It's Monkey Island lite, and not quite as endearing, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had
Rufus is a layabout slacker. When he’s not hanging around at his ex-girlfriend’s place and eating all her food, he’s using his dubious mechanical skills to build strange contraptions in the hope of coming up with an invention that’ll get him away to a better life. The main difference between Rufus and that loser you went to University with is that Rufus lives on the trash planet of Deponia. His version of finding a better life is to stow away on the great Organon tippers that come to the planet’s surface dump waste in the hope of making it off the surface to Elysium, where the privileged few live in luxury.
The game’s graphical style is very much in keeping with a lot of modern European point and click adventures. The cartoon graphics are slick and sophisticated, and there’s a prevalence of gold, orange and brown earth tones in the hand-painted artwork, which is all animated smoothly. The soundtrack is excellent, with several musical numbers that are genuinely humorous, as well as high quality sound effects and background music throughout. The voice acting is of a similarly high standard, with plenty of characterisation throughout a wide range of dialogue options.
Unfortunately, much of the massive amount of well recorded and finely voice acted dialogue falls to Rufus who, as we established earlier, is rather annoying. The game’s writers were obviously trying for the kind of obliviously selfish personality epitomised by Monkey Island’s Guybrush Threepwood or Futurama’s Philip J. Fry, but Rufus lacks their clueless charm. Instead, he spends most of the game behaving like a self-involved egotist with few redeeming features. Admittedly, he is witty at times and his behaviour doesn’t go unpunished, which prompts some rather funny interactions with some of Deponia’s equally socially stunted characters.
If you can live with a hero who’s neither particularly heroic nor very likable, there’s a great deal of fun to be had here. The game’s puzzles are brilliantly constructed and the point and click interface is sophisticated and easy to use. Left and right mouse buttons allow you to use and examine objects, while spinning the mouse wheel opens your inventory. Pressing the space bar highlights items that you can interact with, which is handy given the vast number of objects that litter Rufus’s junk-strewn world.
The puzzles vary from finding a shopping list of objects, working out how to distract characters who stand in your way, mini-games and – very occasionally – just trying everything in your inventory on everything else until you hit a combination that works. Your quests are rarely as simple as they at appear, requiring considerable improvisation, creative leaps and the odd reference to modern culture, such as a recipe for a super-stimulant which requires you to exactly fluid from a mechanical bull – it’s not red, before you ask.
Deponia’s biggest problem is its obnoxious protagonist, but if you can get past his personality, the game’s puzzles are brilliantly engineered. The cartoon graphics and voice acting are top-notch, too, making this an ultimately satisfying way of getting your adventure gaming fix, despite Rufus’s flaws as a hero.