Primordia: a robotic adventure with its sensors tuned to nostalgia, out tomorrow

Richard Cobbett at

Humanity is history, but don’t be sad. At least the robots actually miss us in this new point-and-click adventure, and they’re getting on fine by picking through the post-apocalyptic remains of civilisation and turning our trash into their own creations.

Horatio is one of those robots, a devout Humanist engineer living in the hull of a ship called The Unniic with his floating sidekick Crispin. When a jerk with a laser blasts in and steals their only power core, the two are left in urgent need of both a replacement and – time permitting – some kind of epic mystery to make their life more interesting.

Primordia isn’t the prettiest indie adventure on the block, even when just compared with Wadjet Eye Games’ other titles – Resonance, Gemini Rue, and the Blackwell series. It’s muddy, it’s low-resolution, and the locations (in the preview code, at least) are all broken-down junk heaps and brown sand dunes with only the occasional splash of grey.

Push past these unappealing first impressions though and an endearing old-school adventure awaits, with anyone who’s played the classic Beneath a Steel Sky sure to feel at home. The relationship between Horatio and Crispin isn’t so much reminiscent of the one shared by Foster and his robot pal Joey in that classic as an outright steal – but a well-executed one, so that’s okay. If you know the Blackwell games, it’s also impossible to miss that Crispin is played by Abe Goldfarb, voice of that series’ sidekick... Joey Mallone. This can’t be a coincidence. Primordia isn’t just a game, it’s a secret Joey convention.

Come along, Morte. I mean Joey Mallone. I mean Joey. I mean Crispin.

Their banter turns an otherwise un-thrilling world (so far) and set of puzzles (ditto) into something compelling and witty. They squabble over everything, from whether Crispin should be armed, to whether Crispin should be melted with a plasma torch if Crispin doesn’t shut up.

None of this is ever with acid snark though, with the two firmly friends rather than just stuck together. This even stretches to the hints system, where Crispin revels in the chance to be smarter than his boss... sometimes. The rest of the time he’s more likely to say, “Here’s what we need to do: find the parts to build another robot, then ask HIM what to do!”

Primordia doesn’t feel like the adventure to draw brand new fans into the genre, or an ambitious attempt to launch your socks into orbit if you remember the days when a ‘newspaper under the door’ puzzle counted as original. It may become more than that as the story develops, but in the preview version I’ve played, it’s firmly the kind of adventure that goes best with a mug of cocoa and a cat purring nearby. With all that in place though, there are definitely worse ways to kill a winter evening; the non-nuclear kind, at least.

Developer: Wormwood Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Link: www.primordiagame.com

Androids dream of electric sheep. Robots dream of low-resolution browns and greys.