If the Deponia trilogy is a roller coaster, then Chaos on Deponia is the crest of the first incline, not the crucial downhill drop it should have been. A thrill ride nevertheless, however, Chaos on Deponia’s importance cannot be understated. This midpoint builds the tension for the series’ climactic end, with more wacky characters and puzzles that quiz players in ridiculous ways, even if it advances the story very little.
Despite early assertions from Rufus that he has shed his egocentric attitude, a fiery tutorial involving an elderly couple’s parrot, hammer, toilet, and garbage disposal weakens his claims of empathy. That means more bad news for the heroine Goal. On her way to Elysium to stop Deponia’s destruction (as revealed in the first game), a rocket-propelled circular saw crafted by none other than Rufus shoots Goal’s transport out of the sky, damaging her memory chip.
Help waits at the Floating Black Market, a captivating microcosm of crime and pollution that sells the parts veteran tinkerer Doc needs to repair Goal’s brain implants. It’s also one of the game’s biggest highlights. The Black Market bustles with all manners of eccentric citizens – the blind pharmacist who mistakes toilet paper for prescriptions, a resistance group led by an overweight Peter Pan wannabe, and so on – giving the town a more animated, live-in feel than any prior Deponia setting. Why is the tavern's jukebox played by an irate dwarf? Why is a demon working as a restaurant chef? Chaos on Deponia kicks comprehension to the curb for a clever cast and frequent sight gags.
Welcome to the Black Market's resistance movement, in the basement of their leader's mom's house.
You might strain yourself trying to understand your next objective, too, because Daedalic exerts its talent for creating ingenious one-of-a-kind puzzles. The Black Market’s background music prevents Rufus from remembering a secret knock, so players must minimize the in-game volume, while a later puzzle requires Rufus to best a fisherman’s patience by remaining stone-still for a few minutes. But the developers throw out explicit hints to point you in the right direction. Unlike Deponia (the game), I never resorted to a walkthrough to make heads or tails of what the game asked me to do, or how each item factored into my mission at large.
Chaos on Deponia also expands its visual variety. The Black Market trades many of the series' rusty hues for deep oceanic blues, and later locales include the North Pole – a measly iceberg housing a frozen caveman – and an island fraught with lightning. Seeing Rufus inevitably sabotage his surroundings remains a joy as well, but fixing Goal comes first. Because Rufus bought bargain memory cartridges instead of the platinum-certified ones, the surgery to repair Goal’s implant splits her personality into Spunky Goal, Lady Goal, and Baby Goal, leaving Deponia's fate hanging in the balance.
Goal’s fragile state strands Rufus and company at the Black Market until he charms each of her personas into letting Doc properly mend them together. Except, Chaos on Deponia’s opening arc drags its feet, and few major events occur between the tutorial and conclusion. Did Daedalic design Deponia as a trilogy from its inception? Although Rufus nearly ruins Goal’s memory inserts, she comes out of the second act livid but unscathed.
Not even two unorganized thugs could beat some sense into Rufus.
The biggest difference between Chaos on Deponia and its predecessor revolves around Goal’s personalities, which Rufus may switch remotely anytime (complete with Window’s bootup noise), and how they affect puzzles. Goal’s temperaments only comply with particular demands. Spunky Goal will not stand in a pool of water holding an umbrella in the middle of a lightning storm, for example; the oblivious Baby Goal will. Although players must select the right persona for the right situation, their comments when I chose wrong earned a hearty laugh.
The writing can be crude in its depictions of women – Lady Goal’s snobby, Spunky Goal’s savage, and Baby Goal’s idiotic – but I sympathized with their behaviors, considering all the misery Rufus causes. “I just have a certain effect on explosive women,” boasts Rufus. “What … lighting the fuse?” retorts Doc. The developers commit to the charisma. I completed Deponia and its sequel back to back, and Daedalic definitely found the secret to making Rufus loathable and lovable between releases. New players might be uncomfortable with the humor’s darker moments – turning baby dolphins into cat food or having junk crabs devour a gondolier – though that does not dilute the quality voice acting.
If the dialogue and characters do make you squirm, why are you playing Chaos on Deponia? The first Deponia – as an illustration of the series’ persistent laughs – should have been a fair deterrent, but the sequel surpasses it with every Rufus-induced injury. While you still click on things to make stuff happen, the results of your perpetual pointing give Chaos on Deponia an edge over similar titles. The puzzles frazzle video game logic (torpedo dolphins?), and the peculiar, lighthearted characters ensure no matter how Daedalic’s trilogy ends, it will do so with smiles.
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Mac