First posted on 10 January 2011. Last updated on 10 January 2011.
The game is available at GamersGate.
It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Though the imitator's motives may not always be known, it is certainly a common phenomenon. Such is the case with Amantia Design's Samorost and Samorost2. The graphics and atmosphere of these games are so unique that similar copycat games by other developers are destined to appear. Springtail Studio's Alchemia is just such a game.
Alchemia begins in a peaceful countryside at night. The game's protagonist, a little man named Noses, is napping while his dinner is cooking over a fire pit. Suddenly, a large birdlike flying machine appears and gulps down Noses' food. Noses awakens and angrily throws an axe at the creature, causing it to crash nearby. When Noses goes to investigate the wreckage, a wispy form in the shape of the machine appears, saying that its name is Lootpecker.
Lootpecker begs Noses to help him find a new body. Instead of being angry with the machine for stealing his dinner, Noses agrees to help it. Once the journey has started, you will have to follow Lootpecker into the strange world of Alchemia, a land that is home to a strange race of humanoids that has the ability to create living machines.
Alchemia is a short game developed with Adobe Flash. Like other games of its ilk, it is has many puzzles but not much of a backstory. The interface is very simple, and the only way to interact with the game is by clicking on various objects with the mouse. However, many of the screens in the game have very few hotspots. As such, you may often find yourself randomly clicking all over the screen in an attempt to find them.
The graphics in Alchemia are beautiful and strongly reminiscent of Samorost and Samorost2. Nonetheless, occasionally small flaws exist that detract from their charm. In some scenes, you can plainly see areas where a repeating grass brush stroke has been used to create foliage. When Lootpecker turns from left to right and vice versa, his character "flips" around as if he is a 2D object.
The story behind a humanoid race capable of bringing machines to life has great narrative potential, but it is sadly never explored in much detail. After solving a particular puzzle, Noses encounters an intelligent looking old man in a laboratory. They have a very brief conversation where the old man reveals that his race has discovered the "elixir of life". After that, however, the man says that he has revealed too much and that Noses cannot leave the city now. Of course, Noses just runs away after hearing this without bearing any consequences.
Though intricate machines are the hallmark of the world of Alchemia, many of the machines do not fit into the game world particularly well. Often, a machine will be placed in a room with no real function other than to provide you with a puzzle to solve. The machines that act as locks to doors make sense in the context of the game, but there are many more machines that seem either superfluous or without any logical explanation for their existence.
The music in Alchemia is a beautiful but somewhat generic blend of strings and percussion. Though the sound effects are also good, they are somewhat limited and repetitive.
The puzzles in Alchemia are varied and unique. Some puzzles involve lining up symbols on different dials, while other puzzles involve combining various ingredients together to create a certain mixture. However, the object of some of the puzzles is hard to figure out, forcing you to resort to clicking on random spots on the screen. Most of the puzzles are fairly logical and can be solved by simple trial and error, but some of the puzzles in the later part of the game are much more difficult. Fortunately, a walkthrough is built into the game itself, which can be consulted whenever you get stuck. The game is quite linear—you progress from scene to scene with little freedom of movement, and you receive a code at the beginning of each new scene which you can enter in order to restart from that part of the game.
The extended version of Alchemia (Alchemia: Extended Version) has several segments at the end of the game (5 additional playable levels and 9 new locations) that the regular version lacks. However, these segments feel pretty tacked on and do not add much to the story—in fact, they raise more questions than they answer. Still, if you enjoyed Samorost or Samorost2, Alchemia is probably worthy of a look. It is a pleasant (albeit short) journey, and there is a definite hint of the surreal charm.