the first project by two-person team Pirita Studio.
The reason it caught my eye is because it was being published by Application Systems Heidelberg. I first came across the company at the Rezzed expo in April 2018 where they were promoting enjoyable detective adventure Lamplight City. Since then I’ve been able to play and been hit-in-the-feels by The Longing, as well as try the demos for Western click-‘em-up Rosewater and the intriguing Ghost on the Shore. So I wasn’t going to say no when Emily Morganti kindly got in touch with the offer of a review key.
Mutropolis’ story takes place in the year 5000 and centres on geeky archaeologist Henry Dijon. His team leave their home on Mars to travel to Earth so they can learn about their distant ancestors, and their excavation uncovers graffiti, mummified remains and enigmatic relics. When they stumble upon the path to the long-lost city of Mutropolis, Professor Totel is kidnapped; so it’s up to Henry and the team to figure out who has taken him and why, as well as deal with an evil force lying in wait for thousands of years.
Adventure games are mainly characterised by their narratives and puzzles so let’s start by covering the former. Combined with hand-drawn visuals that reminded me of Broken Age and some sweet voice-acting, it came across like a family-friendly film where there were very few moments of danger and tension. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but it felt somewhat at odds with a storyline about a kidnapping and a dark evil. I was also a little confused about the science-fiction premise when ancient Egyptian gods were thrown into the mix.
During the conversations had and observations made by Henry throughout the gameplay, you discover that a cataclysmic event years ago forced humans to leave for Mars. What this was is never explained however and I would have loved a bit more backstory to build upon the world further. The same goes for the characters, all of whom are likeable although we don’t get to know them fully. It feels as though Mutropolis’ narrative is a good start but the surface has barely been scratched.
Adventure fans will notice plenty of references to the classics. At one point it’s necessary to use Gabriel Knight’s fingerprint kit to solve a puzzle; you’ll see someone fixing a pipe with what looks like a monkey wrench; and Manny Calavera’s skull can be seen sitting on a shelf in a crypt. There were also sequences which reminded me of scenes in Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars and The Secret of Monkey Island. I’m not sure whether the likenesses were intentional but I appreciated them nonetheless.
Henry is a fan of old pop-culture and shares his knowledge throughout Mutropolis. For example, he explains that the figurine sitting on his desk is of legendary archaeologist Jones Hatman who was ‘very influential back in the day’, and that Al Capone was thought to be a popular quiz show host or soap actor. There’s also a character who speaks in an ancient language called Imogese which uses only symbols. Seeing how future inhabitants could interpret items from our time adds many comedic moments to the game.
Now on to the gameplay. On the whole, it’s just what you’d expect from a point-and-click: moving, talking and interacting actions are performed by left-clicking the mouse, and items are stored in an inventory opened using the scroll button. It’s worth noting though that there’s no right-click option to examine something more closely. This was something I noticed the absence of during certain puzzles when I wanted to examine an object to get a better feel for what I had to do with it.
Speaking of the puzzles, they usually tend to be a bit of a mixed bag in most adventure releases. Those at the beginning of Mutropolis were logical and gave a nice introduction to the world, something I commented on in my post about the demo during last summer’s Steam Game Festival. The further the title progressed however, the more I was left scratching my head and not always in a good way. If I hadn’t hit on the solution for a challenge towards the end of the title after a couple of tries, it could have turned into a frustrating hour of trial-and-error.
I think the game’s biggest issue is that it sometimes doesn’t give the player enough clues about what they’re supposed to do. For example, I spent over an hour trying to find an object – when one could be obtained from a particular character after using an unrelated machine, for which I was given very little information. I’m not asking for my hand to be held by an adventure but there needs to be enough detail for the player to be able to see things in the context of the digital world.
There were a few sections where I found myself trying to use-every-item-with-every-other-item in an attempt to stumble across the solution. There was one puzzle for which I thought I was going to have to give up and wait for a walkthrough to be published; but coming back to it the following day and a lucky click enabled me to progress. Mutropolis would have benefitted from a hint system of some kind, or at least a journal maintained by Henry to keep track of current objectives to give the player some direction.
I can’t say that it’s a bad game overall. When the challenges are logical and the character conversations and observations make you laugh out loud, it’s a really pleasant experience and one which is easy to get wrapped up in. And along with the visuals and voice-acting, the references to classic adventures invoke a lovely sense of nostalgia. But there are a few moments of confusion which may potentially deter some players and these could have been resolved with just a bit of extra dialogue.
Mutropolis is rather impressive though when you consider that it’s the first project from such a small team. You can tell a lot of love and effort has gone into it, and I’m curious to see how Pirita Studio will refine their ideas now that they’ve had this experience. Why not try the demo for yourself and see what you think?