[Review] Goodbye Deponia – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Daedalic GmbH
  • Release date: 23/12/2019
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Rating: 12 / T

Dripping a Toe In

I was a little concerned about jumping into Goodbye Deponia for a review. After all, generally I like to play a full series for games instead of jumping into a story already in progress, but I figured that it was worth a shot. So, I skimmed a summary of the first two games and got the basic idea of the plot before taking a tentative step in. It wasn’t anything to wild or crazy, your typical rebellion-type sci-fi, so I wasn’t very worried about getting lost. It was then that I quickly realized that knowing the backstory to the game I was playing was not the thing that I should have been concerned about when it came to this point and click adventure game.

Caution Moving Forward

Excuse me giving some spoilers here, but I feel the need to inform you thoroughly of what you need to expect if you are considering this game. I will keep it vague on overall plot progression, but there are just a few moments that I wanted to talk about because I feel that it is important for a potential buyer to be aware of, especially since they might have warded me away from this game if I had known. 

Goodbye Deponia got on my bad side almost right away as someone who values clever writing in this medium. Within the first fifteen minutes of the game, one of the villains of the game implied that a female character was acting strangely due to a visit from “Aunt Flo”. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that this was one of the bad guys, and pressed on. Quickly after this, the main character, Rufus, grabs onto the belt of his female companion, Goal, when they are in a dangerous situation to keep her from falling. This results in her somehow coming out of a full jumpsuit outfit and getting pulled away in her underwear, a situation the player then has to rescue her from. (This is where the character in her underwear on the main art for this game on it’s sales pages comes from.) It became clear that Goodbye Deponia was always going to go for the easy joke, even if it was tired, juvenile, or unfunny. I braced myself for the rest of the experience after this, figuring the tone had been set for my exploration into this game. I could deal with this, I told myself, and I did for a while. There were just more and more points where I rolled my eyes and slumped lower and lower in my seat on the couch, going handheld mode with headphones the second my family came home.

This was one of the few early moments that actually got a giggle from me.

What is perhaps one of the worst moments and that may break this game for a player, comes in the middle of the game and I feel it is my duty to warn a potential player. Through a series of events, you need to find a monkey for an organ grinder, so you can acquire money. It’s fairly typical point and click fetching game play. The resolution  had my jaw on the floor. In order to progress, you must convince one of the very few black women in the game to take the job. She is then dressed in the typical organ grinder money outfit, called a monkey by the grinder, and made to dance. Pretty bad, right? It gets worse. You then take the money you get as a “recruitment fee” in front of her, and when she remarks on the fact that you basically sold her into this, Rufus goes on ramble about how this is actually teaching her a valuable lesson. I’ve come to understand that the game was originally German, so I don’t know if this was just something lost in translation or if there is a different perception of this sort of stuff over there, but this was not the only off-color thing about this game’s story line. If you don’t somehow like jokes about molestation or pedophilia either, you’re going to want to stay far away from this game. There is edginess for the sake of edginess that I am not sure would even work for people who like that sort of thing.

The Breaking Point

I think the aspect of the writing that really ruined the game for me (aside from the moments mentioned above) is the main character Rufus. He’s the exact kind of guy that I can’t stand. Smug, egocentric,  and just terrible in general. I didn’t like that I was stuck with him for the entire game and had to listen to whatever arrogant and awful thing he had to say about the situation. Especially since it was clear that he was always the least intelligent character in the room, which made his cockiness all the more grating. The more I was with him, the less I wanted to play the game, and the more I found myself skipping dialog that seemed to be unimportant. I couldn’t fathom why there was a fairly competent female character with a romantic connection to him when he made it clear in one conversation that he saw the idea of women in the resistance as both setup and punchline for a joke that I wasn’t laughing at. The utter whiplash near the end of the game when there was attempt to give him pathos and depth felt like one of the biggest development heel turns I had ever seen.

The biggest problem is that there aren’t alternate solutions to the puzzles in the game. Rufus is terrible and will be terrible and you must join him in being terrible by doing these things to progress the game. There are dialog options, sure, but in the vein of asking about different things, rather than branching based on what you say to a person. There is no option to be a good person. Perhaps I would feel differently about the game if there was an alternate path like that, but as the game stands, I just don’t find having to be Rufus fun and it’s one of the major reasons that this game will likely not linger long on my switch. 

The Tragedy of it All

And  all that is an absolute shame because the presentation of this game is beautiful! As a fan of animation, I love when we see games with an animated style like this and Goodbye Deponia, despite sometimes having limited frames does look great. The character designs are lovely, too, getting across the point fairly well at a glance. It’s easy to tell who is friend and who is foe from design alone without it being too overbearing and a lot of the main characters have a striking silhouette. There are little animated cutscenes here and there that look good and are used to great effect alongside points where the perspective will shift for a mini-game or more intense scene. I will say that the movements of mouths don’t always match up to the vocal work, but that’s to be expected in a translated game such as this and can be true of animation in general. For my part, it only became distracting in close ups on character faces.

Which brings us to the fact that the game is fully voiced. This is always great to see in a genre that doesn’t always get this treatment or has a niche audience. The cast really seems to be giving it their all and for the most part they do a great job. I’ll be upfront in saying that voice-work was not the reason that I disliked Rufus as his actor was pretty great. The only place where the vocals become irritating is in characters that have some kind of vocal modulation (such as robots) as that could get grating at times. My only real audio complain is in regards to the music, which ranges from unnoteworthy to repetitive, never really rising up in any particular way and sometimes becoming grating when I was stuck in the same place for too long.

Playing Along

The gameplay is fairly typical of a point and click adventure, though there have been nice modifications to make up for the fact that the switch does not have any sort of a mouse cursor. I didn’t find myself wishing for one either since the game made it fairly easy to both navigate the world and select whatever I wanted to interact with.  It also served to give the objects that were intractable a form of highlight when you’re near to them which always helped to distinguish what was just in the background and what wasn’t.

Progression is fairly typical of the genre where you need to rub objects up against other objects or against characters until progress appears. Not surprising to anyone who has played enough of these games, but there is a some moon logic involved in this system. Not all the things you need to put together or give to people make much sense and sometimes it takes just trying an item against everything to figure out what the developers were going for. It’s typical of the genre, though, so I can’t get too mad about it. There are also mini-games or non-object based puzzles that do break these segments up, as well, which helps a lot with avoid the frustration that such drastic leaps of logic can sometimes cause over an extended period of time.

So Where Are We Left?

Goodbye Deponia is a game that I don’t think I could recommend to just anyone based on the game play. While the game play and the presentation are both great additions to the Nintendo Switch lineup, an utterly detestable player character and humor that fluctuates on a dime between edgy and juvenile with moments that go beyond just “not funny” prevent it from rising to the top. Perhaps it is fun for fans of the series, but it failed to make me one of them. The writing just ruined it that much for me. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I certainly would not recommend this for younger players on the whole.

Pros

  • Great art direction and voice cast
  • Easily navigable game play

Cons

  • Severe problems in presentation of humor
  • Sincerely offensive moments
  • Unlikable and grating main character

Verdict
Poor writing choices and frankly offensive moments strangle good game play and prevent it from getting far off the ground.
2.5/5

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