REVIEW: Algotica – Iteration 1

May
16

REVIEW: Algotica – Iteration 1

2.5D logic puzzler with a bit of adventure thrown in. Vivid, colourful graphics and engaging gameplay but spoiled by sloppy execution.

Status: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Alexander Khoroshavin
Publisher: Alexander Khoroshavin
Release Date: 23 Mar, 2017

You play as a little robot (I think there are 3 of them but if so they all look the same). You have to plan a route for him along catwalks to hit nodes and reach the exits. You do this by setting a series of actions (forward, backward, turn-left/right, activate, jump, attack…) and then running the program to set him in motion. You keep modifying the program until you get it right, so more often than not you’re running the program over and over, adding new steps to get further each time. You have a limited number of ‘memory cells’ (steps) to reach the exit and I vagely remember something about the less steps the better.

As you progress, new commands are added to your arsenal to allow for increasing complexity of your program. You can also (optionally) pick up cubes which increase your ‘pointless points’. I think you can use them to buy hats.

There is some kind of storyline but it’s not inspiring enough for me to remember what it is. Just the usual kind of thing for this genre. One thing I will say is that the dialog is excellent at explaining new mechanics clearly. It can be hard to remember though, I often have to refer to the MANUAL to see which commands I might use to solve the level.

You can use X to scan the level to reveal items and information about nodes, which can be quite useful to get your bearings when you first enter a level.

Gameplay Video

Main Quest

After a few programming levels there’s an open world ‘Free Memory’ level that’s like an Easter egg hunt. It’s a lot of fun rummaging around in bushes and opening treasure chests then eventually finding the exit. The night/day/weather cycle is a very nice touch. However, what’s not so much fun is being often transported back to the Main Quest from the normal levels when you do something wrong, or after you exit to main menu. Having to wander around Free Memory constantly to find the exit before you can continue with normal levels becomes frustrating (no, I can never remember where the exit is). I’ve been there and done that, I’d like to move on please. By now I’m sick of it. Talk about spoiling a good thing. There are no manual save slots, of course, so no help there either.

Sound & Vision

Graphics are lovely, very bright and colourful with fabulous use of lighting and interesting details. Glowing objects really pop and the whole screen comes alive, especially in Free Memory when you’re doing a main quest. At first my GPU (GTX550Ti) was paying a high price for it – my PC fans were blowing like a jet engine the whole time. Then I found the ‘SSAO’ toggle on the options menu, and disabling it sent the fans down to a medium hum, with no noticeable difference to the visuals. In either mode, there are no performance issues or lag, it’s all nice and smooth.

There are no graphics options in-game, you have to set your fullscreen/window/resolution options on the opening Unity dialog. Fine by me, just thought you should know.

Background music is pretty good, there are electro melodies that change every so often. I left it on, which is always a good sign.

Difficulty

It’s definitely on the easy side, but in a good way. I’ve played a fair way through it and haven’t come across any serious challenge yet. It’s a pleasant, casual type of puzzle and there’s a nice feeling of satisfaction to see your little robot perform your commands and get to the end. There is one type of puzzle that is silly though. You’re given some algebra with conditional statements for which there are multiple possible solutions, so you have to use trial and error many times to enter all the possibilities. It’s not difficult but there are too many possibilities and it becomes tedious after a while.

There is a Casual mode on the main menu but I haven’t considered trying it. This is easy enough already.

Steam

14 achivements, many of which require completing all of certain types of discovery, pickups and such. 5 trading cards (the perfect number, of course).

Value

If you can live with the annoyances, this is actually good value. The core game has plenty of content, nice graphics and new mechanics being introduced regularly to hold your interest. If it was a bit more polished I’d recommend it at full price, but in its current state it belongs only on your Wishlist for the time being.

Complaints

As my friend rgk would say, there’s a long queue for the complaints department here…

Before you read any further, please bear in mind that I do enjoy the actual gameplay. There are always new things to discover, upgrades to be unlocked and dialog to read. The issues I have relate to all the other stuff surrounding the gameplay.

  • Linux: this is a Unity game so it should have had Linux from Day One. The dev sent me a key a few days before release and I’ve been deliberately dragging my feet with this review waiting for Linux, which was promised by the end of April and now here we are, halfway through May, two months after release. Having to boot into Windows to play games sours the experience for me at the best of times, but when it’s a Unity game this is extra annoying.
  • Screen resolution: the highest option is 1920×1080. I have a 1920×1200 monitor, as many people do these days. The black bars don’t look good. I’m sure this is another easy option in Unity that has been ignored.
  • Dialog: it reeks of ‘second language’, I mean it’s really bad. I’m willing to bet that, if the dev asked in his discussion forums, a native English speaker would quickly volunteer to proofread, especially if a free key was offered on completion. In fact, I’ll make a deal. If the dev adds Linux and 1920×1200 I’ll do it. With that said, what’s totally unforgivable are the spelling mistakes. Has he never heard of spellcheck? There is even software to check grammar these days. It’s just laziness.
  • Comedy: this guy tries hard and thinks he’s hilarious, but it’s not even mildly amusing. He would be booed off stage by stoney-faced punters with this material.
  • Options menus: I have to say, there’s a permanent feeling of confusion about how to access features, it’s all very user-unfriendly. For example, the Quit option is hidden away on the settings menu. What. The. Actual. F***?! The first few times I played I couldn’t find it and had to forcibly kill the game via Windows Task Manager, since there’s not even an in-game option to switch to windowed. This is a game that claims to provide programming education. This is not a good lesson!
  • Manual: what on earth is this screen for? I’m a fair way into the game and I still have no clue, as there has been no explanation so far. It apparently sets variables, but I can’t do anything with it. It shouldn’t appear in the game yet, if it’s redundant.
  • Hotkeys: why can’t I set my own? The commonly-used CTRL-1 is super awkward for me, it’s certainly not what I would choose. And why are there no Break/Run hotkeys? These are by far the most used functions. It makes no sense.
  • Sound: if I switch between speakers and headphones, every other app on my desktop complies instantly. Not this game. I have to quit and restart for it to take effect. I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve ever seen (NOT heard! haha) a glitch like this. Congrats.
  • Other glitches: they are not uncommon. There’s walking through walls and one particularly annoying one is being frozen on the spot after you try to activate a node on a Free Memory level and having to quit to main menu to recover. According to the discussion threads I also have further glitches to look forward to.
  • Excuses: the in-game dialog is peppered with immature excuses along the lines of “hey I’m only one person, please tell me about any bugs and be nice to me”. Well, dev, see above! This is not an Early Access game, you’ve published it as a full release. You should be past these excuses.

Verdict

The underlying gameplay, puzzles and visuals are great, but it’s all spoiled by a litany of issues that are easy to fix. It’s in dire need of some good old-fashioned quality control. These problems may be ironed out over time (I sincerely hope so) but right at this moment it gives me a feeling of slight anger because it could be so much better. It’s like being served a delicious meal in a restaurant surrounded by cigarette smoke, bawling babies and sweaty armpits.

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About JimDeadlock

My main focus is puzzlers or anything with puzzle elements in it. I also like forward-planning strategy and discovery/adventure. Games that engage your brain without too much urgency. || I'm a rabid Linux user and try to avoid Win-only games but I'll suffer it if the game is worthwhile. || I don't go for multiplayer games in general, and you couldn't make me play FPS if you tied me to a chair and held a blowtorch to my toes. || Steam Profile

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