We analyze Creaks, the new proposal of Amanita Design, creators of the masterful Machinarium or Botanicula, who offer us an excellent game of puzzles and platforms that are very varied and superb at an audiovisual level.
There are studies that, given the immaculate nature of their career, make us very excited with each announcement of a new title that they are going to launch. The small independent studio Amanita Design is undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents of the aforementioned. The Czechs have been flying the flag of creativity, imagination and reverie since 2003 to offer us a list of superb video games that have made us enjoy themselves in style. Firstly they surprised us with an attractive point and click browser adventure, the original Samorost. After the continuation of this launched in 2005, it would be in 2009 when they would release their first masterpiece, that wonderful Machinarium that helped revitalize the genre of graphic adventure, which began to rise from the grave after years where it was presumed dead and buried. This beautiful adventure starring an endearing little robot was also one of the mainstays of the assault on the foreground of the video game sector that gave up the then emerging independent sector of it.
In 2012 the Czechs presented us with Botanicula, another wonderful point and click in a beautiful and original environment that invited us to experiment with everything around us and surprised us at every step with the consequences of it. Four years later, we enjoyed a successful closing of the Samorost trilogy, and finally in 2018 we were surprised again with the delicious interactive comedy starring a hyperactive hairball, that Chuchel that took our hearts. With this history, it is not surprising the enormous emotion we feel when Amanita announced her next project, this fantastic Creaks that we are dealing with today.
For the occasion, the brilliant studio has taken what is possibly the biggest step forward in his career, leaving behind some of his hallmarks, preserving others, and giving us what is so far his most ambitious project. The main change is the new playable approach to adventure in two-dimensional puzzles with direct control, leaving behind the handling with a pointer that is so characteristic of his works. Its peculiar narrative is maintained, without the slightest line of dialogue, as is the trademark of the house, and despite the fact that to a certain extent it is something different, we also find a delightful audiovisual section full of care and detail, all together to offer us a wonderful adventure that is greatly enjoyed and will keep us glued to our screens while it lasts. So, we are facing a brainy title with which to squeeze our brains out by solving some very original and satisfying puzzles, while delighting our senses with a masterful staging. Creaks have enchanted us and conquered us again as only Amanita knows how to do, and we certainly recognize that for the occasion they have put all the meat on the grill. If what you want is a good puzzle adventure with a superb packaging, the new proposal of the champions of the Czech imagination is one of the great proposals of the year, available for both PC and Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and mobile devices.
The mysterious underground castle.
The adventure we will enjoy begins in the room of our anonymous protagonist, a young man of whom we know nothing. Suddenly, after slight tremors, he discovers on one of the walls of his room a passageway to an ominous underground world, where he will visit a kind of castle of cyclopean proportions. In addition to some dangers that we will talk about later, and that give the title its name, this place is inhabited by bird beings of anthropomorphic forms. Shortly after arriving at such a surprising place, we see how the castle is being attacked by a gigantic creature, and the efforts of the bird men and women to avoid greater evils. Our mission will be to get to the bottom of the castle and find out what’s going on. As usual in her works, Amanita does not present us with an argument of cosmic proportions or that intends to change our lives. On the contrary, it offers us a simple and direct story, but as they always manage to do in a masterful way, they manage to immerse us in the universe of their proposal and make us part of it as only the brilliant Czech studio knows how to do. They also offer us a series of characters with which the player connects immediately, and all without using the most direct line of dialogue or any kind of artifice, as they have always done.
It is true that for the occasion they use a few prerecorded scenes using the game engine and without any kind of transition, but in any case the Amanita narrative is present and is as special as ever. It is also true that this narrative is here more subject to gameplay than in previous works of the study, since that motivation to explore and surprise ourselves with our actions is not present here, since we are facing a classic puzzle platform of linear advance, for which does not lend itself as much to it as it did in Botanicula or the Samorost saga. This commitment to a more traditional and less experimental approach may not be a dish of good taste for some of the most staunch followers of the study, but we consider that they have been successful in not being pigeonholed, and that despite having left aside that experimental side House brand in order to offer a somewhat more classic product, the bet works and continues to maintain the Amanita spirit.
Despite the fact that the characters do not say a single word, those gestural conversations and with pleasant sounds that we enjoyed in previous titles are here, and they will make us smile more than they always have. That domain of the narrative so his and so characteristic of a special medium such as that of the video game appears here and continues to surprise us. The ominous and in a sense slightly terrifying touch of the game also distances it from other more cheerful works in the studio, but as we have already mentioned, we applaud the bravery of not being pigeonholed and taking a step forward.
Puzzles and Platforms
Until now, all Amanita titles were cut by the same playable pattern: pointer control that invited us to click on everything around us to surprise us with the magical and crazy consequences of our actions, bringing the genre of point and click to its maximum expression. For Creaks they have decided to completely change the paradigm, to use direct control of the character, and to bet on a fully linear two-dimensional platform puzzle game. The playable change is more than clear when the game itself recommends that we use a control pad to enjoy it in all its glory. So we leave behind the experiments of the past to bet on a more traditional approach. The truth is that at first the handling of our character becomes a little strange and it takes a few minutes to get hold of him at all, and on a couple of occasions he will make us make a mistake. And we also found collision detections with enemies a bit demanding, especially going up and down the stairs. But in any case, as we have already mentioned, once the initial moments have been overcome, these problems go to the background and allow us to enjoy the true protagonists of the adventure, puzzles that the truth is that we have loved them.
