Encodya Review: Solid Point-And-Click Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk 2077 may be in the rearview mirror – at least until it can get itself sorted out on consoles – but there’s zero indication of the cyberpunk genre itself slowing down. Encodya – from developer Chaosmonger Studio – takes a spin at the genre through a point-and-click adventure. Although some of the story beats and puzzles are a bit too convenient, Encodya offers up a heartfelt narrative that is worth playing for any fan of point-and-click adventures.
In Encodya, you take on the role of Tina – a nine-year-old orphan who is surviving on the streets along with her robot companion, SAM-53, who was assigned to her at birth, as is the case with all newborns in the futuristic, dystopian city of Neo-Berlin. The year is 2062, with the city controlled by mega-corporations, propaganda, and surveillance, with the deplorable Mayor Rumpf at the helm. Tina and SAM’s life becomes a bit more adventurous once they learn more about Tina’s past, and why it is that the megalomaniac Rumpf is searching for them.
The aesthetics of Encodya – both visually and audibly – are what immediately stands out upon starting the game. Despite the otherwise drab, run-down city setting of Neo-Berlin, the backgrounds look beautiful. Whether you’re overlooking the city from Tina and SAM’s makeshift rooftop shelter, walking the streets of the dilapidated city and visiting its various vendors, or taking in the beauty of the digital forest, it’s clear that plenty of love went into creating a setting that fit the cyberpunk genre to a tee.
That said, I was disappointed by the characters that populated the streets, as there seems to be only a handful of different character models. Considering the near-limitless lifeform options that are capable of being included in a cyberpunk world, it feels like these NPCs were just kind of dropped in as “good enough” solutions that could have otherwise elevated the immersive in-game experience.
Luckily, the soundtrack of Encodya picks up that slack with ambient music that plays throughout the adventure, adding to the overall feelings of intrigue, hope, and love that are conveyed. The voice acting is on par with what I would expect from a point-and-click as well, even if the dialogue itself is a bit uninspired – something that seems to come with the nature of point-and-click adventures in general.
Encodya is your typical game in that regard – find an obstacle that needs to be overcome through the use of an inventory item that can be found in one of the various areas around the map, rinse, and repeat. None of the puzzles are overly difficult, though – most of which can be figured out by hints from Tina or SAM, or through conversations with other characters. You’re able to switch between playing as Tina and SAM, resulting in different conversations taking place depending on who you’re playing as. For example, a sexist, grumpy old man with a vendetta against robots is far less willing to talk to SAM than he is with Tina (especially since he thinks that Tina is a boy). Conversely, SAM is able to shmooze his way into gathering information by flirting (perhaps unwittingly) with a female android who wouldn’t otherwise offer up any details to Tina.
This dynamic extends to interacting with objects as well. Sometimes SAM needs to do something that Tina can’t, or vice versa. It works fine for the most part, but as a large robot that takes up a lot of screen real estate, SAM often blocks the view of certain objects. He can be moved, of course, but it quickly becomes annoying.
As a point-and-click adventure, the narrative plays a large role in determining Encodya’s success. In fact, with most titles in this point-and-click genre, I tend to base a game’s success on whether or not I would watch it as a movie, or even perhaps be willing to watch a streamer’s playthrough. Encodya definitely succeeds in that regard. Despite everything she goes through in a surveilled and dangerous world, Tina is able to maintain her nine-year-old innocence even as the game comes to a close. Sure, the characters and puzzles along the way may not be as imaginative as they could be, but Tina and SAM’s journey is one that I would be more than happy to watch with my family. In fact, I think there’s room for plenty of other stories to be told for some of Neo-Berlin’s other citizens. Expanding on the backstory of some of the characters that Tina and SAM meet could go a long way in elevating their initial role in Encodya. I’d be willing to play those spinoff episodes, at least.
Encodya doesn’t bring anything new to the point-and-click genre, but that’s not really what it’s going for. It’s a coming-of-age tale set in a dystopian world that, honestly, doesn’t seem too far off from where we as a society might be headed. Chaosmonger Studio does well to ground Tina in reality, despite living in a world full of superficial facades and virtual dangers – all with the help of her lumbering, lovable companion SAM-53. (Great name, by the way.)
A PC copy of Encodya was provided to TheGamer for this review. Encodya is available on PC.
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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.
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