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Creaks review – great puzzles in an eerie underworld of living objects

Amanita Design’s latest is a game of vast but delicate imagination, at once rambling and toy-like. Released alongside a crop of triple-A games that demand to be played for days, Creaks has the soothing conciseness of a key fitting into a lock. Its entire world is visible on the main menu from the outset: a vast underground fortress, winding down from observatories and libraries to laboratories and submarine grottos. The protagonist, a charmingly timid man in shirt sleeves, stumbles into this strange, buried reality after crawling through a hole in his apartment wall.

As in the developer’s celebrated point-and-clickers Machinarium and Samorost, this is more of a hoard than a world: a dingy trove of objects pilfered from the far corners of the Earth and the guts of history. It’s as though somebody had turned Gormenghast into a wonder cabinet, packed with busted clocks and dinosaur skulls, mouldering books and statues, all drawn with a florid, impressionistic hand that seems positively allergic to straight lines. Also as in Amanita’s other games, this is a world on the brink of destruction. Something enormous and angry is climbing around the exterior of the fortress, demolishing whole rooms with a sweep of its claws. A small flock of quaintly dressed bird-people are trying their best to dislodge it. You’ll glimpse their comic efforts through gaps in the woodwork as you wander downward from puzzle to puzzle, seeking the route back to the surface.

The story is eerie but whimsical, a bedtime read for the kind of child who spies monsters in wallpaper patterns. It’s told without words and is unhindered by any desire to explain the moving parts. The biggest twist is simply the protagonist dropping his torch during the descent from his apartment. This is decisive because as you soon learn, many of the castle’s objects come to life in the dark. In the workshops near the summit, secateurs on hooks flex their jaws like butterflies testing their wings. Painted kites eye you with tigrish amusement. A setting that reminds you initially of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline starts to feel like a coral reef, its heaps of bricabrac reacting gently to your passage.

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