Archie, titular hero of Archie’s Adventures, is a young man bent on experiencing the ultimate skateboard jump.
Dissatisfied with the neighborhood ramp, Archie suggests trying the ramp located in a forbidden junkyard to his friends. The junkyard borders a creepy mansion owned by the mad scientist Professor Klumpfus, and the professor uses the trash heap to dispose of his failed experiments. Archie’s friends express concern at the proposal. Undeterred by their fears, Archie goads them into following him. Once atop the swooping junkyard ramp, Archie pauses for a moment before hurtling down its metal slope. If he had taken a longer look, he might have seen the inevitable trajectory of his fateful jump. Archie’s skateboard leap dropped him into an open vent, plunging him deep into the bowels of Professor Klumpfus’ laboratory. Archie’s bad luck continues in the lab. The professor’s experiments have run amok in the and Archie must dodge traps, spikes, pools of acid and genetically modified creatures if he wants to see the light of day again.
Dripping acid was the first obstacle I encountered in Professor Klumpfus’ laboratory. It’s not clear why Mister Mad Scientist needs acid on tap, but I assume it’s for important, sciency reasons. It spawned an immediate Space Quest flashback; acid drips are among the first hazards in Space Quest as well. The warmth of fuzzy nostalgia carried through the whoosh of the game’s automatic doors and platformed levels. The similarities end there. Gameplay for Archibald’s Adventures is significantly different from Space Quest.
The controls are simple. The player navigates a skateboard-riding Archie from the starting point in each level to its exit. Jumps, button presses, and lever pulls are handled automatically. In the first levels, it’s only possible to move left and right, but Archie gains an Y axis in later levels.
I don’t have many complaints about the game, but I encountered an annoying feature in the first five seconds of playing: The Nanny screens, aka “Terminals.”
Terminals infest each level. They describe the game controls and warn the player of peril ahead. For their primary function, they’re vital. The unique abilities and tools in the game require explanation. At the beginning of the game, however, terminal placement is excessive. They block an enormous chunk of real-estate in the viewport, which is distracting. Unfortunately, they’re non-optional. If you cross in front of it, the tip displays, and it’s impossible to turn this feature off in the settings.
The greatest offense of the terminals is how they spell out gameplay as if Archibald’s Adventures is the first game the player has ever touched. Spikes are ubiquitous. Why do we need a paragraph warning of their danger? Or be told to move forward if something is on our way to see if we can get over it?
In a game where death is not penalized, and lives are unlimited, it would be better to allow the player to explore without the needless handholding.
Death is an area of strength for the game but is also the source of my only other disappointment. As stated above, there are no consequences for dying and player lives are unlimited. Despite its cute graphics, Archibald’s Adventures is not an easy game. I died often. As an additional perk, the game has Respawning Devices peppered throughout the levels around tricky areas.
Respawning devices not only eliminate the frustration of repeating the difficult section of a long level, they don’t force a level restart. Die before reaching a Respawning Device, and the level resets. When the puzzles require rearranging movable items in the right sequence, an ill-timed death is excruciating. Respawning pops Archie back to the device, leaving everything else untouched.
My only problem with how death is handled in this game is the lost opportunity for creative death scenes for the main character. Archie dies in a variety of horrible ways: impaled on a spike, immersed in a pool of acid, eaten by a genetic mutant, yet each death is accompanied with the same, boring, Mario-esque animation.
Perhaps the developers were worried about maintaining a family-friendly rating, but I think it would have added discovery depth to the game to have custom death animations. Trying to find all the ways poor, hapless Archie can die would be a quest on its own.
Minor complaints aside, there is a lot to love about Archibald’s Adventures. Its cutesy animations may give it a kid-game feel, but it’s not for younger players. The puzzles grow increasingly diabolical on each level and require planning to defeat. Although timing is a component of certain puzzles, the game itself is not timed. The player can look ahead on each level and strategize their approach to the overall goal. Planning is essential, as it can be devastating to realize you need a non-renewable tool you tossed aside half-a-level back.
Visually, the game doesn’t disappoint.
Each level has something distinctive and interesting to find in the background, like a demon head in stone, a buried Rubix cube, or an inexplicable underground space shuttle. Genetically engineered mutant creatures roam the laboratory, and while many of the monsters are found on multiple levels, some of the creatures are unique. My favorite is the giant, bouncing, red-lipped sperm monster.
My habit is to silence sound effects and music when playing puzzles games. In Archibald’s Adventures, I didn’t mind the sound effects, and I was surprised to find myself enjoying the music. It’s a little jazz, a little sci-fi, and a lot 80’s. It’s a fitting track for a pixel puzzle game that feels as if it were born in another decade.
As the game progresses, Archie gains new tools, abilities, and faces peculiar challenges, which keeps the puzzles fresh and non-repetitive. Later in the game, the player gets to be the Mad Professor in his floating chair. His abilities are different from Archie’s which forces the player to adapt to his abilities and limitations.
While playing Archibald’s Adventures, I often found myself feeling like an idiot for missing an obvious solution, but that did not dampen the triumph when the answer revealed itself in a blinding moment of clarity. It’s a fun game. Challenging, but not rage-inducing. Overall, I liked it well enough that I’d purchase a sequel if it were available.