Watchers of the Universe: I’m outta here!

Watchers of the Universe: I’m outta here!

Watchers of the Universe: I’m outta here! is a graphical first-person adventure game with static scenes. Unlike in other point-and-click games in which you use the mouse to control your character, here you won’t even see your character (because a first-person perspective is used), and clicking on various parts of a scene will either move you to a different location, will have you interact with certain items or characters or discover some hidden objects that usually unlock entries in the lore compendium.

The universe of WOTU is based on Zecharia Sitchin’s books. He is known for his theories about humankind’s cultural foundation being tied to or influenced by an extraterrestrial race named the Anunnaki. WOTU’s storyline takes place on Nibiru – the planet inhabited by the Anunnaki – and revolves around a commoner trying to gather enough motivation to become a Watcher, or simply put, someone who discards their emotions to strictly follow instructions without questioning them, somewhat akin to a soldier.

The game doesn’t dive too much into what a Watcher is or how someone becomes one, but it does have a pretty good chunk of lore based on Zecharia Sitchin’s work. The game successfully manages to convey a mysterious, exotic and alien ambiance, while also making the player feel that the Anunnaki aren’t that much different from regular humans. Just like many of us, the protagonist struggles with financial issues, tries to find ways to get hired so he can pay his rent and ultimately he aims to follow his dream.

The delivery of the story is good. It’s usually done through ample dialogues with the other characters (all linear, without any choices) or through the thoughts that the main character expresses when interacting with various objects in the world. However, the best part of the game lies in its gorgeous artwork. Featuring more than 35 static backgrounds (my rough guess, I didn’t count them), all hand-drawn with vivid colors and lots of details, representing a unique architectural style reminiscent of our ancient cultures (Ancient Egyptian, Sumerian), each CG is a true delight.

While I did enjoy exploring WOTU’s world, I do have one subjective criticism about the gameplay, and that is essentially the lack of guidance for the player. This can be seen in multiple aspects. For instance, the puzzles (or rather *what* items to use *where*) are not always intuitive. A lot of time is spent in pixel hunting, not only for the hidden objects but also for the things you can pick up and the items you can interact with. These are not marked in any way on the screen (for instance, there’s no cursor change on hover), there’s no hotspot map and no hint option. There are also no chat logs that you might want to reread if you pause your gameplay for a lengthy period (hours / days), causing you to forget where you were and what you were supposed to do. You’re left alone in front of the screen with your poor mouse that will suffer the wrath of thousands of clicks only so that you can progress one step further.

While the game can be finished in less than one hour if you know where to go and what to do, this whole focus on pixel hunting for my next action quite ruined my enjoyment. To be fully honest, I couldn’t have finished the game without the help of the dev, who was kind enough to give me a hint about the location in which I missed something. Turns out that the item I didn’t pick up was just a few pixels wide, barely visible, and not finding it cost me more than one hour and a half of clicking every little thing in all the available locations. Out of curiosity, I revisited the game for a second time after I finished my first playthrough. Telling myself that I already know all its secrets, I thought I’d go through it one more time so I can experience a better continuity of the story; turns out that I was wrong and I ended up spending yet again one hour of clicking everything because I wasn’t able to find the element to progress further or what I had done for that in my first playthrough.

To sum up, I think the game is ok as long as you don’t mind the lack of hand-holding. I like that the collectible items are very nicely hidden in a scene (they blend perfectly with the background, actually being an integral part of the scenes), but I would love to have more indications about what I am expected to do so that I don’t waste that much time stabbing in the dark.

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