Deponia is a point and click cartoon adventure, strongly reminiscent of LucasArts’ classic Monkey Island series. It’s jam-packed with quirky cartoon characters, clever puzzles, an overabundance of (mostly) witty dialogue, and hilarious slapstick moments. The setting is about as far removed from the Caribbean as you can get, though; Deponia being a planet covered in mountains of trash and populated by all manner of colourful characters. High above it floats the pristine city of Elysium, its privileged citizens largely unaware of the ground dwellers’ existence below.
The game’s protagonist is a hot-headed young man by the name of Rufus. Picture a scruffier, steampunk version of Guybrush Threepwood, who’s a legend in his own mind. For purely selfish reasons, Rufus is desperate to leave his trash filled home world for the attractions of Elysium, far above. Numerous failed attempts have done nothing to weaken his resolve, and Rufus is determined to succeed; however this time he manages to acquire an unusual souvenir in the form of a lovely young Elysium lass named Goal. This potential love interest falls to Deponia and spends much of the game in a state of unconsciousness. Throw into the mix a dark plot by the Elysium dwellers known as Organon, and you have the makings of an interesting adventure.
The beauty of a point and click interface lies in its simplicity. There’s no fumbling with controls or manual perusal required. It takes less than five minutes to get a handle on the gameplay, a process which has been further streamlined by employing the mouse wheel to access your inventory and highlight points of interest on screen… genius.
Rufus collects dozens of items on his travels, which are used either on their own or combined with other items you’ve already collected. It’s not always obvious which item is needed for a given situation, since the game doesn’t insult your intelligence with hand holding or – opening tutorial aside – instructions. Trial and error is half the fun, eh!
As for in-game complexity, there’s a good balance of the obvious and obscure, with those ‘Aha!’ moments all the more satisfying when you solve a particularly taxing puzzle. If you should happen to find yourself well and truly stuck, there are several good walkthroughs available online. In addition to the puzzles, there are a handful of minigames – which can be skipped without interfering with game progress. Just as well, because we did get stuck on one puzzle, late in the game.
Graphics were a high point for us, with well drawn characters and environments, plus hand painted backgrounds to sweeten the deal. Two thumbs up. Even though screens are fairly static and much of the game takes place amidst mountains of rusty, dusty trash, the artists have managed to make everything pop… from the individual locations to the well executed and entertaining cut scenes (which are replayable as bonus content.)
The soundtrack is original and makes for pleasant listening, but we’d have liked a bit more variety. When you’re caught up in a problematic puzzle with no obvious solution, you tend to pay more attention to the in-game music looping in the background. Voice talent is spot on, with some of the actors taking on more than one role… an admirable feat, so we won’t hassle them for not sticking to the script 100% (a minor transgression at worst).
There is a smattering of low grade coarse language, but nothing your kids wouldn’t hear in the school playground. We did encounter a couple of lines of text that hadn’t been translated from the original German (oops), and in one instance the audio disappeared momentarily, but aside from that there were no other glitches.
Our verdict: if you enjoyed the Monkey Island series you will probably feel right at home dumpster diving on Deponia.