Argonus and the Gods of Stone tells a fantastic Greek myth with a danger-free point-and-click interface.
Argonus and the Gods of Stone is steeped heavily in ancient Greek mythology, acting as a sequel story of sorts to the events which transpired during the classic tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The player takes on the game's title role of Argonus, mapmaking son of Argus, the master craftsman who built Jason's ship, the Argo, for which the group of soldiers who sailed upon it, the Argonauts, took their name. Argonus finds himself the only surviving member of the Argo's crew, with the remaining Argonauts having turned to stone and been scattered around a mysterious, uncharted island filled with temples dedicated to the Greek Gods after a siren's song caused the ship to crash upon nearby rocks.
As Argonus, the player is tasked by Athena to find and rescue to remaining members of the Argonauts, which she says are still alive and hiding further into the island. As the story progresses Argonus meets and speaks with a number of Gods in the Olympic pantheon, including Hera, Apollo, Hades, and Poseidon, all of whom promising to help the young mapmaker if he brings them tribute or completes tasks around the island in their name.
Created by Zojoi, the company behind both the original and remastered versions of the classic point-and-click adventure Shadowgate, Argonus and the Gods of Stone may feel like a walking simulator to some players. Combat is non-existent, at least between Argonus himself and other characters, and unlike the adventure games of old death in Argonus is also entirely absent. Even the steep cliffs leading to crashing waves and rocks below offer little danger to the player, with invisible walls keeping them from ever accidentally stepping too far over the edge.
The core gameplay of Argonus and the Gods of Stone is centered around inventory puzzles and environmental discovery. Argonus' story is told to the player throughout constant narration by the muse Calliope, voiced by Betsy Brantley of The Princess Bride and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with voiced dialog descriptions accompanying nearly every object in the environment found and action performed. The end result is a mix between a storybook and a fireside tale, with the fantastical elements of various Greek myths weaving together in such a way that Argonus and the Gods of Stone could very well have been an age-old legend itself.
None of the puzzles in Argonus are overly complex, and a player will thankfully not find any of the "push newspaper under door" style inane adventure game logic that plagued the genre for so many years. Part of this simplicity is due to the interface, which reduces available player actions to WASD walking and clicking with either the left or right mouse button. The left mouse button acts as Argonus' Look, prompting a brief description of the object by Calliope, and if said object contains a hand symbol then the right mouse button can act as either a Take or an Interact command depending on context. Inventory items can also be used on interactive objects in the environment, indicated by a symbol of a hand's outline, but cannot be combined with other things inside the player's inventory.
By streamlining the inventory process and having the interactive elements of the environment be easily apparent upon observation, Argonus and the Gods of Stone eliminates the obsessive "use everything on everything" trial and error gameplay which plagues a majority of point-and-click adventures. The game itself feels like a danger-free version of Sierra's King's Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity, albeit based in Greek Mythology rather than mish-mashed fantasy stories, and although Argonus relies a little too heavily on backtracking and item hunting the majority of the experience is well-paced and entertaining, if not entirely difficult.
Save for a few lines of dialog which appear far more muffled than the rest and one action scene in particular in which the battle sounds did not link up at all with what was being displayed on screen, the sound design of Argonus and the Gods of Stone is equal parts ethereal and enjoyable. Although a number of puzzles in the game make the unfortunate mistake of revealing the answer before the puzzle itself is introduced, the game still contains many of the "Ah ha!" moments that fans of the point-and-click genre look for. Sadly, much of the goodwill earned by the game's well-written plot screeches to a halt once the credits begin to roll, with an ending that will surely rank on future 10 worst endings in video games lists for how abruptly it interrupts the climax of the story.
While heavily mined in other mediums, Greek mythology has less depictions in video games than one might expect. Even the recent God of War reboot traded its Greek roots for Norse ones, leaving fans little options other than 2015's side-scrolling action platformer Apotheon and the latest Assassin's Creed game before the VR title Journey For Elysium releases next month. People with an affinity for the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus will absolutely love this addition to the ancient Greek compendium of legends, although they will likely leave wishing the game lasted just one hour longer, but the simplistic gameplay and lack of action may turn off players who are hoping for a more dangerous experience. Anyone wondering just how Medusa's sisters felt about Jason chopping off her head and stuffing it into a bag, however, are in for one Hades of a ride.