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‘Samorost 3’ Review: Exquisite, Ingenious and Special

 Samorost 3
Developed by: Amanita Design
Published by: Amanita Design
Platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS
Release Date: March 24, 2016

Samorost: 1. (Czech) A piece of wood that resembles a creature   2. A person who does not adhere to social conventions; an eccentric

As the stars twinkle against the jet black canvas of space, a dog sniffs impatiently at the object buried in the ground. Curiosity overwhelms you, so you emerge, a humanoid creature dressed in plain ivory, and retrieve what appears to be a primitive flute. You tuck it away, satisfied, and observe the tiny rabbits nearby as gentle wind caresses your body. They nibble peacefully at invisible crumbs hidden beneath soft, intricately woven grass, and you let them be, ready to return home. For you, home is a gigantic rusted fire hydrant with the circular windows of a veteran ship. It’s a spacious triple story unit with a telescopic view of the cosmos. It’s a place where outside, star blossoms decorate trees, and when you pluck them they bypass the laws of germination and instantly sprout again, breathing and existing through interstellar photosynthesis. But you’re as strange as they are. You speak in muffled, alien vernacular, a rare phonic substance in a largely visual world; Symbols and words don’t belong here, they’re as foreign as a sailor is without his ocean. Having played neither Samorost or Samorost 2, I approach this series as something of a foreigner myself, and if you’re in the same boat, nothing can quite prepare you for the incredible world of fantasy that awaits in Samorost 3, a breathtaking graphic adventure by Amanita Design.

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A leafy, straw hat-wearing scarecrow man needs your help to solve a card puzzle

One of the best things about Samorost 3 is the way in which it engages with the strange and unfamiliar, and transforms them into a vehicle for not only learning and exploration, but also one that should be taken seriously. Nothing makes sense upon initial examination, but all the dynamics are there, carefully hidden behind gorgeous illustrations that beg to be gazed at, and then treated as a puzzle to be solved. The structural framework of Samorost 3’s gameplay revolves around item collection, fixing things, and helping others, which is undoubtedly similar to other point-and-click adventures: collecting missing parts to build a spacecraft, massaging a turtle’s back, gathering a specific plant and so on. Yet the strict departure from violence and the pervasive influence which art and in particular music have upon Samorost 3 make the journey feel refreshingly abstract. Almost everything you click produces a unique, melodic sound. One particularly memorable puzzle requires players to adjust the frequency of different reeds, which causes nearby animals to start singing at different pitches. When it’s done correctly, the pond turns into an alien disco. Sometimes music is used for unlocking achievements instead, such as the cicadas who sound like they’re playing heavy rock music when you listen to them closely, or the bugs that sing a beautiful hymn to one of their ancestors, and it’s in delicate and ineffable moments like these that the game becomes truly special.

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This ancient soul busily tinkers beside his dwelling in the galactic junkyard

On the whole, gameplay flows smoothly and is consistent, but most puzzles are fairly complex and require backtracking which would appeal more strongly to players who enjoy exploration and solving abstract, mathematical codes. For instance, in one multi-layered puzzle where the ultimate goal is to free your tangled ship, you need to outsmart some animals, navigate an underground hibernation chamber, and then produce a plant hybrid-which really took me back to Voyage: Journey to the Moon. Puzzles can feel a bit like stepping into a world made from unchained logic, but their unpredictability makes them great and helps turn the game into an adventure of substantial length. Accordingly, the difficulty of a graphic adventure like Samorost 3 is inextricably linked to the puzzles on which it is built, which are overwhelmingly intriguing and very rarely infuriating or too obscure to solve. Many of them require patience or trial and error, and naturally, the difficulty gradient does become steeper over time which may prove daunting for casual players. So Amanita Design cleverly incorporate an in-game hint system, itself a puzzle, which gives useful pictorial descriptions of how to solve a problem that balances the experience. However, using it does require players to unlock a puzzle each time, even for previously explored areas which feels unnecessarily repetitive.

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Strum the antennae of echidna crickets for an evening illumination light show

To listen to Samorost 3’s soundtrack is akin to entering a deep, meditative trance. Composer Tomáš Dvořák delivers players an ever-changing ambient orchestral suite mainly comprised of flute, xylophone, light drums and violin really serves to immerse players within the game’s rich tapestry of fantasy and keep them there, blending seamlessly with the meticulous visuals and preventing the dream bubble from fragmenting into reality. How could it ever, when even the antennae of echidna crickets transform into musical instruments? All it takes is a single look at the luscious worlds that carry the charm of Miniscule and echoes of Australian claymation Plasmo and your imagination will be thoroughly captured. Samorost 3 is presented in an exceptionally detailed 2D illustrative style which is a perfect choice considering the whimsical, imaginative nature of the environments and characters, which could so very easily spring forth directly from the pages of a fairy tale. Choosing to set the game in an unknown quadrant of the universe with exotic ecosystems reflects Amanita Design’s adoration of nature and willingness to embrace the unknown, and their confidence in their stories and ideas manifest themselves in an utterly compelling world.

Do not disturb: Smug monkeys soak inside luxurious hot springs. 
Do not disturb: Smug monkeys soak inside luxurious hot springs.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Samorost 3, which has this dormant kind of brilliance that players tap into throughout the game, witnessing it as it slowly erupts in bizarre triumph. Each character you meet has their own weird and wonderful tale, and after you begin to listen and understand them, you won’t feel so foreign anymore. Samorost 3 sets a very high standard for the modern era of the graphic adventure genre and emerges as a standout audiovisual experience that is not to be missed.

Samorost 3 is out now for PC and Mac. You can get it via Steam and Humble Bundle for $19.99 USD. Follow Amanita Design on Twitter and like their Facebook page to stay up to date with their latest projects.


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