Point and click adventure games may no longer be in vogue among the big studios, but fans of the genre looking for a fix can still rely on indie studios and they don’t get much more indie than developer All Those Moments, a novice development studio from Poland consisting of only three people (one of whom is the music composer). With that odd name, eccentric plot and unusual painted art-style graphics, I definitely felt Earthworms warranted a closer look.
The beginning of the game is fairly nondescript however, as you find yourself playing as a generic private detective in a drab office accepting a cliched missing person case. Things quickly get weird however as you travel to a small island community of bizarre individuals and some disgusting tentacle-like growths, the titular earthworms. The storyline and setting continues to get stranger embracing elements of pulp sci-fi and horror. I won’t give too much away in this area, as it’s definitely the main selling point of the game.
Your detective protagonist also reveals himself to be more interesting than he first appears. With an offbeat sense of humour and a habit of striking yoga poses, he’s not actually your stereotypical gumshoe after all; he’s even revealed to possess psychic abilities. These abilities manifest at visions which are supposed to help you with working out to progress, although disappointingly there are only a few of them throughout the game and I always found them fairly pointless.
The other notable feature about Earthworms is the graphical style. Fairly minimalist but pleasing to look at, they really compliment the ‘odd goings on in a mundane setting’ vibe that the game has going on. Unfortunately all backgrounds and characters are more or less completely static, with only the occasional moment of minor animation. Similarly the audio has mixed results as, while the music is OK, there are hardly any sound effects and there isn’t any voice acting at all.
In terms of gameplay, Earthworms is more successful however. The interface is very simple with just a simple action available (no look/use/talk options here) and progression is usually quite straightforward. There’s also a liberal sprinkling of puzzles amongst the standard adventuring, which are quite varied and the right level of challenging; although annoyingly, there is one puzzle that can only be solved by guessing (I’m not exaggerating, I even looked it up afterwards and the developer confirmed it is designed to be solved by trial and error). There is also very little backtracking or wandering around, often a source of frustration in other games of the genre.
This did bring me onto a major problem with Earthworms, and that’s how short it is. With only a few locations and limited interaction with other a characters (usually only a handful or dialogue options). There are admittedly three different endings to find, but the ‘bad’ and ‘neutral’ endings only require you to make a different choice right at the end of the game. The ‘good’ ending meanwhile is unnecessarily complicated by the fact that a puzzle about three-quarters of the way through the game must be completed at exactly the right time – solve it too early and the item you receive will get taken away from you, but leave it too late and some of the items you need to solve it inexplicably disappear from your inventory completely. Although ultimately it doesn’t matter too much anyway as all three endings are incredibly underwhelming and brief, consisting of just a few sentences of on-screen text.
There are additional factors that took away from my enjoyment such as errors in translation and a useless quest list that only ever consists of one (usually very obvious) task – and is frequently empty as well. There are only three save slots and you’ll need to remember to manually save, particularly as there can be a few glitches – I encountered a couple but neither were game-breaking, although I have read online that other players ended up having to restart. The Nintendo Switch version I played did benefit slightly by the fact the cursor gravitates to objects that can be interacted with, but this also caused some irritation, particularly when trying to select something towards the bottom-right of the screen.
Earthworms was never going to be a great point and click game, but it definitely could have been better than it is. Despite the potentially interesting theme and story it never completely embraces the horror or sci-fi ideas it flirts with, and everything ultimately feels quite flat and dull. It’s also far too brief and finishes with some of the most disappointing endings you’ll ever encounter.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 5/10
User Review( votes)
An odd little adventure game with some potential, but ultimately underwhelming.