In today’s gaming age, adventure games have transformed from combining all the items you find to every interactive object in the environment in the hopes of finding a vague solution, to finding one item that the game will blatantly prompt you to use without your own input (*cough* Telltale *cough*). Perhaps this is why it’s so refreshing to play a game like Tales of Cosmos, an old school point-and-click adventure game set in space.
Red Dwarf Games have successfully adopted the recognizable facets of point-and-click games in their title, right down to the endearing charm and frustrating trial-and-error that most games in this genre are known for. Tales of Cosmos is available for $14.99 on Steam for PC.
The game puts you in the shoes of two animal scientists – Gagayev the scientist monkey, and his trusted assistant Perseus the dog. The two of you are simply minding your own business when your spacecraft suddenly falls under the effect of a magnetic field, and in an unlucky turn of events you find yourself crashing towards one of the many unknown planets you’ll explore in your quest to disable this magnetic annoyance and go about with your business.
The story stays simple and light-hearted, with some charming moments that can elicit a laugh from an immersed player. However, in the end it’s just an excuse for the protagonists to solve puzzles, find items and pretty much do what most protagonists do in these sorts of games – use each item you find on everything and hope that you get lucky. Like, seriously lucky.
There are some segments of the plot that are a bit lackluster. The game throws in a mechanic a fair ways into the game that can pretty much solve every problem the protagonists have been dealing with… but instead it’s just used to solve two puzzles near the end of the game. There’s also the issue with the game’s ending, and without spoiling too much all I can say is that while the final run up to the ending is well designed and fun to solve, the ending itself left a lot to be desired, with perhaps one the most anti-climatic conclusions I’ve ever seen in a video game.
As mentioned before, Tales of Cosmos is a point-and-click adventure game reminiscent of the classic adventure games like the ones made by LucasArts and Sierra. Gameplay functions are divided between both protagonists, with Perseus serving the role of talking with other lifeforms, while also describing and providing hints for interactive objects around the world. These hints are extremely useful, and most puzzles can be solved by paying close attention to what this cute pooch says about the inventory items. Pressing the right mouse button also elicits a bark from Perseus, which can be used to clear some obstacles or puzzles if need be.
Meanwhile, Gagayev performs most of the physical tasks such as interacting, picking up and using items and objects in the game. The game forms an interesting gameplay dynamic among the duo, with some puzzles requiring both scientist’s input and cooperation in order to reach a solution. These instances keep the gameplay fresh, and is certainly helped by some of the more unique puzzles that can require some serious thinking (sometimes to an infuriating degree).
The game also features a bare-bones space exploration mode (with its own special shitty camera mode!), which has its ups and downs. While this certainly does a commendable job of lending a sense of scale to the game, it also turns into a source of frustration when you’re stuck trying to find what to do and end up backtracking across every planet to find the perfect combination of items in order to achieve some progress. This made certain puzzles extremely tedious to solve. It doesn’t help that the game commits the cardinal sin that most adventure games are infamous for – items only work in certain situations, logical or not… like when you have a baseball bat but you still can’t bash a car window with it because reasons.
Tales of Cosmos isn’t exactly a game with a million-dollar budget or something of the sort, so don’t go into this game expecting mind-blowing 1080p graphics or something of the sort. The game’s art design is also somewhat of a mixed bag, and while the color palette was varied enough through most planets, there was a noticeable emphasis on dark, grayish colors on some of the planets that you need to visit frequently.
Of course, that does not mean that Tales of Cosmos doesn’t have any unique visuals, but they are very few and far between to have any effect on the overall gameplay experience. Perhaps the most memorable visual treat I can think of is when I was wandering through space trying to find the boundaries of the map and ended up drifting across a nebula (or whatever that thing is, I’m not good at space stuff) while listening to some very peaceful music. Speaking of which…
The music in this game is great, mixing atmosphere with a great sense of knowing when to crank up the volume and when to chill in the background and let the visuals do the talking. While there aren’t any standout tracks, there aren’t any shoddy ones either and the majority of the music is good enough to keep you immersed in the game.
Sounds (especially environmental sounds) are pretty evident in the game as well, and hearing the creak of the windmill or the flickering bulb of a street light adds a lot of depth to the planets in the game. However, just like music the sounds mostly take a backseat to the actual game, serving more as an accompaniment than an integral part of the game (unless you count Perseus’ bark). As for voice, there isn’t any. Most of the lifeforms you’ll meet will be other animals or aliens, who’ll squeak or grunt out their information as Perseus translates their speech by… barking.
Tales of Cosmos is a fun point-and-click game that is highly recommended to any long-time fans of the genre. Its charming characters, interesting setting and brain-scratching puzzles will keep you entertained, albeit for a few hours due to the short length of the game.
However, there are a few annoyances that detract from the experience. Space travel, while a nice idea, can become quite boring especially during frequent backtracking segments. Puzzles can sometimes have incredibly vague solutions that can become an absolute pain to figure out at times, while some of the items have very situational uses that can break the flow of gameplay when a solution that seems obvious cannot be achieved. There’s also the issue of the promising mechanic introduced a bit late in the game which isn’t utilized to its fullest, instead just leading to an ending that feels rushed and – dare I say it – unfinished.
All in all, Tales of Cosmos is a good adventure game that is bogged down by the existing problems of its genre, along with some new ones that arise due to poor implementation of certain game mechanics. But don’t let that take you away from a charming, nostalgic trip that can be quite fun when it hits the right notes.
|+ Nostalgic gameplay experience||– Some puzzles are frustrating to solve|
|+ Well-designed puzzles||– Annoying situational usage of items|
|+ Charming cast of characters||– Backtracking through space is tedious|
|+ Space travel adds a layer of depth to the world||– Short run time with disappointing ending|
|– Promising mechanic relegated to solving two puzzles|