A Tiny Terrarium of Wonder
Video game worlds are becoming bigger, their colossal size taking hours of gameplay to explore. Open world games allow a player to discover a huge variety of terrains and landscapes that evoke feelings of anticipation and wonder. But can these intense emotions be reflected in a smaller game world? The small independent Czech studio Amanita Design seem to think so and have been creating these games for years. Their work has proven time and time again that miniature worlds can be profound and fascinating, micro worlds of intrigue and beauty bursting with wonder. Their previous games, Botanicula and Machinarium, have defined contemporary point and click adventure games, and their newest, and most anticipated game, Samorost 3, is a continuation of how to create an immersive and magical experience in a small bite-size game.
Samorost 3 is a point and click adventure puzzle game, and you play as an inquisitive little gnome who dreams of exploration. After finding a magical flute, you gain the ability to echo the sounds and motifs of your environment, summoning the spirits of nature. Traveling around in your sprout spaceship, you help a variety of quirky characters with their various needs. In passing worlds, you hear of an evil creature that is causing trouble and eating the spirits; they need to be stopped! It’s a simple and straightforward story, but it takes place in a spectacular world. A short but sweet peek into the tiny terrarium that is Samorost 3.
It’s not often that a game can be described as crafted, but that’s exactly how the environments look in Samorost 3, like they took a picture of a 3D model and used it as the backgrounds. The visuals are so detailed, taking a place between photo realism and cartoony. There are a variety of different terrains, and each land has a completely unique style and atmosphere. The textures are meticulous, and the colors are vibrant, all combined to make a stunning artwork. Subtle movement brings the worlds to life, and when you click on certain animals or plants, they move and make noises -breathing life into the game.
Samorost 3 has a variety of puzzles including clicking particular parts of the landscape, collecting items and sequence based puzzles. Although most of the puzzles are straightforward, there are some instances where there is a vital piece of info that doesn’t come across, and it’s easy to get confused. The game doesn’t use any text or speech, a contributing factor to why it’s so artful, but admittedly some of the puzzles that rely on learning from failure become a lengthy trial. However, if you are seriously stuck, there is a built in hint system that can nudge you in the right direction.
Regarding puzzles, the finest form of puzzles in Samorost 3 are the music sequence puzzles. There are several in the game and are all great fun to play. Clicking on a trio of newts in order so that they sing a catchy song, a small band of worker creatures build up into a melodic chant, the hum of cicadas becomes an intense string quartet; it’s so imaginative and is a creative way of hearing the individual components of music. The creativity within the music continues into the powerful original soundtrack composed by musician Floex. It is astounding and emphasizes a feeling of spirituality to the game. It beautifully accentuates the game’s union of music and natural sounds. The interpretation of natural sounds into whimsical melodic motifs is inventive and sounds gorgeous. The music and soundscape help Samorost 3 transcend text and language and allow Amanita Design to express their meanings and ideas through only music and visual storytelling.
Samorost 3 shares some of the same ideas with its two previous games of the same name but is also completely its own game. The game is around 5 – 6 hours long, and some say that the asking price of £14.99 is a bit steep. But what you get in exchange is a unique and charming pocket sized adventure with exceptional visuals and music, a game from an award winning independent studio whose previous games have also won a variety of awards and a game that can be played by anyone of any age. Samorost 3 is worth the asking price and is available on Windows and Mac via Steam and on Linux via HumbleBundle or GOG.