If you’ve been following the indie gaming scene long enough, you should be familiar with the name Amanita Design. Starting way back in 2003 with the browser game Samorost, the Czech developer has gone from strength to strength with their unique brand of very abstract puzzlers. Creaks is the latest from Amanita and, like their recently-released Apple Arcade game Pilgrims, it’s a refreshing step away from their usual point-and-click format.
Creaks, like the rest of Amanita’s portfolio, stars a nameless character in a nondescript world with no dialogue to be seen or heard. Sitting alone and reading at his desk, the game’s protagonist is disturbed by a dicky light globe and some loose wallpaper. After attempting to fix the situation a handful of times, the wallpaper gives way completely to reveal a mysterious hidden door. Naturally, he investigates the door and finds behind it a tunnel leading to a vast underground cavern housing an enormous, twisting castle structure. The whole ‘impossibly-huge and abstract world hidden beneath someone’s house’ thing is something that has always deeply unsettled me, so we’re off to a good start.
The roughly five-hour adventure that follows sees little old mate exploring the castle, eventually discovering that it is, in fact, inhabited by a cast of mysterious characters. Much like his own home, theirs is undergoing some structural issues. More than broken bulbs or old walls though, their problems are monster-sized and can’t be fixed by a handyman.
As the player, it’s your job to delve deeper and deeper down into the castle’s depths on a quest for a solution by solving rooms upon rooms of devious platforming puzzles. If I were to compare Creaks’ gameplay to anything else I’ve played, I’d actually suggest a mix between Oddworld Abe’s Oddysee/Exodus’ brand of 2D platforming and Braid’s noodle-melting conundrums. Each section is typically a single-screen assortment of platforms where getting from one end of the room to the other requires studying, avoiding and manipulating enemies and objects through careful timing and positioning. Generally, you’ll be attempting to lure creatures into spots where a light can shine on them, revealing their true forms as…items of furniture, that you can then use to climb forward. Throughout my playthrough I found the puzzles ramped up in difficulty nicely, with only one or two really stumping me (and mostly because of my own silly mistakes), and some very satisfying “Eureka!” moments to be had.
Being an Amanita Design joint, Creaks has some serious mood-setting cred. The scratchy, haphazard line art combined with the impressively-intricate environments really sells the dark, Burton-esque vibe. Despite their relatively simple animations, each of the characters has a ton of personality and their interactions are easy to understand even with their garbled nonsense taking the place of any actual dialogue. Audio design in general is on point; the castle’s moody, eerie ambiance sets the tone perfectly and when music does kick in it nicely punctuates the solving of puzzles in the same way a combat-focused game’s backing tracks would usually rise and swell with the action. It’s a real treat.
Creaks is another winner from Amanita that should satisfy both fans of their unique, abstract style and their penchant for head-scratching puzzles – albeit now in a controller-friendly new gameplay format. It’ll also speak to a very particular type of person as the narrative’s surprises start to reveal themselves, so it’ll be interesting to see who picks the big reveal ahead of time and who doesn’t. All in all, if you’re a fan of the studio’s work or enjoy challenging, indie puzzle-platformers you’re sure to dig Creaks.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher