Developer: Below the Game
Publisher: 1C Company
Review Context: I can’t recall another game that is like this that I’ve played, but in general I am prone to being drawn towards word games and games that have unique storytelling techniques.
Date of Playthrough: June 25, 2018
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclaimer: This review was based off of a review copy.
Haimrik, developed by Below the Game, is one of the most interesting storytelling games I’ve ever played. Haimrik, a scribe, has the ability to create words and activate items by using a magic book that he enters by using his own blood. After certain events unfold in the beginning of the game, Haimrik has to defend his town of Sinisa against King Udolf and other Word Warriors. From this point the story takes many twists and turns.
I usually don’t like to talk about the visuals of a game as a centerpiece, but this is where Haimrik shines the most. The sepia art style in Haimrik helps lend the appearance of this game being about a scribe. Every character that you come across in the game is well drawn, making you really appreciate all the work put it into it. The locations are well down as well, and in the beginning of the game you have a big combat fight and the combination of the art visuals, animations, and visual 3D perspective really makes this game stand out. Unfortunately, combat sequences like this are so few, making you starve for more after you’re done with the game.
The gameplay of Haimrik centers on Haimrik entering his magical book and solving puzzles involving words. These word puzzles aren’t the average word puzzles you are used to seeing, as sentences are written across horizontal flooring that you walk across like platforms. Like floors in a building, you go down to the next floor to see the continuation of the sentences, and so on, until you get to the end. The words have meaning though, as Haimrik has the power to activate items from the words of the sentences by standing over the word and activating it. The words can activate items, but they can also activate climate and weather effects in the later puzzles. For example, to get a crossbow you have to stand on the word “crossbow” and to get more arrows you have to stand on the word “arrows” to refill your quiver.
Most puzzles have at least three floors of sentences that you have to decipher, and that is where reading comprehension skills come into play, as you have to read the items and figure out what items to use or what order. Some of the items can even be combined to create something else. There are enemies in the puzzles, but the strength is not in the combat with enemies in the puzzles, as all you do is just hit an attack button. You’ll be spending most of the puzzles figuring out how to get past and/or kill enemies in order to advance. If there is one major downside to the puzzles in Haimrik, it’s that there are a lot of repeat words used in puzzles. For a game like this where words are endless, words (apart from weapons) should be as different as they can be in every puzzle to give the player something new. One hilarious touch of the game is during the course of doing the puzzles you will die, and the death animations of Haimrik in the various puzzles situations are just so cool, giving you Kenny from South Park vibes.
The storytelling in Haimrik is very unique, as there is one type of sequence that is repeated throughout the game where there is a long sentence that you walk on like a conveyor belt as you see an image storyboard in the background. This is the part of the storytelling in the game I found to be the most majestic. The style of storytelling through sentences does have its faults though, as keeping track and reading the sentence can be tedious and cause your eyes to move off the background imagery or combat sequence to your detriment. The storytelling mechanisms are great, but the story itself is very convoluted with so many moving parts, that it was tough at times to keep track of everything. New characters get introduced and have an immediate impact on the flow of the story. There is an interesting character in the story named Masamba, who is a panther, is a decent supporting role character in the story with Haimrik. I always find characters in the form of animals to be very interesting, and Masamba was, as well its visuals and animation throughout the game.
Although most of the game involves puzzles on a floor format as described above, there are runner combat sequences that are interesting, but feel repetitive, and success is just in the reading of the sentence. For example, if the sentence says “fireball”, then a fireball will be coming at you so you know that you have to jump, followed by whatever other attack is in the sentence. All that is required to succeed in the level is reading and remembering quickly. Some combat sequences throughout the game requires precision aiming in a 3D way, which I found to be just ok using a controller, The aiming in Haimrik is the only part of the game that really requires tight controls, as the rest of the game is very easy to control no matter what.
The game has an interesting soundtrack, with some folksy sounding tunes. The soundtrack fits well with the story, but you will come away from playing Haimrik being awed by the visuals and storytelling more than anything else. Some of the puzzles are a bit ambiguous, but most of the them make sense. If there is any overall criticism that I have for Haimrik, it’s that the game tries to do more than it needs to do with all different types of sequences, as the basic puzzles in the game (going from one floor to another) are the biggest appeal of the game. Haimrik is an ambitious game that should be applauded for trying and mostly succeeding in giving us a gameplay concept using words that is unique in telling a story, coupled with amazing visuals. I look forward to what Below the Game makes in the future, and hopefully we get some puzzle DLC for Haimrik.
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