App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Another release from Wadjet Eye games means that another traditional point-and-click adventure game has hit the App Store. In Technobabylon you can fully expect to pixel-hunt, combine items, and solve puzzles just the same as you might in Gemini Rue or The Secret of Monkey Island. That said, the world, story, and characters of Technobabylon are anything but conventional. Technobabylon contains a rich and detailed cyberpunk universe housed inside of a very typical adventure game framework.
If you've played just about any adventure game before, Technobabylon's controls and presentation should be no surprise. Players are presented with pixelated, 2D scenes and an objective, and it's your job to tap around on screen to maneuver your character around to interact with the environment and other characters to achieve said objective.
At the outset of Technobabylon, you take control of Latha Sesame just as she's realizing that she has somehow gotten locked in at her apartment, and you need to do some sleuthing to figure out how to open the door. If this game were set in a more typical universe, this might mean you need to find a key or some bobby pins to pick the lock. Since the game takes place in a cyberpunk dystopia though, accomplishing this task instead requires hacking into different household appliances and interfacing with their AIs to get the job done.
Although a lot of the puzzle-solving in Technobabylon may feel close to that of other adventure games, the idea that solutions may be hiding behind a synthetic maid or encrypted terminal really complicates things. To add to this complexity, Technobabylon also tells a twisted and meandering narrative that puts you in control of different characters and even occasionally shifts time periods.
The main thread of Technobabylon is about an investigation into a string of mindjacking incidents, where a criminal has been hacking into people's brains and ripping information out of them. Using this as a narrative foundation, players then play through a couple, tenuously-related vignettes before seeing how these situations and the characters in them play into a much larger plot that reveals a lot about the world of Technobabylon and the struggles of the people within it. Throughout all of this, things occasionally get a bit technobabble-y, but it's all easy to follow thanks to some excellent writing and voice acting performances.
Given the ambition of Technobabylon's setting and story, it's impressive that it all fits in such a traditional game format. This is certainly an achievement that deserves no small praise, but that doesn't mean that Technobabylon is for everyone.
In a lot of ways, Technobabylon is actually built for a very small subset of people. It's very much still an adventure game, so it still has pixel-hunting and puzzles that occasionally have confusing logic to them; and, on top of that, it's a game that tells this really fractured and technically complicated sci-fi story. As a fan of both adventure games and the cyberpunk aesthetic, Technobabylon feels fresh, fascinating, and cool the whole way through, but only because it's firing on all of a very specific set of cylinders.
The bottom line
Although it sometimes falls victim to the constraints of its genre, Technobabylon more than makes up for it through sheer ambition. It's got a fascinating world that feels huge and far-reaching, a diverse set of interesting characters, and ingenious methods for shaking up traditional adventure game puzzle mechanics. It likely won't win over non-adventure game fans, but Technobabylon is an amazing game nonetheless.