By – Sophie Jones

AR-K The Great Escape

It’s been a whole year since episode two was released but AR-K is finally back with The Great Escape and it’s the best in the series yet. I hate opening a review with such a bold statement but AR-K is deserving of such bravado as its clever script breaks down the 4th wall and engages the player in an amusing adventure. The antics are certainly raised as you crack a cold case, sabotage an energy plant and argue with a young girl over a set of false teeth.

After playing through the first episodes of AR-K it was clear it lacked a stable direction as gameplay fluctuated and the style was inconsistent. The puzzles were also illogical and were solved via randomized events rather than intellectual pursuits. Although, you can get all three sections in a reasonably priced bundle I would perhaps miss the previous installments as they might deter you from The Great Escape. As it has been a whole year since the project has had new content a rendered recap is offered so it’s suitable for new players to jump right in.

The story continues to follow Alicia Van Volish, a university student majoring in journalism. After becoming entangled with a strange golden sphere her life has been turned upside down as the corrupt government on the AR-K want it back. In this episode you accidentally fall down a hole and end up in district 8, an area that is hidden away from the rest of AR-K and produces all the supposed sustainable energy. However, this comes at a cost as the people in this district are over worked and riddled with disease. It is up to the protagonist to set them free using the sphere and oust political leader Bossman.

AR-K The Great Escape 1

As I do not wish to reveal any spoilers, I will not divulge any further into the plot.  Nevertheless, I will discuss the narrative in detail as it was my favourite aspect about this project. The script is superb and will have you laughing out loud at times, which is a nice surprise from a point and click, puzzling adventure. AR-K’s greatest achievement is how it successfully breaks the 4th wall. Alicia will speak to the player and comment on her surroundings aware of the fact she is in an episodic game. For example, Alicia spots a female NPC and comments “Another female character?” to which the girl responds “No, I’m just an incidental NPC” these conversations add a dimension of joy to the story as they usually mock typical gameplay elements or poke fun at current issues in the gaming world, such as video games lacking female personalities.

Dialogue is a huge aspect of gameplay and thus a neat feature has been added. Instead of just selecting a written response, you can choose between various pictures on the bottom of the screen, which indicate Alicia’s approach to the conversation. One of these is the ice breaker option which you can ask multiple times, every time this is picked the block of ice gets hammered into, until it is just small cubes. This idea was a pleasant addition to the series and added to the overall entertaining nature of the tale.

The only problem with AR-K’s light hearted temperament is the plot sometimes calls for a more serious outlook. When you hear about people being worked to death or dying of ailments that are easily treated it’s hard to find the situation gloomy as Alicia is fairly nonchalant, so, it never really pulls at your heart strings. The whole concept is meant to betray terrible injustice but it falls short as it’s not taken seriously by any of the cast. By adding a few melancholy tones to the piece the story would have been better detailed and comprehensive.

During the episode, you have to complete various mini quests before you can escape district 8. These vary in design and thus you never feel bored. One quest involves you solving a 10 year old cold case whereas another one has you trading several items with NPC’s so you can get a pair of false teeth. However, some of these enjoyable tasks were still plagued with illogical puzzles. For instance, the cold case was difficult to solve as the information you gathered from all the witnesses didn’t seem to add up or give you enough clues to be able to choose a suspect.

AR-K The Great Escape 3

Furthermore, not all the gameplay mechanics were explained at the beginning which made deciphering certain problems challenging. It was never made apparent that you could merge items in your inventory or when right clicking on items you could separate them. As these functions were never mentioned I was forced to consult a walkthrough for help which shouldn’t have been necessary.  It is also safe to argue that The Great Escape doesn’t reveal anything more about its surrounding world. Since playing episode one I have been intrigued about the AR-K and what exactly it is. Unfortunately, the tale has yet to disclose enough information to sate my growing curiosity. While this part certainly hints at the wider picture I still yearn for the developers to expand on the games lore. With only one chapter left I am worried it won’t be enough to tie up all the ends.

One thing this section does is improve upon AR-K’s fundamental gameplay mechanics. Previously, we were faced with a cumbersome inventory system and a confusing traveling mechanic. Whereas now, players are presented with a sleek inventory bar at the bottom of the screen and are given a handy map which is brilliant for navigating the numerous areas you get to explore. You are also given access to a PDA in the upper left corner where you can ask for help from your trusted friend Franky.  The aesthetics have also been updated. Alicia has benefited from this greatly as she looks modern and her appearance now matches her personality. The rounded accents of the animation add to the light heartedness of the games theme and it’s not harsh on the eyes. Nonetheless, character models up close can occasionally lack definition and appear 2D, I found this most apparent on the Sascha/Grigor model.

Voice acting in on point in this venture and you will never be disappointed with the deliveries. Each cast member is perfectly characterized and even secondary members are fleshed out and entertaining to talk to. The only issue I found in this domain lay in the games subtitles. Occasionally, words were not translated correctly and you would get “realice” instead of “realise”. This was only a minor error and didn’t effect gameplay at all. During my time in this adventure I didn’t encounter any bugs, crashes or framerate dips. The settings are also minimal and only resolutions can be altered. Controllers are also not supported.

AR-K The Great Escape 2

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The only major qualms I had lay in its puzzle design, as some of them still suffered from being illogical and random.  For $7.99 this episode is worth every penny! With a solid 2+ hours of gameplay you won’t feel robbed by this purchase. You can also buy all three episodes in a discounted bundle if you’re interested in seeing the series progression, but, this isn’t necessary for you to enjoy this installment. With a brilliant script and an interesting back drop you will be totally immersed, on the edge of your seat waiting for the next chapter. 

AR-K: The Great Escape Technical Summary:

AR-K The Great Escape Sum

  • Time Played – 3 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None.
  • DRM – Yes
  • System Specs – Intel i7-4720HQ @2.60 GHz, 8GB Ram, Geforce GTX 980M
  • Control Scheme – KB/M
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
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