Encodya is a Cyberpunk Point and Click Adventure based on the animated short Robot Will Protect You by Nicola Piovesan. The game is developed by Piovesan’s Chaosmonger Studio and published Assemble Entertainment, who are probably best known for their publishing of the recent Leisure Suit Larry revival. While Chaosmonger have a number of award winning short films to their name, Encodya is their first foray into game development.
Encodya continues to follow the story of Robot Will Protect You protagonists Tina, a 9 year old orphan and SAM-53, the nanny-bot assigned as her protector since birth. At the game’s opening the pair are homeless, living rough in a makeshift shelter on a city rooftop, siphoning power off a nearby neon advertising light. As the pair search for food and other items for their survival they learn that local police are searching for a bot that matches SAM-53‘s description. From there Tina and Sam are led on a quest through Neo-Berlin and cyberspace, led on by a secret note left for Tina by the deceased father she never knew she had.
Cyberspace, The Final Frontier
Encodya uses the typical interaction you’d expect from any point and click game from Monkey Island to Professor Layton. You control Sam and Tina by clicking on screen to move between locations, interact with objects, speak to other characters or select inventory items. The only minor variation is that some actions can only be completed when using Tina, some when using Sam, but as the pair are never separated you can switch between them at any time to complete any action that requires one over the other.
Encodya doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel for Point and Click games, and unfortunately there are some basic design lessons that it hasn’t learned from older games in the genre that can lend to frustration. There were a few cases where there seemed to be zero logic to the actions required to progress. In the end I resorted to clicking on everything with everything else until something worked in those situations. Usually these actions are narrowed down to using whatever the most recent items collected are, but that doesn’t make it much less frustrating. Another common pitfall that got me was having to interact with the same object or person multiple times in a row without any prompting to do so.
That said, the vast majority of these issues were in the opening chapters of the game, and had disappeared midway through the game. In that way it was nice to see that lessons were being learned as the game progressed, rather than the other way around as is often the case with lower budget or indie titles. Usually polish drops off towards the end when budgets get tight, but this isn’t the case with Encodya.
While gameplay for Encodya may be standard fare, the visuals are anything but. Given that it’s developed in the same style as the award winning Robot Will Protect You this comes as no surprise. Tina and Sam are gorgeously rendered, as are most of the locations and characters they visit across Neo-Berlin. There are a few exceptions, such as the cookie-cutter floors in slums and hotels that are likely intentionally similar to sell a feeling of dreariness. Another fairly uninspired design is that of the main villain, who is an obvious riff on a certain twice-impeached Home Alone 2 actor. It might have made for a tongue in cheek joke, but it’s just a shame that one of the key players in an otherwise beautifully designed set of characters is so bland and obvious.
As with the visuals, the audio is generally of a high quality. The music is synth heavy, and very clearly inspired by Vangelis‘ Blade Runner soundtrack. The voice acting for key characters is also top notch, with both Tina and Sam endearingly portrayed by performances from Lizzie Freeman and Richard Epcar. There are a couple of minor characters whose performances aren’t up to scratch, one of whom you’ll speak to frequently in the game’s opening section, just one more thing along with the frustrating puzzles there that sadly bring down the opening.
Encodya is now available for PC, Mac and Linux.
A Beautiful Cyberpunk World
A light cyberpunk adventure with run of the mill gameplay, elevated by an endearing cast and beautifully rendered world.