268: The Best Planet Companion

pparrish

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Oct 2, 2008
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The Best Planet Companion

When playing a party-based RPG, your companions are equivalent to sidekicks, moving along the story and providing color. Peter Parrish tells us of one of the most unique characters in recent memory, the planet Democratus.

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Crimson_Dragoon

Biologist Supreme
Jul 29, 2009
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I've never heard of the game (a 50k marketing budget would explain that), but it sounds right up my alley. Is it online anywhere (on Steam or something like it)?
 

Jandau

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Dec 19, 2008
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Anachronox is one of those truly great games. Funny thing is that at its core it plays like a JRPG, but done in a western style and with so much bizzare stuff in there that one can't help but be amused. It's the exact opposite of Daikatana. If by any chance you haven't played the game, DO IT!
 

CUnk

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Oct 24, 2008
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I think I may have to replay this. I don't even remember how I first heard about this game several years ago (probably some casual mention on a forum like this) but the game turned out to be such a pleasant surprise that I must have been under some spell while playing and forgot many of the details. I just hope I can find my copy because I have no idea where you could buy this. GOG doesn't seem to have it sadly.

Also, for those that don't care about spoiling the game (or those that have already played it), someone made an Anachronox movie a while back by stringing together the cut scenes:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4dfuk_anachronox-the-movie-part-01-of-13_videogames
 

kingmob

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Jan 20, 2010
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How strange that I've never even heard of this game, it sounds brilliant! As soon as I get home I'm going to try and get my hands on it :)
 

Latinidiot

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Feb 19, 2009
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I bet this game is very hard to get your hands on, andit will only get worse now that so many people read about it.
 

pparrish

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Oct 2, 2008
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Crimson_Dragoon said:
Is it online anywhere (on Steam or something like it)?

Unfortunately it isn't, and I don't know when it might show up there. Somebody mentioned Good Old Games, who (although they don't have it yet) will probably be the best bet to get it at some point.

One problem about getting it out there is Ion Storm went bust (obviously) - and Hall himself doesn't own the Anachronox license any more. I believe Square Enix do, for some reason. But I may be recalling that incorrectly.
 

K.

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Nov 4, 2009
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CUnk said:
Also, for those that don't care about spoiling the game (or those that have already played it), someone made an Anachronox movie a while back by stringing together the cut scenes:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4dfuk_anachronox-the-movie-part-01-of-13_videogames
Thanks for the link. Ah, good times. Really one of my all-time favorites.

I learned about the game from a programmer, who was impressed by what was possible with the Quake-Engine.
 

Kegluneq

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Aug 3, 2010
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Jandau said:
Anachronox is one of those truly great games. Funny thing is that at its core it plays like a JRPG, but done in a western style and with so much bizzare stuff in there that one can't help but be amused. It's the exact opposite of Daikatana. If by any chance you haven't played the game, DO IT!
Definitely. It's full of brilliant gameplay and a fantastically witty Douglas Adams-style storyline that parodies everything from Tolkienesque dwarfs to film noir private eyes, along with great voice acting and graphic design (it looks much, much better than Deus Ex).

It does have its problems as stated; it's very linear, it ends on a cliffhanger, there are a few gamebreaking bugs (at least in my experience). There's a lot of running huge distances in the early part of the game, especially if you're playing without a guide, that can get tiresome quickly. Nevertheless it's still one of my favourite games and definitely worth a play, if you can find it - the quality of the writing and the plot more than make up for the shortfalls.

In relation to the article, Democratus was a great plot device and a great concept for a character, but I think you can't really tie the character and the planet together that closely. The levels set on the planet are more of a pretext for a further genre mashup, which is still awesome, they're just not a meaningful insight into a singular personality as such. (For a better example of that, think of the mind diving of Psychonauts, in which you really were exploring the secret worlds of NPCs.) Having an actual planet for a party member was still both bonkers and brilliant though.
 

JustRadek

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Jun 30, 2009
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As Tom Hall and the rest of the Anachronox team stated on multiple occasions, the game was cut short during the burnout of ION Storm. Very unfortunate too as it was a really quirky but interesting game, very much along the lines of what Double Fine is putting out these days.
 

xxxDarkUtopiaxxx

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Sep 18, 2009
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K. said:
I learned about the game from a programmer, who was impressed by what was possible with the Quake-Engine.
Well, that initial level on Anachronox... suffice to say I've never seen UEngine pull off multidirectional gravity effects anything like that... ;)

And keep your eyes open for budget labels, the game has appeared on at least one, costing the princely sum of ?7 for the privelige...
 

Gildan Bladeborn

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Aug 11, 2009
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I freaking love that game - it quite handily illustrates via its existence that the problem I have with JRPGs isn't the mechanics necessarily (as the game plays exactly like one), it's the everything else. There are so many wonderful little nuances: in other games you might have a set of totally arbitrary collectible objects you can find for some vague reason. Well in Anachronox, those are actually called TACOs, a product that was quite popular until the public found out it that TACOs stood for Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects.

I had almost forgotten I was in the middle of replaying this a few months back before I got distracted, I should really get back to that.
 

lumenadducere

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May 19, 2008
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Ah, Anachronox. What a fantastic game - it's such a shame that it didn't sell more copies, as I would have absolutely loved to see a sequel made (especially with that ending). It was nice reading this article and remembering how much fun I had with that game.
 

BehattedWanderer

Fell off the Alligator.
Jun 24, 2009
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This...is a game I have to check out. *Goes to Amazon to order one* Hmmm...why have I never heard of this before? Hell, that sounds all kinds of the right kind of crazy. Cliffhanger, huh? I'll be wary of that. Thanks for the passalong, I suppose.
 

