Robot companions are intriguing and attractive concepts of fiction. In Star Trek Generations the robot Data learns from his shipmates how to be human and find love. The Terminator – in the second movie – becomes a surrogate father for John Connor, as well as his protector. They become like pets and it’s always very sad and tragic when they come to a bad end. In ENCODYA the story is focused firmly on the life of robots and humans, set in the near future with some heavy helping of cyberpunk sheen. The robot in question is SAM; in charge of a nine-year-old street orphan. And it’s deep in SAM’s memory banks where the secret to her heritage and purpose is held.
ENCODYA has an interesting backstory, starting out as a short crowdfunded film called ‘Robot will protect you”. It has since been developed into the game we find ourselves playing today.
The year is 2062 and the place is Neo-Berlin; one full of futuristic neon tech, flying robots, and lots of rain. You are in charge of two individuals, a nine-year-old street orphan called Tina and a large robot called SAM, who is her sort of carer. You live in a banged-up shelter made of canvas and junk, situated on a rooftop in the city. Your first task of the day is to try and get food, repair the shelter and get some oil for SAM. But Tina suddenly finds some hidden code in SAM regarding a special message from her missing father for her 10th Birthday. They both end up on a quest to find the truth across the rain-drenched city…
The story is a very good one and I have loved the world of Neo-Berlin; it is original and full of interesting characters and stories. It takes you to different locations, as well as putting you into a virtual world, as you get nearer to unveiling of secrets. The dialogue is good as well, with some nice writing and plotting throughout. But it’s the relationship between the robot and Tina which is the main heart of the story.
Gameplay-wise and ENCODYA works as a point-and-click narrative adventure, set in 2.5D world. You interact with objects and characters through the world, travelling across the city and different locations. You have a map which builds out as new places in the city are added, all as you move forward with the story to explore. It’s the conversations you have with different robots and characters around town which will help guide you to where you need to be, and pretty much what you need to do next. From there, it’s all about heading to one location after the next, talking to people and gathering up missions. Handily, a checklist of want you need to is always at hand with some clues – at least if you pick the easy mode – to help you out should you get stuck.
However, there have been times when I’ve found certain puzzle solutions to be quite obtuse, and without the power of the internet, would have found some of the solutions to verge on the near impossible. It’s also tricky to find items in the areas, mostly as the visual palette sees them merge into the ground. It’s very easy to miss items, even if you know they are there; some kind of decent highlighting of interactable elements would have been preferred. And further to that, travelling between locations can get messy as the arrow you click on gets lost or decides it doesn’t want to be as responsive as it should. Granted, these are small niggles, but they need pointing out. Thankfully, aside from that, ENCODYA is still an enjoyable ride.
Visually the world is very pretty with a lovely animated design. The people and robots you meet are quirky, looking like they’ve just stepped out of an animated children’s show. The backdrop of Neo-Berlin is fantastic, with some amazing locations, however the cutscenes are strange and don’t feel in the same world as the game. Sound-wise there’s a great soundtrack with some nice pieces of original music, complemented well with a full voice cast that does a great job throughout.
ENCODYA provides an enjoyably sweet story set in a fantastical future, providing access to a world that is great for exploring. There are problems with the difficulty, and it would have been great to have seen more help with interactable objects and ensuring exiting a level was a bit easier, but there are a good ten hours of gameplay to be had here and the price reflects that.
In all, if you’re looking for your next puzzle adventure and want to travel to the future then ENCODYA is worth a try.
You’ll find ENCODYA available on Xbox from the Xbox Store