Chaos on Deponia

Posted by Patrick Talbot.
First posted on 01 February 2015. Last updated on 01 February 2015.
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Chaos on Deponia
Bozo breaks the fourth wall to give Rufus (and the player) a tutorial to the game.
Chaos on Deponia
Goal is Rufus' love interest.
Chaos on Deponia
Rufus' scheme to get off Deponia fails yet again!
Chaos on Deponia
Cletus offers Rufus a deal (or not) on his life.
Chaos on Deponia
Rufus is roughed up by some thugs.

A common formula employed in adventure games use humor to add flavors to the storytelling. Some games successfully use humor to enhance the story, while other games overuse humor that slows the story down. Chaos on Deponia, from German developer and publisher Daedalic Entertainment, is an example of a game that uses humor to build up its plot but comes close to overusing it and risks ruining its charm.

Chaos on Deponia is the sequel to the original Deponia and the second game of a planned trilogy. You play the role of the game's protagonist Rufus—a bumbling, smart mouthed slacker who tries the heart of a girl named Goal. Neither Rufus nor Goal is very likable on the surface. Rufus is rude and impulsive and cares little for others around him. Goal is the archetypal rich, spoiled, pampered, and clueless girl who is entirely unaware and oblivious of Rufus' romantic intentions. Not surprisingly, the love story that ensues is not the typical fare, and the cliffhanger ending in the original game hints that Rufus' chase to win Goal's love is not destined to end prematurely.

It is not necessary to have played the original game to enjoy this sequel. This is because the game begins with a video recap that summarizes major events of the original game. It is commendable that the developer allows the game to be enjoyed even if you are not already familiar with the series' existing lore, such as the complicated relationship between the deprived world of Deponia and the privileged world of Elysium. In the sequel, Rufus's primary goal (pun intended) remains unchanged—to try to win Goal's heart, at any cost.

Most of the game takes place on Deponia's Floating Black Market. There are about 15 different locations for Rufus to explore, as he tries to help Goal (loosely speaking) by scouting for replacement parts to fix her cybernetic memory implant (damaged during their escape from Goal's home of Elysium). Unfortunately, Rufus' bumbling efforts only further damage Goal's implant, causing her to develop a split personality disorder with 3 distinct personalities: a lady with Victorian manners, a spunky and saucy dame, and a naive child filled with a sense of wonder. The biggest challenge Rufus faces is to convince each of Goal's personalities to merge together with each other so that Goal can be whole again. This is an interesting undertaking for Rufus, especially with his klutzy way that tends to get himself into even more trouble.

The controls make use of standard adventure game mechanics. The game begins with a tutorial featuring Bozo (also a character from the original game), who is quick to remind the smart mouthed slacker (and the player) how to use the controls to play the game. Some of the humor comes through obviously by breaking the fourth wall, as Rufus keeps claiming that he already knows what Bozo is instructing him inside a game (after all, this is a sequel). In a way, Bozo acts like a patient but frustrated teacher facing a student who thinks he knows everything. Any gamer who is also a teacher in real life (like me) will instantly relate to Bozo!

The graphics are a wonder of animation. The game looks and feels like a weekend morning television cartoon. The characters are drawn in bold and vibrant colors that give them life. Despite being a junk world, Deponia is rich in color and a beauty to behold. Character movements are fluid. Many background scenes have motions, such as the wind blowing trash across Rufus' way. These animations help to make the Floating Black Market feels like a living place rather than a static stage prop. In all, the game's artists are to be commended for creating such a vivid and lively world.

The game sounds good too. Characters speak in different and distinct accents that bode well with their eccentricities. Background music changes with each location that Rufus visits. By far, the most interesting sound bites are the wonderfully scored musical interludes that are played between chapters as well as at the start and the end of the game. The self-referential lyrics of these songs are bizarre and catchy (and well sung), all of which I find to be quite amusing.

It is clear that the game's designers are fans of (now defunct) LucasArts. There are plenty of tributes in the game to Monkey Island. Even the sarcastic humor that is prevalent throughout the game alludes to Rufus being a somewhat apprentice to Guybrush Threepwood. Indeed, both characters have much in common with each other—each is trying to win the heart of his elusive love who does not really hold a high opinion of him as her hero.

Rufus' antics are often filled with bathroom humor (lots of fart jokes). Some of his other antics also involve making fun of a blind man (who works as a pharmacist) and another man with a speech impediment. The edgy humor in this game is not unlike the satiric humor often seen in adult animated sitcoms. In fact, the game comes close to overusing this style of dark humor and dragging down the plot in consequence. You can skip over some of the joke laden dialogs by right-clicking the mouse during a conversation, at the risk that you may miss out on an important clue. While I find most of the game's humor to be truly quite funny, I also find that it to be a bit too overbearing.

Most puzzles conform to customary adventure game logics. Many of them involve manipulation in the inventory of acquired items to repurpose them as new items. Some of these inventory based puzzles are quite challenging to figure out. An example is when Rufus tries to get past a robotic guard dog who mockingly laughs at his attempts to get past it. The solution involves an easily missed step with electrical tape which, if missed, can completely halt of the progress of the game. I find these more complex puzzles to be a refreshing challenge. Other puzzles take the form of mini-games that by themselves are not part of the plot but still tie into the overall story. An option is available to skip these mini-games. The dialog puzzles require Rufus to correctly choose a certain progression of dialog responses that will yield a particular reply. You can really have some fun just by trying out different dialog responses and seeing (and hearing) the hilarious replies. However, I recommend that you save your current progress before experimenting.

Chaos on Deponia is a tribute to both classic animations and classic adventure games, albeit with a modern edgy touch. With its sarcastic humor, cartoonish graphics, and refreshing puzzles, Chaos on Deponia demonstrates that there is plenty of fun to have adventuring with Rufus, Goal, and their gang of misfits who want to save the world. A renaissance in the adventure game genre is happening, and it is long overdue.

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