The Random One

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May 29, 2008
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Gildan Bladeborn said:
There are so many wonderful little nuances: in other games you might have a set of totally arbitrary collectible objects you can find for some vague reason. Well in Anachronox, those are actually called TACOs, a product that was quite popular until the public found out it that TACOs stood for Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects.
I actually did a spit take over that.
Latinidiot said:
I bet this game is very hard to get your hands on, andit will only get worse now that so many people read about it.
On the internet, the more people know about an old thing, the easier it is to get it. Isn't that grand?

I hope it comes around to gog someday - weird party members have always been my favourite part of an RPG.
 

Grand_Marquis

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Feb 9, 2009
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This games sounds like something I need to check out.

CUnk said:
I think I may have to replay this. I don't even remember how I first heard about this game several years ago (probably some casual mention on a forum like this) but the game turned out to be such a pleasant surprise that I must have been under some spell while playing and forgot many of the details. I just hope I can find my copy because I have no idea where you could buy this. GOG doesn't seem to have it sadly.

Also, for those that don't care about spoiling the game (or those that have already played it), someone made an Anachronox movie a while back by stringing together the cut scenes:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4dfuk_anachronox-the-movie-part-01-of-13_videogames
Just a head's up - probably better to search for this on youtube, where you don't have to wait through two preroll ads, followed by four different banner ads during playback for each segment. Good god, Dailymotion has become a slum. Still, for its day those are some impressive cutscenes. I can't believe this game is as obscure as it is.
 

pparrish

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Oct 2, 2008
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Yes, something I didn't really get space to mention in the article is how much of a homage to JPRGs (Chrono Trigger in particular - which has been quoted as a direct inspiration) Anachronox is/was.

Like Barkley, Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden, it takes the formula and does wonderful things with it.
 

Rad Party God

Party like it's 2010!
Feb 23, 2010
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Ana-wha?... man... this game sounds like it's full of so much win... I wish it was available somewhere on Steam or other place, I don't want to end up searching an ilegal copy of the game.
 

aldowyn

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Mar 1, 2010
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I find it interesting that so many games being featured this week are old. Like, text-based old, in one case. Where has the sidekick gone? It seems that many mediums have just decided the entire idea is hokey and worthless! Gladly, books have not. (Don't believe me, go read Harry Potter and tell me Ron isn't a sidekick.)


This game seems like the interactive, video game version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Utterly, consciously, unabashedly ridiculous, and all the better for it!
 

ThrashJazzAssassin

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Jan 5, 2010
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Ah, Democratus. Did anyone not keep him in their party as much as humanly possible as soon as he became available? One of my favourite parts of a really great game.

Grand_Marquis said:
CUnk said:
Also, for those that don't care about spoiling the game (or those that have already played it), someone made an Anachronox movie a while back by stringing together the cut scenes:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4dfuk_anachronox-the-movie-part-01-of-13_videogames
Just a head's up - probably better to search for this on youtube, where you don't have to wait through two preroll ads, followed by four different banner ads during playback for each segment. Good god, Dailymotion has become a slum. Still, for its day those are some impressive cutscenes. I can't believe this game is as obscure as it is.
Actually, you can just go to archive.org and download the entire video. I'd recommend avoiding it if there's any chance you'll play the game, though; not only do you miss out on a lot of the flavour, and the experience of gradually discovering what's going on, but there's one specific plot twist which you wouldn't want to spoil for yourself.
 

Flying-Emu

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Oct 30, 2008
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Wow, this sounds like a great game. Good writing, good mechanics, go-

A FUCKING PLANET?
 

StreetBushido

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Nov 22, 2009
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Man, I love this game! It's really awesome to see this game mentioned on the Escapist!
I heartily recommend it, even if the graphics may seem quite stale by todays standards.
Almost everything in the game meshes wonderfully to become an awesome gaming experience, from the mini-games to the writing.
 

rddj623

"Breathe Deep, Seek Peace"
Sep 28, 2009
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I must confess I'd never even heard of it before just now! I may have to check it out sometime. Sounds like a blast.
 

SandroTheMaster

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Apr 2, 2009
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As a follower of the cult of Anachronox (and Terra Nova... and Captain Claw... and Might and Magic) I always find the flimsiest excuse to hamp this game up on forums. I've made free advertising for it at least half a dozen times in the PC Gamer site forums.

As for me, as much as I liked Democritus, I'd prefer Paco, El Puño Estrela. The superhero from a planet everybody was tired of superheroes everywhere.
 

Djed Moros

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Jun 7, 2010
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"Wanna see my batteries?"

By the way, anyone who's interested in the game might want to know that the in-game cutscenes (which are legendary) were posted as some kinda feature-length film on Machinima.com. Great to get a glimpse of the truly unique humor.

This is one of the few games that kept surprising me up to the very last minute. Not many games manage to introduce game-mechanics that really alter your way of playing the game somewhere half through it.
If you can forgive a somewhat slow start and the mediocre combat system (and the fact that there's never been a sequel), Anachronox is one of the games you'll be glad to have played.
 

Luk 333

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Aug 31, 2010
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OK, it's settled, I'll finish the game for a third time. I haven't played it in the last 5-6 years, although it's my favorite game.
 

Tomas Roller

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Dec 22, 2011
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Such an amazing game... bought it three times (2x as a gift). A few things would make me happier than a sequel.
 

Fr]anc[is

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May 13, 2010
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On the off chance anyone reads this and isn't already aware, this game just got released on GOG

http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/anachronox