Beastiarium is a puzzle adventure game set in a strange historical fiction setting of a Steampunk universe in Saint Petersburg in 1910. In this world monsters from all kinds of dimensions have crossed over and taken over the human world and occasionally “attack” the local people, causing them all to barricade themselves into their homes and hide until the local guard get things back under control.
As the player you are awakened by a strange monster who informs you that he now resides inside your head. the grotesquely adorable creature gives you a quick synopsis of the world that you are now a part of before you awaken again standing in an apartment building. At this point you are required to gather information on what’s happening from the few tenants willing to interact with you and are told that the city is currently undergoing an attack from the monster incursion that your guide previously informed you of and are asked by the tenants to help them with a few of their issues. Upon descending the stairs you are met by the first of several monsters you will encounter during the game; a grass like hedge with eyes and an adorable voice lightly bouncing along the floor of the first level of the apartment building. Using the jewels given to you by one of the tenants upstairs you have to lure the adorable beast to a grate in the bathroom which it will then open for you to traverse on to the next level.
The game continues in this fashion, each chapter involving a puzzle or challenge that has to be completed in order to progress the story. These range from narrowly avoiding naked undead corpses to finding keys on the corpse of an unlucky groundskeeper to unlock the door to progress. Some challenges are almost trivial in nature and require little effort while others are mind numbingly dreadful, requiring multiple attempts in order to even begin to understand how to find the end goal.
The atmosphere and musical background of the game coupled with the witty occasional narration of the funny but creepy monster than inhabits the mind of the main character create an interesting experience. Unfortunately, this is overshadowed by some major issues.
First and foremost, this game is barely out of Alpha in quality. There are numerous bugs that are completely game breaking and require you to load back to beginning of the chapter you are currently in, sometimes even requiring you to go back to the previous chapter and replay it just to get back to where you were in hopes of avoiding the same bug and progressing. Couple that with the fact that some of the chapters are so poorly defined that it is almost impossible to figure out how to progress without the aid of internet walkthroughs lest you risk walking in circles for millennia. All this on top of the fact that game can easily be completed in less than 3 hours makes this game not only almost unplayable but nowhere near worth the price that the developer asks for it.
Storywise the game is at the very least interesting. With strange monsters and tough puzzles, players will have to really think about what is the right choice as they continue through this title. Some puzzles give little to no clues as to how the player is supposed to solve them providing a frustrating and challenging issue to the player that will likely require multiple attempts to find the solution in some cases. The palpable fear of being locked out during the “attack” that the city is currently struggling through coupled with the frustration of attempting to find your way to safety provide for an experience unlike most games of it’s kind.
All the negativity aside, the game does have an interesting universe built around it and some genuinely enjoyable NPCs to interact with on rare occasion. The witty banter and genuinely enjoyable characters that make up the skeletal structure of the game manage to pull it back from the brink of extinction as far as being an enjoyable title.
That coupled with the fact that it’s graphical quality is rather amazing for an indie title coming from a studio with little to no experience makes it almost worth the risk. With some major bug fixes and maybe an expansion of the game into something more around the area of 6-8 hours this title could very easily be worth its salt, unfortunately there’s not telling if or when that will ever happen.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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