If you go down to any art gallery and seek out some of the more dramatic religious medieval paintings that deal with the apocalypse or visions of hell and damnation, you might be in for a bit of a shock. Powerful and amazing they are but if you look closely it’s obvious how much of a big influence they have been on game design. From Doom through to The Evil Within, religious art and iconography are both blatantly and secretly hidden in bits of core game design. Yet Apocalipsis: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil doesn’t hide its influences, instead putting the spotlight brightly on what has inspired the team in the making of this game. But is it good or evil?
Apocalipsis: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is triggered by middle-age artistic wood carvings that you will instantly recognise the moment you see them. It tells the tale of a poor farm worker who wakes up and finds the love of his life has disappeared. He ventures out of his farmstead and then goes on a journey that takes him across strange lands, deep seas and into the bowels of hell itself. There are no words that tell the narrative, except for a couple of storytelling cutscenes that fill the gap between locations. Instead the narrative unfolds through the visuals, and Apocalipsis manages to tell the story very well indeed, focusing on strange famine ravaged lands which are filled with skeleton creatures, krakens, and ghosts… as well as many more odd and wonderful creatures. It tells a tale of how horror and disturbing beauty go hand in hand, so expect to be delivered some nightmares should you play it before bed. I have however loved the story and found the imagery exemplary throughout, with it bringing to mind a kind of twisted puppet theatre.
The gameplay is very simple, running as a point and click adventure with a whole lot of puzzling to be done. You move your cursor around the space and look for things to examine, pick up and use. You know the drill by now. There are the simple ‘use this item with that item to make another item’ traits, and by blending items together and giving objects to certain characters, you wil find progress through the levels. There are moments where the accuracy of the cursor is sometimes a bit off, but not enough to get in the way of the overall enjoyment.
There are also puzzles which are like little mini-games within themselves. At one point you have to remember to playback a tune on a large organ, while in another section, you have to rearrange the different levels of a jumbled painting so that the image is correct once more. Some of these puzzles which play out are familiar ones that we have come across before, yet others are much more unique and satisfying. There are also micro-action sequences dotted throughout the game. At one point you are found running and avoiding explosions in a castle, while another sees you swimming from the bottom of the ocean, avoiding debris and the tentacles of a sea monster.
I love a good puzzler and Apocalipsis delivers a really good experience over the few hours of running time. There are however moments in which logic doesn’t win over or make sense, and you just end up trying as many different combinations as possible. When the solution appears, and it is obvious that the answer is something that would never have been understood by logic, the amount of guesswork included does becomes a little annoying. And at other times the mini-games are just a tad on the ‘too hard’ side of things to really understand, but then on the flip-side, it comes across as strangely satisfying when you do manage to work it all out. There are also moments where it’s far too easy to miss items because of the inaccuracy of the cursor, especially when combined with a multitude of things on the screen, but I’m just picking at straws in what is otherwise a very solid experience.
The visual design is where Apocalipsis: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil on Xbox One really shines. The development team have quite obviously researched the source material to the nth degree, and then have managed to create their own unique world of sublime horror. It’s beautiful at times and it will leave you with many moments that will last with you forever, especially in terms of the backdrops, creature designs, and puzzles. The soundtrack is very strong as well with a haunting, almost dirge, main track that pumps along relentlessly throughout, filling you with an almighty sense of dread throughout. There is also a very good voice over found in the cutscenes that tells the tale with an amazing sense of foreboding.
Overall this a pretty great puzzler as well as being a solid point and click adventure. The visuals are excellent, as is the design and overall tone of the piece. There are moments where the gameplay becomes a bit tricky, and the logic required doesn’t always make sense, but it is very cheap and that allows you to take a gamble on it; it’s certainly well worth the asking price. In fact, if you want to try something different and unique then you can’t go too wrong with Apocalipsis: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.