Athens, May 2019
Avissos is a deep sea adventure: deep in the Marianas Trench, the scientists at an underwater laboratory have mysteriously vanished, and you’ve been tasked with discovering their fate. As an extra complication, seismic readings indicate that there’s a major earthquake due in about an hour, giving you a time limit on your investigations.
The underwater research station is suitably claustrophobic, and has been put together with excellent attention to detail. With metal surfaces and strewn debris the emphasis is on creating a realistic environment, with effects building the atmosphere further; it’s fairly dim, but the low lighting didn’t get too much in the way of the game.
Some venues provide a backstory as little more than a linking theme for a set of puzzles. That’s not the case with Escapepolis, who clearly start with the story and the set, and then design puzzles to fit. Solving something often has a more dramatic effect than simply unlocking a container, and you’re more likely to come out remembering the adventure than the puzzles.
Despite great potential, I struggled to enjoy Avissos. It seemed like every time we started to get somewhere with the room, we’d slam into another dead end. Part of that was certainly things we missed or messed up, or simply failed to make the right intuitive jump, but was also due to the game design. There were points where we did something and didn’t realise it had had an effect; or where we could attempt the correct thing but got no response unless we happened to hold an item in a particular orientation; or where we were stuck, asked for a hint, got past one small thing and found ourselves just as stuck as before. The result felt a bit jumbled and stop-start, and lacking in flow.
None of the puzzles were obviously flawed, but signposting and feedback sometimes felt lacking. A couple of specific tech issues gave a more negative impression than I think the game deserves, and you may find it goes more smoothly. While it can’t compare to its superb sister game Cosmos 05, there’s a great deal to like about it, starting with the visuals and continuing with the strong story progression, even if for us that was somewhat undermined by the nuts and bolts of gameplay.