I’m a big fan of point-and-click adventures, which is why I was drawn into Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure, a modern take on the old genre. While this one-man project scratched my itch, a lackluster story and some poorly executed puzzles prevented it from becoming a fondly remembered favorite.
The name Demetrios suggests an epic mythological tale, but in truth, the game is about the adult slacker Bjorn who, as the subtitle states, goes on a big cynical adventure. The story begins when a mysterious thief arrives at Bjorn’s home and knocks him out, all to steal a strange tablet. The opening chapters follow Bjorn running around Paris, trying to track the criminal. The later chapters ramp up the excitement as he travels to foreign countries to uncover the mystery behind the missing tablet. The summary sounds like a love letter to the classic adventure series Broken Sword. However, Demetrios lacks the sharp wit and logical progression. Most of the game has Bjorn jumping from one place to another simply because he’s told to. Moreover, the writing suffers from focusing too hard on its humor over allowing a natural story to flow.
This big cynical adventure’s selling point is that it’s unashamedly crude and lewd. The jokes range from vague innuendo to outright gross visuals. Much of the puzzles and dialogue are built around this type of juvenile humor, and your mileage will depend on whether you find farts funny. If you don’t, the developer was smart to include an option to turn off some or all of the “toilet humor,” removing all sight gags and some dialogue altogether. While turned off, the game undoubtedly loses a lot of its personality since it’s so heavily built upon this brand of comedy. It’s a shame because there are moments of wit in the dialogue through Bjorn’s one-liners that completely get overshadowed by literal crap. Speaking of which, Bjorn is an unlikeable jerk who is barely compelled to complete his own adventure, so why should we?
There is no voice acting, so the punchlines are dependent on the visuals. The cartoonish character designs resemble what you may find in a webcomic; it isn’t very detailed, but it’s a stylized to fit for the game’s humor. On the musical end, the soundtrack gets annoying over time, aside from a few catchy tribal melodies. Oddly enough, the game cycles through songs with silent pauses in-between, stripping most tunes of their identities.
The gameplay is a step above the story, but the flawed writing again, along with poorly-designed puzzles, seeps into it. Starting with the good, Demetrios achieves that classic point-and-click style with its rich backgrounds and a myriad of things to click on. As is standard with the genre, the goal of the game is to solve environmental logic puzzles by finding objects, combining items, making favorable dialogue choices, and winning minigames. It’s usually clear what your objectives are, and the challenge is figuring how to achieve them. Some clever mind bogglers test you to get in a room stealthily or create makeshift fishing rods by mixing items.
However, not every puzzle is sound. Part of the issue is the game’s own internal logic. For example, if you need a container, you better have the exact one that the game is thinking of. By the way, in this scenario, you end up making a cup out of scratch… The game asks you to get inside its head, so don’t be surprised if a quest for ice cream leads to the bathroom of all places. One too many solutions amounted to tedious fetch quests for tiny items in the background. You can zoom in areas to investigate, but what’s particularly annoying is that occasionally what Bjorn is looking for will literally appear only when you need it, with little to no explanation. The same issues arise in dialogue; sometimes, the solution amounts to talking to someone about the same subject repeatedly. The earlier chapters are guilty of these logical gaps and lazy puzzle design. Later chapters improve upon this with better self-contained brain teasers.
Throughout my eight hour journey, which I felt was a decent length, I spent much of it stuck and frustrated by the logic. At any point, if the game and its reliance on trial-and-error proves too confusing, you can eat a cookie, which magically gives you incremental hints. The catch is you have to pixel hunt for these treats; three are hidden in every screen, similarly to how the Professor Layton series hides hint coins. These cookies were lifesavers for me.
Funny enough, what I enjoyed most about Demetrios was discovering the numerous ways Bjorn can die. The game keeps track of and rewards players who are willing to pick the obviously incorrect answer just to lead their protagonist to an untimely demise. The death scenes have some of the best writing. I appreciate that beyond the callbacks to classic point-and-click games where dying was a real possibility, there’s a whole collectible metagame for game overs. It’s an effective way to cover up the fact that you can suddenly die because you didn’t know which of four dialogue choices was correct.
Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure mainly appeals to a specific subset of point-and-click game fans that like crude comedy. However, the jokes don’t always land, and the story with its unlikable characters fails to compel. The puzzles are the strongest aspects, although several of them sport frustratingly obtuse logic or feel rushed. If anything, Demetrios will scratch that itch for fans of the genre and humor, but it won’t sit well with everyone else.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!