Technobabylon is a cyberpunk point-and-click adventure with retro style graphics. Wadjet Eye Games, the studio behind the Blackwell series and Resonance, bring this sci-fi romp to life alongside developer Technocrat Games.
Wadjet Eye Games have been making quality point-and-click adventures for years, and it’s no secret that I’m a big fan. I always enjoy their games and Technobabylon does not disappoint.
You play as three characters in the city of Newton. Latha Sesame, an unemployed Trance addict. Charlie Regis, an old curmudgeon-y CEL agent (basically a detective). And Max Lao, Charlie’s fellow (and far more lighthearted) CEL agent. The story starts with the investigation of a string of murders. Each victim has been “mindjacked” meaning information has been brutally torn from their brains. As the story unfolds, its scope grows to encompass a larger conspiracy.
Newton exemplifies the “high tech low life” of cyberpunk. Newton’s wealthy residents live in opulent high rises and bear their wealth like a shield against the law. While the poor live in assigned housing, wear assigned blue overalls (which are recycled instead of cleaned), and eat from food machines that belch protein slop.
Then there is wetware. Wetware are nanomachines that allow individuals to mentally connect to the web, also known as the “Trance.” Wetware is not only common, but expected. Charlie is the odd man out for not having any. I don’t quite understand the specifics of wetware, but form what I can gather people use gelatinous forms of wetware to smear onto the surface of terminals and electronics. The nanomachines inside the jelly then build a connection from the terminal to the wiring inside the user’s head. This grants the user access to the connection with their mind, allowing for all sorts of hacking shenanigans.
Central is the A.I. system that runs the city, and it’s also who CEL agents take their orders from. Central sees all, and can predict—to an extent—when a crime is going to take place. Its overall purpose is to make sure the city runs smoothly, including the citizens, even if that means Central has to withhold pertinent information.
Beneath the genre dressing is a story about grief, coping, and getting out of your comfort zone. A recurring theme of the story is its willingness to challenge the characters’ coping mechanisms. As with all good stories, the people are the heart of it, not the sci-fi tech.
There are twists and turns that bring into question the loyalty of allies, or the nature of an enemy’s animosity. But what really drove me forward were the characters, and all the little details that I learned through the dialogue and action. I won’t say much else because I don’t want to spoil the story, but ultimately I found it enthralling and never felt bored. By the end, I wanted to see more of these characters and the city of Newton.
There's lots of pointing and clicking, as you’d expect from most point-and-click adventures. Technobabylon emphasises using your environments and picking up items to solve puzzles. This entails looking around and using the right-click to examine items and learn more about them. The left-click allows you to use, pick up, or move items and objects. There’s a good amount of trial and error, but the puzzles are all logic based. Everything you need to solve them is in the surrounding area, and you’ll never get stuck if you didn’t pick up something earlier in the game.
There’s a good amount of combining items to move the puzzles forward. Sometimes the solution is obvious, and sometimes it’s not. There were a few instances where I found myself doing the tried and true combine-everything-with-everything method. The main characters never have a huge amount of items in their inventory (like in some older point-and-clicks), so your options are never overwhelming.
If you’re ever stuck on a puzzle, you’ll know that the solution is somewhere nearby.
Latha Sesame will have to pop back and forth from meatspace to the Trance to solve puzzles. The mechanics in the Trance are the same as in the physical world. Sesame navigates the Trance with an avatar, but instead of pushing tables and opening doors you’ll be uploading programs and making connections—all of which are represented visually as either avatars or new environments (like a living room or park).
There are some especially creative uses of the Trance and how it affects the physical world.
Generally my default opinion would be to say that a point-and-click’s real value is in its story, and that’s true here to an extent, but the puzzles were so interesting and creative—not only in their implementation but in how they also acted as worldbuilding elements—that it would be a disservice to count them separately. The story enhances the puzzles and the puzzles enhance the story.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend Technobabylon to anyone yearning for a cyberpunk romp.
Wadjet Eye Games has a new adventure coming out soon called Unavowed. Check it out on their website, and keep an eye open for its release. From some of the screenshots Dave Gilbert has been sharing on his twitter, it looks flipping awesome.