know how many people know what an amphora is, so I'll explain. An
amphora is a sealable container for fluids (usually), and most often
used for wine, that has been around since ancient times. It's roughly
tear-drop shaped, and has a long neck with twin handles on it - like a
pair of big ears. Most people will think of them as being from Ancient
Greece, but they were in use long before that, and also more widely
around the Mediterranean civilisations.
imagine that there's an amphora containing something like a genie.
That's you in Amphora, a new puzzle game from Moondrop - a small
indie studio from South Eastern Norway.
follows the story of a young girl growing up, falling for her man, and
their trials and tribulations through a war that hits their land. Your
role is to help the characters to find their way through the stages in
this story by manipulating the environment around them from your limited
position of the amphora.
amphora sits in a fixed location in every scene, and your sphere of
direct action is limited to a circle around that location. You have a
hand on the end of an arm of smoke which attaches you to the amphora at
Amphora is something similar to puzzle games like World of Goo
or even Angry Birds, in that each scene is self-contained, and
not tremendously long. There are usually fewer than half-a-dozen steps
to solving each scene. The trick is in identifying what you need to
achieve, and how it can be achieved with the limited powers you have. A
need for decent timing and a modicum of manual dexterity also factor
into the solutions of some levels.
levels are very simple, and include some guidance on how to use the
controls to solve them; a set of tutorial levels if you like; but they
do advance the story.
controls are simple: your hand is the cursor, so the mouse does all the
movement. Left click interacts with objects (when your cursor turns into
a flower shape), right click to create a chain (more later), and the
left and right cursor keys (or the A and D keys) will rotate an object
you've picked up either clockwise or anticlockwise.
chains I mention allow you to connect objects to the world or to other
objects. Some chains are flexible, some are rigid, some are sticky; i.e.
objects will stick to them. Learning how these chains work is critical
to solving the puzzles in Amphora.
addition to solving the game's puzzles there are the Steam achievements
to go with them. There aren't very many (seven at the time of writing),
but they span a nice range from obvious (the ones I've got) to devious
(the ones I can't get).
I find it
amusing that my last review (of
the Vanishing of Ethan Carter) waxed elegiac on the subject of
the photo-realism and beauty of the artwork, and now I'm going to have
to be similarly complementary to the Moondrop artists but for completely
the opposite reasons. The artistic style of Amphora couldn't be
less photo-realistic, however, it is very pretty. Imagine a shadow
puppet show from Bali, against a background of stained glass, using
smoke effects to show the players agent in the world. It's a very
stylised way of depicting scenes and people, but absolutely no less
effective for that use of abstraction. At the same time, the artistic
style never gets in the way of making sense of the game.
course, a good game is never just made up of a single element.
Amphora may have a simple enough story and no dialog (though there
are human sounds, fitting to the story), but it does have a lovely
ambient soundtrack full of Eastern flavour. In fact I'm about to copy it
to my music player (the .flac files are part of the game files) I like
it that much.
is a little gem of a game. The art work is lovely, and the storytelling
is simple and direct. The mechanic of using a limited sphere of
influence with similarly limited powers within the world makes for an
intriguing challenge. My only regret is that I would have liked it to
have lasted a little longer than the handful of hours it took to
you need to play it?
Windows XP (Windows 7 recommended)
Processor: Dual Core with 2.26 GHz (3.0 GHz recommended)
GB RAM (2 GB recommended)
graphics: 512 MB Radeon HD 4850 / GeForce 8800 GTX
Recommended graphics: Graphics: 1024 MB Radeon HD 5870 / GeForce GTX 560
Drive: 1 GB available space
Card: Windows compatible card
Additional Notes: Mouse with scroll wheel recommended
(I used a
home-built 64-bit Windows 8.1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM, and a AMD Radeon HD6670 1024MB video
card, with on-mother-board, built-in sound card).
GameBoomers Review Guidelines