Meet Bjorn Thonen, a slightly less-than-average Parisian antique shop owner with a crush on his neighbour and a penchant for eating things off the floor. After coming home drunk and falling asleep one night, Bjorn gets a rather large bump on the head and a phone call that will change his life forever. Waking up, confused and burgled, you must point-and-click Bjorn’s way through a variety of environments and situations to get to the bottom of the fiendish plot which begins to unfold.
The first thing you’re asked upon starting a new game is how much you like toilet humour, which was an unexpected question and surprisingly hard to gauge, but in the interests of a fair review, I first played through with toilet humour turned up to eleven, and then went back and played through some of the game with it turned off completely. There was also a third option which, logically is somewhere in between the two and therefore I didn’t feel necessary to investigate. It’s nice that Cowcat have taken the trouble to rewrite small bits of dialogue and replace entire scenes of artwork dependant on your selection here – Bjorn’s bathroom is an excellent example, with the dialled up version because a cesspool of germs and the interactive dialog just as gross, the cleaned up version is…well…clean, and the dialog reflects this.
Like a certain (now infamous within B3) game I previously reviewed, the gross version’s dialogue is morally questionable at best, with certain parts that made me feel downright uncomfortable, particularly when talking about Bjorn’s love, or rather lust, interest, Sandra. I did, however, pick that level of ‘toilet humour’ so maybe some of that was on me. I’m still not convinced, though, that this qualifies as ‘toilet humour’ as such, and when asked to make a choice at the beginning of an unknown story you can’t really make an informed decision. Still, it is nice that they’ve considered that some people will want a toned-down version of events and you are able to switch between settings from the options menu during the game. Interestingly, the ability to choose was an addition to the game based on user feedback after the initial release, which is a great move on the developers part and shows a real willingness to make the game enjoyable for the player.
Aside from the crudeness, the dialogue was pretty enjoyable which is important as there is quite a lot of it. The non-gross humour is largely self-referential which I always enjoy, and there is, of course, the obligatory Guybrush Threepwood reference thrown in to one of the puzzles, just so that you know this guy likes point-and-click games.
The art style is excellent, using a first-person fixed view camera on each scene, interspersed with comic book-style storyboard cut scenes. This makes it easy to navigate, and allows you to immediately see everything you can interact with, never hiding things away until you walk a certain direction as many point-and-clicks tend to do. Even the map screen is attractive, with just enough detail to give you a sense of the world you’re playing within but keep the essentials the main focal point. The HUD is well designed, with an inventory system at the bottom which allows you to user or inspect items you have collected, and an info-style bar at the top which features the menu and save functionality along with a brief description of your current task at hand, and access to the hint system. The hints system itself is brilliant, you collect cookies throughout the game (there are 3 hidden in every scene) which you then force Bjorn to eat in order to unlock a hint. The more cookies you eat, the more detailed and obvious the hints become.
Combined with the usual collect-and-use style gameplay associated with this genre, there are also little mini-game elements interspersed within the narrative, such as fishing and carnival games. These were a refreshing addition to the formula and were enjoyable and relevant. There is also very little limitation on what you can and can’t do, allowing you to carry out almost any action, no matter how unwise, and see how it turns out. For example, very early on I decided it would be a great idea to see what happened if I stuck my fingers in a plug socket – needless to say, it didn’t end well, and rightly so. The game gives you a nice little game over animation and than asks if you want to continue from where you left off. This is a great feature as you’re never penalised for trying things out and there are many, many ways to fail with realistic outcomes (jail time, death, etc) which aren’t blocked with repeated ‘I don’t want to do that’-style dialogue. This also fits nicely with the character of Bjorn himself, who seems like he’s probably seen the inside of a hospital room a good few times in his life.
The controls on the Vita are really well thought-out, allowing you to use the touchscreen to interact in a more literal point-and-click type of way, to use the analogue sticks and buttons providing the mouse-pointer type interface most common to this type of game or to use a combination of both. I tended to play with the sticks, and only found one instance where it was much easier to play with the touchscreen. When using the sticks to play, you can zoom in on areas of the level by using the right stick to allow you to examine items more closely. Playing Demetrios is only the second time I’ve ever felt the the Vita was a good device to put a particular game onto (the first being Tearaway) – the portability, ease of controls and the reminder hint on the HUD make it the perfect game to dip in and out of.
The story-line was fun and not too taxing to follow, adding to the non-committal nature of gameplay, and the puzzles were nicely put together, with the exception of it falling into a ‘100 puzzles for long car journeys’ style logic rut at one point, but recovering nicely. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a go. It is a successful debut into the industry by Cowcat and I hope they continue in this vein in future publications.