A flawed yet charming adventure the likes of old
The planet of Deponia is, quite bluntly, a big pile of garbage; formed by tons and tons of garbage that are disposed from the shining, unreachable world above called Elysium, Deponia is a world were a society of scavengers, miners and inventors go among their lives with resignation and acceptance of their lot in life, while making the best of it...with the exception of Rufus, a young inventor who's obsession of reaching Elysium has cemented his personality (and thus, his reputation) as one of a selfish jerk and an outcast in a world he loathes and cant help wish to leave behind; when his latest scheme to reach Elysium ends up with an enigmatic Elysium girl named Goal literally falling from the sky, Rufus quickly sees this as the ultimate opportunity to reach his goal, unaware that he's heading into a grand adventure that might not only have the fate of Deponia at stake, but also might change Rufus and Goal's lives forever.
"Deponia" is yet another release by Daedalic Entertainment, a German developing team that quickly established a name for itself in its own country and Europe as a shining beacon for the point and click adventure game genre; with clear influence and fondness for old school adventure games like the ones Lucasarts used to make back in the day, Daedalic Entertainment clearly gets what makes adventure games such charming and enjoyable experiences, something that is made obvious in "Deponia".
For starters, its hard not to see Rufus as inspired and shaped by Guybrush, the star of the legendary "Monkey Island" series of games; showing the same scruffy looks, odd charm and naive ignorance that made Guybrush such an iconic character, Rufus ends up coming up as a modern version of Lucasarts classic hero...thanks to the more cynical and jerkish personality he exhibits early on; true, Rufus might come as a sorta unlikable and sometimes downright egotistical protagonist (which makes it all funnier when his behavior and selfishness ends up biting him in the ass), but as the storyline moves on, you end up warming up to him, as you cant help but sympathize with the reasons behind his sour attitude and egotistical behavior...something that pays off by the rather abrupt endgame, as Rufus starts to mellow and show hidden depths to his flawed character once he finds himself facing the worst possible outcome of his choices in life, with the last scene of the game hinting at a future redemption.
The rest of the cast truly shines in making the world of "Deponia" feel alive and rich with personality and hints of a backstory; Toni, Rufus's long suffering ex-girlfriend who enjoys seeing him get hurt/humiliated/beaten (in that order) easily steals a lot of the game's first act, while a crazed inventor and a surprise villain get to shine in the following sections of the game; the background characters include such weird misfits as a cross-dressing secretary that alternates from hulking bruiser to falsetto voiced bureaucrat, a robot postal worker with a peculiar quirk and so on; oddly enough, Elysium fallen princess Goal seems to get the short end of the stick in the narrative, mainly because she remains unconscious until late in the game, but her interactions with Rufus, among with a big reveal regarding her backstory end up making her charm her way into the player's heart, just as Rufus ends up doing.
While its animation might seem shoddy in some spots, "Deponia"'s artistic design and feel quickly make up for those, as this garbage world of broken technology, rust and garbage heaps ends up having a lot of personality and beauty, something that is enhanced by the way each of the game's three acts take place at different times of the day; also, its sharp and detailed art makes "pixel hunting" moments extremely rare.
Gameplaywise, "Deponia" follows all the rules of the genre, with puzzles based on collecting items and thinking outside of the box to put them to use, but while certainly devious, none of the solutions end up as far fetched or illogical in the context of the gameworld; the inclusion of the use of the space bar to highlight all interactive points onscreen is a great feature rarely implemented in the genre, and the game even throws in the option to skip some of the puzzles that shy away from the genre's usual fare, which is a welcome feature for those not in the mood for those sort of challenges; however, a middle game puzzle based on manipulating a rail-track's layer and functions while having only a background board as a clue to solving it ends up as the only cheap and unfair puzzle of the game, made all the worse for its unskipability and trial and error nature.
Alas, charm and nostalgia alone cant make up for the game's flaws; while being the first chapter of a planned trilogy ends up making up for it brevity and rather abrupt ending, "Deponia" is still quite short if you dont take your time with it or are an expert in the genre; among the same lines, its english localization might feel unpolished to some, as you can tell some of the voicework and the script clearly struggles to end up being funny or even apt once taken from its native german language; however, the game's charm and characters quickly make up for it, and if you can endure with these sort of flaws, you can quickly end up being obvlivious to them once the game's plot and characters reel you in.
Overall, "Deponia" is a flawed game that manages to get by on charm, character and nostalgia factor; while it might not redefine the genre or shine in technical terms, "Deponia"'s plot, characters and gameplay quickly prove too charming and enjoyable, making the game a must if you want to experience adventure gaming at its most fun and enjoyable; the promise of a future sequel making up for the flaws with more time in this gorgeous world with these engaging characters ends up showing that while "Deponia" and its developers, flaws and mistakes aside, have their hearts in the right place.
If you love old school point and click adventures, "Deponia" wont blow your mind, but it will make the clock go backwards to the heydays of the genre and rekindle your love for this genre, which is the standard every modern game in the genre should strive towards to.