Allods Adventure HD is an ambitious game. And I don’t necessarily mean ambitious in that it tries to change how you will forever perceive mobile games until the end of time, but rather it tries to do a lot of different things. It’s really just a puzzle game, but it feels like it came from a much busier place than that, which isn’t all that surprising given that it’s based on the MMO Allods Online from Russian developer Astrum Nival. Everything surrounding the game like the art and music and lore are all bursting from the seams, but the britches just might be a bit too small.
Adventure is a puzzle game set in the fantasy world of Sarnaut where there seems to be an abundance of ethereal planes, adorable fuzzball creatures, and magic. You play as a family of Gibberlings—a species in the world that look, sound, and act a lot like Ewoks—attempting to solve a series of puzzles set out by the legendary Key Masters. The Key Masters are four…things that currently guard the long lost Great Treasure of June. One of them is a goblin-looking thing and another is a griffin with a bandaged beak and, well, you’ll see. Either way, they look pretty cool.
The game itself is played on a map of grids. There’s no real-time combat or anything, so you can take all the time you want in controlling pets to defeat enemies and collect stars (though it’s never explained how docile Gibberlings are able to tame and control a Yeti), both of which are vital to unlocking new pets and new islands in the four archipelagos. Each pet has a different ability that generally falls under the categories of attacking, thawing/freezing, or moving enemies and has a limited number of times it can activate said ability per puzzle. You’ll also collect treasures by tapping around the map, but that’s really just kind of perfunctory; the meat is in the puzzles.
Which is good because the puzzle elements are fun. Pretty frequently, you’ll be introduced to new pets (and at first, new types of pets). You’ll go from a werebear that can attack in a straight line to a lizard that breathes fire in a large, front-facing cone and from a sabertooth squirrel that can instantly swap places with any adjacent enemy to a lynx that pushes them one block over. You’ll be getting new ones and swapping in and out your usable set of pets fairly often at the behest of the game, lending each puzzle a certain freshness when you first attempt them. The environments introduce change, too, such as exploding enemies and portals and whatnot. There’s a great amount of variety in the base framework of the game.
All the little things are great, too. The music is jaunty and feels well-produced regardless of “mobile spin-off” status, and it had me bobbing around every once in a while. The art is fantastic and seems to line up pretty well with Allods Online. It’s all cute and colorful and inspires a certain amount of joviality. It’s especially neat in some levels where you can see past (maybe future?) levels floating in the background, implying a much grander scope than there actually is. The game also handles very adeptly. It teaches you a certain way to play, but also facilitates you with undeclared options like switching pets while moving and tapping enemies to auto-rotate instead of the pet.
And collecting those treasures—while almost completely and utterly pointless if you don’t care about the lore or already know it—kind of turned into a fun little “oh, what are you doing hiding under that tree, little fella? You should come back with me!” The lore itself seems to me, an outsider of the Allods world that seems fairly well established at this point, kind of deep, though the history scrolls and bits you can read about your pets is like 15 to 20 words a piece at most, so don’t go in expecting to be engrossed Mass Effect codec-style; it’s more like a little bit of extra whimsy that still has some weight.
It’s a shame that the game is just so short. There are only four main archipelagos, each one comprised of five or six islands (read: puzzles), and one bonus set of three extra islets. Each island took me about five minutes with the more challenging ones taking maybe 10 minutes. I started to cut those times down, though, after I got it into my head that there was no punishment for experimenting given the undo button, so I could poke and prod the puzzles with my theories and hypotheses with rapid iteration instead of attempting to solve everything in my head first. That realization whittled the game time down even more. Playing the game well meant less time in this rather charming world.
Adventure is also not a very challenging game. It comes with 10 free hints (with the option to buy more for real money) which basically solve the puzzle rather than nudge you in the right direction, but I never needed them either way. Your experience may differ, but I found most of the puzzles solvable with little to no frustration if I just gave myself time to think. Even the final islands of each archipelago, generally the hardest of the bunch, didn’t present much challenge. It might be a problem of that there seems to be only one particular way to solve each puzzle and it comes down to a matter of counting down each pet’s attack ticker, so it kind of turns into solving a maze backwards which, as you probably know, is a lot easier than solving it forwards. This also greatly reduces the game’s replay value, so whatever you get out of it the first time is probably all you’ll get from it ever. I mean, you can buy more puzzles, but the core game is mostly a one-and-done sort of affair.
Allods Adventure HD is a fun puzzler all right. It may be short and not very taxing on the brain, but when you’re playing it, it’s hard not to have a good time. While the puzzles themselves are okay and really don’t do anything special or noteworthy, it’s combined with the accoutrement of music, art, and lore that I found the most pleasure in the game. All of that non-gameplay stuff really made me feel like I was in this strange menagerie of fantasy tropes and kind of made me want to play Allods Online despite my aversion to MMOs. For $0.99, you could do much worse than this one. You don’t need that McDouble. Go get you a couple o’ hours of thinking and whimsy.
+ Great art, fun music, and ostensibly deep lore
+ The variety in the puzzle mechanics makes for some good thinkin’
+ Pretty good value at $0.99
– You don’t get to investigate much of the Allods mythos from the game
– Not especially challenging, making for a rather short game
– There’s no subtlety to the hints; they basically give you 10 free solutions
Final Score: 7 out of 10