Robust story & dialogue
Tough puzzles & bosses
Slowdown at some bosses
Engine compatibility issues
If you're looking for a game that's a thrilling ride from beginning to end, look no further, because Ark 22 is it. A face-paced action-rpg with a look and gameplay similar to Zelda: A Link to the Past, and jam-packed with puzzles that can melt your brain, Ark 22 will suck you in and keep you glued to the screen until you beat it. However, this game is no simple hack-em-up, as it also has a very compelling (if somewhat mind-boggling) story.
The true gem of this game is the writing. Not just the main story, but also the little details of character interaction and game world. There are plenty of amusing dialogues to break the tension, and little points of interest to really draw you into the game world. It is a robustly written game, and well worth the three years it took to develop. Without giving too much away, the basic idea is that you need to save yourself and your fellow Samosians who have crash-landed on a seemingly empty planet ("seemingly" being the key word here). You'll hack, shoot, and blast your way through cavernous dungeons as you seek out an unknown force that is threatening your survival.
The gameplay itself is simple and fun, though it does have a few quirks. For example, you can generally only interact with NPCs if you are standing below them (in most cases, anyway, as there are a few instances where you can stand above them or across from them). The first part of the game also contains an in-game tutorial, so you shouldn't have too much of an issue getting started.
As mentioned above, this game is similar to Zelda - there are no traditional RPG "stats" to worry about, but you do have the option to upgrade your skills and capacities by finding objects, interacting with NPCs, and completing sidequests. And I do mean option - I've heard it's possible to complete this game without upgrading beyond the basic necessary skills, but I really don't think I'd recommend it, unless you're just a masochist.
Most of the dungeons are puzzle-based, meaning that you will be relying on your brain as much as you will be counting on your lightning-quick reflexes. Cleverness pays off a whole lot more than bruting your way through. Some of the dungeons are truly evil when it comes to figuring out how to get through them, but that's part of the charm.
When not dungeon-crawling, you have the option to check out the plethora of minigames available (including an easter egg Space Invaders game, yay). For those of you who hate minigames, you will be grateful that they are completely optional (there's lots of optional stuff in this game). However, they are pretty good, and a nice distraction from saving everyone from complete annihilation.
Okay, for those of you interested in the mechanics of the game, the graphics are not spectacular, but they are good. Very good, in fact. The world is believable and detailed, and the characters are fun to watch. Intriguingly, the cutscenes are hand-drawn and shaded digitally, and although they contain little in the way of true animation, they convey the story very powerfully. The music matches the pace of the game, and in fact, probably contributes to the urgency to complete the game that you may experience. It's clever, fast, and keeps you going.
The only truly negative aspect of gameplay is that it seems a bit unbalanced. Item and credit drops are so common that you never have to really buy anything, or worry about conserving health or resources, which makes it seem a bit too easy at times. However, since the true challenge is in the puzzles rather than fighting, it doesn't kill the gameplay at all. In addition, some computers will experience slowdowns at certain bosses. Finally, the Game Maker engine with which the game is created with has some system compatibility issues. Not really the game's fault, and I didn't experience any problems myself. However, you may want to consult the Game Maker FAQs to make sure your video and sound card can handle games made with the GM engine.
All in all, Ark 22 is an excellent game that should appeal to both old school and new school gamers. I highly recommend it, so download it now ;)
Review by: Taikara
Editor's rating:Public rating:
Safe for all ages
Windows 98 or later
Direct X 8.0 or later
3D ready video card w/ at least 16MB memory