AR-K: The Great Escape (Episode Three)

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Score: 8.5
2015

The third episode of the sci-fi point&click adventure was released as a standalone game. As a Kickstarter backer I got my “episode” all the same. The third part is a clear improvement in some aspects like graphics, interface and overall polish. It could be played without the earlier episodes if someone isn’t fussy about things like that, but I’d recommend starting from the first anyway. The review will unavoidably contain a vague spoiler or two concerning the earlier episodes.

The game takes off where episode two ended. Alicia finds herself lost and injured in a new district. And she needs to get out – preferably with the infamous sphere she keeps finding and losing. Even though her goal is simple and the majority of the game just consists of different kind of roadblocks keeping her from achieving it, the episode actually reveals a lot of things about the AR-K, the sphere and some of the main characters. Majority of the actions in the game don’t feel terribly unnecessary, which means that the puzzles are mostly well integrated in the story.

There are still a couple of places where the puzzles are rather vague and could have benefited from nudges to the right direction. The big murder mystery puzzle could use some tweaking too, though as I understood it, the devs are implementing fixes according to player feedback.

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There doesn’t seem to be a clear age limit for this game but it contains some cursing and obvious adult themes like alcohol and sex. There’s also rather disturbing societal elements in the game, though the overall tone is still comedic and rather light. Parts of the comedy come from meta jokes and nods to other productions.

AR-K isn’t really about creating deep immersion, but it is funny and charming. And it does have some great story moments too. The sci-fi setting and the mystery plot are to my liking, even when a lot of the game time is allocated to more comedic side.

I always liked Alicia as a character and protagonist. She’s a spunky one, ready to do some mischievous things to obtain her goals and also a modern, confident woman. She’s a university student that can party hard and enjoy some casual sex. Alicia is a character that rubs some people the wrong way in-game and IRL (perhaps because she actually behaves like many male protagonists?), but I always found her representing the whole empowered woman side much more than being some kind of sexual object for anyone.

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As the game is another episode (even though it’s sold as a separate game), it’s somewhat short. Several hours though, so there’s really a decent amount of playtime for the current Steam price of 8 euros. Together with earlier episodes it’s 13 euros, and I can warmly recommend the whole package, even if the two earlier episodes are somewhat less polished. Even with some minor glitches and older graphics they have the same charm the newest part does. And while a person can catch up on the story quite fast, it’s not really the same as playing through them oneself.

There’s still the big finale to come, and The Great Escape ended in a rather delicious cliffhanger. I probably will do a replay of the full game once it’s out, just to get the score right. I don’t really like scoring episodes separately.

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