Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game Review - Bizarre, Unique, and Awesome
As a child, puzzle games were one of the many various genres that I played. Despite their simple design and the technological limitations of the time, games like Lemmings and Push-Over were charming, challenging, and downright fun. Sadly few modern puzzle games have that same charming personality, except for rare titles like Portal. That is of course until the release of Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game.
Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game's combination of a unique premise, complex and interesting characters, and good humor mixed with reasonably challenging puzzles made for one of the most memorable puzzle games I've played in recent memory.
More to this story than being a savior
DKOG opens up with Kvorak, a planet collecting deity, starting the most recent episode of his show which you are starring in. As the contestant on this show, you are charged with solving puzzles that allow you to collect fragments of each planet. If you collect all the pieces, then the planet is saved (aka added to Kvorak's collection); otherwise, the planet will be destroyed.
At the start, the story seems like nothing more than the player taking on the role of an alien playing a deity's galactic game show. But, you begin to realize the main plot isn't about Greeboo, the player's character, or the potential plights and evils associated with planet collecting, but rather the deity Kvorak himself.
Throughout the game a big space chicken named Eggloot will show up speaking in rhymes, often bickering with Kvorak. For instance, Eggloot shows up talking about how Kvorak's fear of bugs. Seeing this holier than thou world destroying deity, who often talks about how other sentient life is purposeless, in obvious denial about his fear of insects adds levity to the game while also exploring Kvorak's quirks.
At first glance, it is easy to see him as this evil god who is a self-proclaimed collector of worlds. However, as the game progresses, you actually start to like Kvorak despite him being the antagonist, which is something I admire since that is very hard to pull off in any form of writing.
Without this, there'd be little intrigue to the plot. But with it, I often found myself being propelled to play the game just as much by the compelling character interactions as I was by completing the next set of puzzles. In this way, it reminded me of the Portal series, which is obviously high praise for any game-- whether it be of the puzzle genre or otherwise.
That being said, I can see Kvorak's odd German (?) accent and Eggloot's off-putting French accent being potentially disarming for some players. However, I felt that the well-written characters and perfectly placed dialogue made up for that.
The More, The Merrier
The goal of the game is to complete all 15 zones (levels) to save the Planet Noo from being obliterated. As you progress through the game, the levels introduce new mechanics, puzzles and traps at a satisfying pace that never feels too fast nor slow. Unlike a lot of puzzle games, the difficulty doesn't reach obnoxious levels that cause you to get stuck on puzzles.
To progress through the levels, you will need to move blocks and platforms to grant you access to areas, use lasers to power doors, use the different characters to activate bridges, or any number of other small objectives. That is, of course, all while avoiding falling to your death, being electrocuted, or shot by the many threats present in the game.
To accomplish these tasks you will utilize three different characters over the course of your journey. At first, you will only have Greeboo, the blue alien, available to you but as you progress he will be joined by two other characters Micmac, the red cat-like being, and Tiktok, the green insect alien. Each of the characters has their own unique abilities that are exclusive to them.
Greeboo is able to create a holocube, which can be used to grant access to unreachable areas or to keep a button pressed down. Micmac is able to turn himself into a spectral form allowing him to bypass barriers and avoid being hurt by traps. Lastly, Tiktok has the ability to switch her position on the map with either of the other two characters.
The introduction of the new characters adds a whole new level of complexity to the puzzles and helps to drastically change up the gameplay. Sadly, Tiktok doesn't appear until too close to the end of the game. In fact, you only have her available for the last three levels of the game.
Excellent level design with a few minor issues
While all the levels do use the same environment, their quality design and interesting puzzles, that continue to test the player with new obstacles and challenges, help ensure that no two levels feel the same. Whether avoiding environmental hazards or finally finding a solution to a puzzle that requires you to deftly utilize all three characters, the level design shines.
Each of the levels slowly adds in new mechanics that are presented in such a way that you don't need large amounts of on screen text or images to understand how it works. Instead, the levels themselves are designed in a way that teaches you the new mechanics before slowly and steadily increasing the difficulty.
There were a few problems I ran into along the way, though. In Zone 12, I had an issue with the laser puzzle and if it wasn't for some out of the box thinking (that I am pretty sure 'technically' broke the game) I would probably still be stuck on that level.
Note: The Zone 12 issue is now fixed
Along with that a few of the levels did have a bit too much backtracking. While that wasn't too bad by itself, the slow movement speed does make this frustrating. The turrets can be avoided by simply jumping as they fire, due to hit detection not kicking in. The 50 collectibles throughout each of the levels at times glitch out, making them appear as something completely different like a character skin for example, and also seem to be pointless to collect since I never received a reward for my efforts.
Don't let this handful of problems fool you though, all of these things are minor and didn't significantly detract from my enjoyment of the game.
One of the most unique and enjoyable puzzle games this year
DKOG is a strange game but never the less one of the most unique and enjoyable puzzles games to release this year. There are a real charm and personality to the game that really shines throughout from start to finish. Its gameplay is great, its characters are complex and well written, it has humor and is a decent challenge.
There is definitely a 90s feel to the game and its design. It is ridiculous, colorful, light-hearted and has a catchy soundtrack that you will find yourself humming as you walk around the house after playing it, all of which are things I have missed with modern day puzzle games as they either take a more realistic approach to aesthetic and physics, or seek to merely adopt a sleek design, foregoing characters, plot, and world building altogether.
It may not redefine the genre, but it fills in a massive hole that has been left in the puzzle genre in recent years. If you enjoy puzzle games or are simply looking for something different and unique to play, then Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game is well worth checking out.
Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game will be available to buy on Steam for PC and VR on July 26th.
A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.