AR-K: The Great Escape on PC
I’ll preface this by saying that, headed into this review, I was not aware of the AR-K series of episodic games by Gato Salvaje S.L. Jumping in mid-stream for a review is, at best, a dicey choice, but as a reviewer, I take what I’m given and do my best. Thankfully, AR-K: The Great Escape does open with some recap from the first two episodes in the series, so even those new to the series aren’t left flying completely blind. So, with that out of the way, let’s begin with the task at hand.
AR-K: The Great Escape is, as I mentioned, the third instalment in the series following the adventures of Alicia Van Volish as she pursues an elusive golden sphere. We begin this chapter with Alicia having taken a tumble down into a trash compactor deep within the bowels of the AR-K, a futuristic space station comprised of seven districts which seems to house the entire human race. This chapter, though, actually happens within the AR-K’s dirty secret: the industrialized, heavily polluted district eight. Here, the people are forced to labor under slave-like conditions, providing the much-needed factory and manual labor that keeps the other seven districts going.
After coming to in the trash compactor, Alicia must navigate this dark underbelly of the AR-K series. Filled with destitute, dying people driven to work beyond their own capacity, this pollution-choked area houses basic amenities and decaying machinery that’s well past its prime. With the help of an old friend and some new allies, Alicia must track down the elusive golden sphere, uncover its mysteries, and try to find a way back up to the AR-K’s upper levels.
AR-K: The Great Escape is a fully voice-acted point-and-click adventure reminiscent, in many ways, of classic Lucasfilm games. There’s plenty of humor despite the dark overtones of district eight, and the puzzles are varied in their approach. Ranging from simple button-pressing to the solving of a decade-old murder case, Alicia must navigate a complex society filled with downtrodden workers, egocentric overseers, and overworked medical staff struggling to keep a handle on the population’s many pollution-related woes. With Mass Effect‘s own Ash Sroka, the voice of Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, taking the lead as Alicia, the voices are spot on throughout the episode, and are a definite high point.
In addition to the voice acting, AR-K: The Great Escape features solid all-around production, especially in its many cutscenes, which are beautifully rendered considering the humble Kickstarter-funded roots. While it may not be on par with huge-budget, AAA games, it’s a large step up from typical indie fare. The animation outside of these scenes is certainly not lacking, either, and altogether the game comes together to present a fantastic look and feel that captures another world in vivid detail. To top off the deal, award-winning novelist and comic book author Greg Rucka gets credit for the story here, which may explain why it, too, is a cut above what you might expect from an independently-developed adventure game.
All told, my only complaint regarding AR-K: The Great Escape is that I haven’t had the opportunity yet to jump backwards and see the tale unfold from the beginning. Despite coming in halfway through the series’ projected four-episode delivery, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent. With high-quality writing, voice acting, and graphic design, it stands well above the expectations I had going in, and I’d easily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the point-and-click genre. For those that aren’t, the game’s $7.99 price on Steam is certainly not too high, and discounts are available for those who own the prior chapters. If you’d like to start from the beginning, there’s a package deal for $12.99, as well, saving a bit off of the flat purchase price of the first two titles, Gone With the Sphere and The Girl Who Wasn’t There.