Incoboto: Emotionally and Mechanically Deep
While it’s not always the case, it’s rare for a game to both focus on giving the player an emotional experience and offer a great deal of mechanical depth. In some sense, it’s not hard to see why that is. If you’re trying to keep people engaged in a heavy story, having them stop and solve a constant stream of difficult puzzles or challenges can interrupt the flow. Similarly, if you want people to stop and carefully consider your gameplay mechanics, you probably don’t want them impatiently waiting for another story segment.
Incoboto takes on that challenge, and it largely succeeds. The game’s atmosphere is incredible, with the sheer horror of what has happened to the universe explained largely by the final words recorded by the skeletons you’ll find all over the place. To a great extent, players are free to engage in this story as heavily as they want, reading all of the signs and notes along the way or ignoring them accordingly. But the mood of the game remains intact regardless of the player’s actions. There’s an odd mix of isolation and warmth.
These planets are dead, and you are alone. Almost. But Helios, your smiling sunny companion, remains overhead. Even as you try to repair long-dormant machines left untouched because those who would have used them are now long gone, you can’t feel entirely alone because your friend is near. There’s no question that Incoboto can make you feel things with its unusual atmosphere — it’s quite the experience in general.
But if you think that the gameplay mechanics might just be an obligatory affair that guides you from story point to story point, you would be gravely mistaken. Incoboto’s puzzles can be devilishly difficult, and the large variety present in their designs means that you can’t just be good at one type of problem if you want to move forward. Some of these puzzles involve little more than a good sense of logic. Others require some physical dexterity. Some of them ask you to demonstrate a good understanding of physics. Many require the player to handle all of those things at once. There are some genuine stumpers here that will challenge just about anyone.
What you won’t find is any sort of violence. You move and hop your way through these desolate environments, cobbling together both plot and solutions, but you’ll never need to fear being attacked or worry about taking down enemies. It seems there are some benefits to being one of the last living beings. This contributes to the feeling of being alone in the game’s universe, but it also allows you to focus on solving the game’s puzzles and challenges at your pace.
Your main goal on each planet is to find enough star pieces to power the gate to the next world. Some of those pieces are laying out in the open, while others will be rewarded to the player for solving puzzles. Some of them will be out of reach the first time you visit a planet, requiring you to come back after you’ve earned the necessary new ability. The planets themselves aren’t terribly large. Indeed, you can walk all the way around each world in a matter of seconds in most cases. You can almost always see all of the star pieces too, even if they aren’t accessible at the moment.
You’ll also see extra items called star maps. There are 50 of these in the entire game, and while collecting them is optional, it’s a superb challenge that will test your mastery of the game’s many tricks and techniques. In time, you’ll get your hands on gadgets like jet packs, a glove that lets you throw heavy objects, a grappling device, and more. One of the first things you pick up is a scanner that helps you find hidden or secret objects. The game introduces these new concepts at a relatively regular rate, twisting them into existing puzzles and creating entirely new ideas. Provided the player doesn’t get stuck, Incoboto’s pace is excellent thanks to this constant stream of new elements.
In the end, Incoboto is a game with a great sense of mood and some clever, tough puzzles. Whether you’re here for a good story or challenging adventure gameplay, Incoboto has you covered. It’s an immensely satisfying game, even if it can be maddeningly tough to solve some of its trickier demands. If that idea excites you rather than terrifies you, you’ll definitely want to check out why Incoboto has earned so much praise.