These approach puzzles are quite simple. In our epic to reach the base of the underground castle, we will have to cross many rooms. The common premise of all the puzzles will be to reach the exit of several of these rooms. The thing is complicated when to advance through the rooms we will have to use switches, pressure sensors and many more surprises. And in addition, we will have to deal with various beings that populate the castle, which are lethal to the slightest contact. At first we will be totally defenseless before them, and we will have no choice but to flee. But soon we will discover the importance of light when interacting with these dangerous beings, which will allow us to use them to our advantage. On the one hand, light will serve as a refuge, since these beings will stay in line while we are under their shelter, fleeing in addition to it. But it is that if we manage to focus them directly with a light beam, they will become harmless pieces of furniture that will also serve us for multiple purposes, such as climbing or activating pressure sensors. In our adventure we will find 5 different types of beings, each with their own behavior and patterns, and we must learn how to deal with them and take advantage of them on the go.
This variety manages to add new mechanics to the puzzles continuously, since these beings will be presented to us separately and gradually, until we reach a point where we will have several of them at the same time in the same room to offer us a puzzle that combines what has been learned so far and will be a real challenge. In addition, several mechanics and some skills will also be added, so that every little bit the game offers us something new to understand and assimilate in order to advance, so it avoids falling into tedium and will make us enjoy ourselves at all times. It is true that we would like these mechanics to be exploited a little more and to add some more to the mix, but this works and never gets boring.
The difficulty is very well adjusted, and follows a very well planned and logical curve. The resolution of the puzzles is generally very logical and satisfactory, and all without any explanation or tutorial, knowing how to introduce the new elements organically and treating the player as someone intelligent. As they are puzzles that usually take place on a single screen, despite the fact that at first they seem very complex, with some observation and ingenuity we will see that all the answers were there, and it is a pleasure to play with all the possibilities, mechanical and behavior of the beings that inhabit this peculiar world to continue advancing. The slightest contact with the beings that populate the castle will mean our death, something never seen before in an Amanita game, but this will not be too serious a problem, since we will immediately return to the beginning of the room we were in, or even to some intermediate checkpoint if we have already taken several steps in the right direction of solving the puzzle in some cases.
In addition to the puzzles, and to give our neurons a slight rest, we will find some pictures that will present us with small and short mini-games that, saving the distances, remind us, for example, of those seen in the Wario Ware, to give an example. The game is translated into our language, which we will only notice in the initial and pause menus, since as it has been repeated there is not a single dialogue or text in the entire development of the adventure. The title lasts around 6-8 hours depending on our expertise and possible bottlenecks in a puzzle.
At an audiovisual level, how could it be otherwise in an Amanita Design game, we are facing a sovereign feast for the senses. The graphic work is colossal, with a beautiful staging with hand-painted graphics of excellent invoice, with an exquisite artistic direction reminiscent of that used in Machinarium, with a slightly darker but just as precious touch, reminiscent of the works of Tim Burton for example. The stages are very ornate and full of detail, they have a job and a huge care behind and help to build and give meaning to the universe that Amanita depicts on screen. It also highlights the excellent work of the animations of all the characters that populate the adventure, which endows them with a tremendous expressiveness that makes up for the total absence of dialogues and that makes these characters transmit a lot and we manage to empathize with them. So good is the visual work that you are forgiven for not offering a little more variety in your surroundings. Amanita are masters when it comes to capturing precious and imaginative fantasy worlds on screen, and with Creaks they have hit the nail on the head with a new work of art, something darker and more ominous than on previous occasions, but which is a real delight as they have always managed to offer.
Nor is it trivial that the developers recommend us to enjoy the adventure using good sound helmets. The excellent soundtrack by the Hidden Orchestra is a real joy and adapts like a glove to what happens on screen. It also works dynamically, gaining strength and presence as we take the correct steps in solving the puzzles, in a great in-crescendo that motivates us to continue solving the intricate puzzles we come across. The worked set of sound effects, varied and with a lot of packaging, ends by rounding out a sound section that, as in all the titles of the studio, has a central role in the game. A title that is enjoyed both as an intellectual challenge and as a true delight for the senses, which it never tires of pleasing with each step we take in its magical and mysterious world.
Amanita Design have done it again. It is true that we are facing its less experimental and surprising title, and that several of its hallmarks have been left on the road. But in any case we have also liked this more traditional approach to offer us an excellent puzzle and platform game that we have completely fallen in love with. It is a really satisfying and very well measured intellectual challenge, and one that knows how to introduce new mechanics and playable elements that keep the formula fresh and entertaining at all times. All this adorned with an audiovisual section of the house that is a sovereign feast for the senses, with delicious graphics painted entirely by hand and a magnificent dynamic orchestral soundtrack. And of course, with the peculiar narrative Amanita, without the slightest dialogue or line of text, how well these masters dominate and that manages to immerse us in their proposal and connect with it as only they know how to do. It is not the best work of the champions of creativity and imagination that are Amanita, nor the most surprising or groundbreaking of their titles, and some staunch fan of the studio may be disappointed by the loss of several of the hallmarks of it. We have loved it and we have enjoyed it very much, and we can only recommend it if what you want is to give the coconut a beautiful and special title. Recommendation that we extend to all the work of one of the essential studies of the modern age of the sector, without whose masterful contribution it would be impossible to understand the current state of the videogame world and the enormous impact that independent development has had on it.
- Very satisfying puzzles with a very well measured and staggered difficulty.
- Audiovisually it is a feast for the senses.
- How well he manages to immerse the player in his world and connect with his proposal.
- The narrative “Amanita” and the studio’s commitment to creativity are always delicious.
- Constant introduction of new mechanics and playable elements.
- It is the least experimental and most traditional title of the study.
- It takes a bit to gain control at first.
- He could have exploited his mechanics a little more.
Game with a remarkable finish that we will enjoy and remember. A good purchase, highly recommended for lovers of the genre. It is well cared for at all levels.