Investigate North (A company, not an instruction) have treated us to a second game, Aporia: Beyond the valley. The team have reined it in a little since Cloud Chamber and have concentrated on a more solitary existence in Aporia. Have they hit the nail on the head or is the game now lacking? Time to play and find out for myself.
Aporia: Beyond the valley starts with no information about who you are, what you are doing there or even why you are doing it. Aporia is a first person perspective game using the standard WASD movement method. You can jump, you can duck and you can interact with items in the world. The setting looks like it’s based on a bit of an Aztec – Inca mash up, there are ancient buildings and beautiful forests. My first instinct was to draw my weapon and wait for the marauding zombies to attack. I had no weapon and there were no zombies, so this was going to be something a bit different. Phew!
Help is provided when you encounter interactive objects with a little diagram of how to interact with them. The style of these is still in keeping with the game, these guys have thought of everything.
The game consists of walking through the scenery and solving a series of puzzles, it’s a very gently game that is pleasing on the eye and the brain, no fast reflexes needed here. Surely a game this relaxing wouldn’t make you go through the stress of dying? Advice – avoid falling of tall cliffs, my assumption was incorrect. Aporia is pressure free and can be played at your own pace, it holds your interest and once you solve one puzzle there is a burning desire to solve the next one. There are hieroglyphic style animations to make sure that you understand the story, though not everything is given away at the beginning.
Aporia reminded me very much of golf. It’s a nice gentle walk that occasionally requires you do something. I can’t stand golf, probably because hitting a white ball with a stick can be a bit mundane, yet I was drawn to this game. Move around a lot, explore everywhere, don’t miss out on the experience of the game to just solve the puzzles. The gameplay isn’t hard, the game itself isn’t too hard, but when you are immersed in the game the last thing you want is frustratingly difficult puzzles to solve.
My one criticism of the game is that there can appear to be a lack of free thinking. The world opens up in front of you and you are pushed in specific directions, and this can be a little frustrating.
Aporia has done the hard work here, the basic premise of the game would fall flat without the beauty. The backdrops are inspiring, the scenery is beautifully crafted. Even writing this review makes me feel happier just thinking about maybe moving there and buying a house. The only this stopping me will be the lack of Wifi and the fact it doesn’t exist. Don’t rush, take your time, you wouldn’t want to miss anything.
Aporia’s audio compliments the game perfectly. Investigate North have perfectly matched all elements of this game together. They realise that sound effects add to the atmosphere, but have also made sure that they are not over the top, or in your face. Aporia is definitely more John Legend than Slipknot. The whole Aporia experience is simply beautiful.
Aporia’s linear approach does detract from the game somewhat, but where that takes away, the immersive experience brings it back up. I think that this game will be as much fun to play in the years to come as it is now. It doesn’t rely on reflexes, accuracy or speed, so this game can be enjoyed by everyone. I’ll be letting the family loose on it soon and I predict that everyone will enjoy it.
Aporia ticks a lot of boxes without necessarily heading in a typical direction for a game these days. The combination of visual and audio make it an absolute pleasure to play. The puzzles are not overly taxing, but in keeping with the vibe of the game. I have made everyone in my family play this game now and the verdict is unanimous, they all like it. I’m sure that the game will be a bit Marmite for some, those that only like the adrenaline rush of facing 20 incoming zombies armed with only a stick might not appreciate the beauty and subtlety of the game. Maybe try something new?
Aporia: Beyond the Valley serenely glides to a Thumb Culture Molten Gold Award with 8 out of 10.
Disclaimer: We received a game code to complete this review.