The original Deponia was very well loved in its home country of Germany. Members of the German press enjoyed the humor and the throwback to classic adventure game mechanics that have been brightened up with excellent graphics and sound. The game was a hit, but it took the better part of a year before it was translated into English and released to other territories. Less than a year later, the second game was released, and unlike the first game, it only took a little over a month for Chaos on Deponia to make the transition.
Since the game is part of a trilogy, you may feel that missing out on the first game would be a detriment, but this title does a good job of catching you up on the events. You'll miss out on some of the character development, and some jokes would be a bit funnier with some more context, but you won't be confused if you jump into this game first.
After a brief tutorial segment and an introductory puzzle, Rufus hatches a harebrained plan to send himself to Elysium to save his potential girlfriend Goal and the planet of Deponia from being blown to smithereens. Unfortunately, Goal's traitorous fiancé Cletus tries to kill Rufus, causing all three of them to be sent to parts unknown. Although Goal and Rufus both survive and land in approximately the same area, Goal's memory seems to have been damaged again, resulting in her personality being split into three physical beings. It's up to Rufus and his friends to help Goal become whole again and continue his quest to save Deponia.
From a story perspective, the plot is a little disappointing because it's similar to the first game, so Goal is either absent or simply not herself. She's more vocal in this title, but it still feels like a retread due to the use of memory cartridges as a plot device. There's not much in terms of character development, as Rufus acts like a self-centered moron who gets things right by chance but is too dull to realize it. You don't get any story advancement until the final moments of the game, which introduces a big twist. If you're looking for story advancement, prepare to be underwhelmed.
Luckily, the story coasts along because of the humor. Reminiscent of the humorous LucasArts classics like Sam & Max Hit the Road and Grim Fandango, the world of Deponia exists on a plane of absurdity that balances between being too dry and too slapstick. The world of Deponia is built on junk and filth, with structures and instruments in an ever-present state of decay, and yet the environments and people manage to be charming despite being in a constant state of dilapidation. The people are very eccentric, and their attitudes are multifaceted and play off the main characters pretty well. You'll a lot of interesting people who help flesh out the world in odd ways: the overly aggressive weapon shop owner who melts at a particular phrase, the blind pharmacist, and a few members of the resistance who take bets on who's brave enough to enter a bathroom. As in most comedies, not all of the jokes hit the mark, but the misses are few and far between, leaving you with an adventure where failure and success are both funny in their own ways.
Like the first title, this is standard adventure game fare. You'll go through multiscreen environments, one at a time, picking up random objects and combining them to solve puzzles and advance the story. You'll also participate in a few tried-and-true dialogue trees to filter information you'll need to receive or solve a puzzle. Along the way, you'll run into a few minigames to break up the monotony but, for the most part, you'll spend your time picking up lots of seemingly unrelated objects and solving scores of puzzles.
At the very least, Chaos on Deponia does a good job of streamlining the experience for those who are starting out in the genre. The basic look and interaction choices are automatically locked to the right and left mouse buttons, respectively, with the mouse wheel bringing up and dismissing the inventory window. Each screen has a map that lets you quickly travel to the major sections of the game. Automatic quick saving is also present for those who forget to save their progress, and the spacebar highlights both sections of the screen that are designated as travel points as well as objects or people that you can interact with. None of these changes affect puzzle difficulty, which will delight genre veterans since the puzzles are some real brain-teasers, but the streamlined steps help make things a bit more enjoyable.
If there's one thing that the game takes advantage of, it is size. The Black Market island is easily double the size of the world in the first game. Though there are only five different sections for the junk structure, each section offers numerous nooks and crannies to explore, so it can feel daunting. The size of the world also means the game is quite long. Part of that can be attributed to the world, but another part can be attributed to the constant travelling between the same sections again and again to solve a single puzzle.
The game still harbors some of the same issues from the first title, a possible side effect from the quick development and turnaround time between the first and second installments. There are a few bugs with the graphics and the sound. Some of the text still appears in German despite being spoken in English, and some sound bites come through as high-pitched buzzing or silence. The dialogue may be funny, but it tends to be long-winded, causing you to start clicking furiously to speed up things. With the game world being as large as it is, it's interesting that there isn't a system to guide you to where you should go. If you don't take notes along the way, you'll get lost if you're used to easier adventure games. A few puzzles have nonsensical solutions, which are a holdover from the heyday of adventure games and something of a genre crutch, but this game relies on it too often to go unnoticed.
Graphically, the game looks great. It looks like it came from a well-animated TV show with picturesque backgrounds and characters that blend well with each other. There's a wide spectrum of colors to give everything some depth, and the use of full motion video accentuates some of the bigger scenes, especially the intentionally cheesy use of live action video in some segments. The animation looks fine overall, though it would have been nice to see more frames in some segments, and the incidental animations add some personality to each environment. This is a good example of how 2-D still works well over 3-D modeling in high-definition adventure titles.
Sound-wise, the game gives off the proper epic adventure feel. Most of that can be attributed to the score, which properly gives off the right vibes at the right moments — even during the game's more quiet times. The inclusion of a few ballads also helps, as does the humor in the lyrics. The voice acting is also excellent, with none of the performances ever feeling forced or out of place and, as I'd mentioned earlier, the lines evoke a few laugh-out-loud moments reminiscent of classic adventure games. With a few exceptions, there aren't too many modern adventure games as funny as this one.
As the second part of a trilogy, Chaos on Deponia does exactly what it needs to do, and it does it well enough. There's some story progression here, as well as character advancement to help flesh things out. It's too bad that the advancement comes very late into the game, leaving the player with a somewhat alternate take on the original tale instead. The presentation holds up very well, and the adventure is humorously entertaining.
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