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Creaks, an adventure puzzle-platformer, is a major deviation from the standard point and click genre of games perfected by Czech studio Amanita Design. After their hit indie titles like Machinarium, Samorost, Botanicula, Chuchel, and Pilgrims, Creaks is their first game which hands you direct control of the protagonist. Let’s find out if Creaks manages to uphold its lineage!

You don’t need words to tell stories

Have you ever been intrigued by worlds hidden behind secret doors? Dark places like the one in Coraline, or an entirely new fantasy world like Narnia? What if you took a tumble in a rabbit hole and ended up like Alice did in Wonderland? The protagonist of Creaks finds himself in a similar predicament when he accidentally falls into such a world while investigating a hole in his room’s wall.

You find yourself in an enormous subterranean cavern that houses an old mysterious mansion with strong gearpunk vibes: a surreal environment where rocks and other inanimate objects look eerily life-like. The game plays with your mind using this pareidolia – a tendency to incorrectly perceive shapes or faces in objects and patterns. It feels like every time you are not looking, things act – hedge clippers snap, kites with painted eyes blink, statue busts laugh, masks follow you with their eyes and knight armor stands rearrange their heroic poses.

While roaming the halls of this decrepit manor, you come across the creaks – monsters that might harm you if you go near them. Robotic dogs that chase you if they catch wind of you, jellyfish droids that will electrocute you, shadows that copy your every move and will gore you with their prickly heads and nervous automaton goats that will jump away from you and block your exit.

You also chance upon the original inhabitants of the ramshackle house – a motley crew of quaint avian folk, whom you later befriend. Funnily enough, I named them, since the game provided none. I loved each time the protagonist gingerly peeked through cracks in the wall or the floor to look at what the Scholar, Warrior, Artist or Tinkerer was doing. Who’s who? Trust me: once you play the game, you will know exactly who I am talking about. Their comic interactions were the much-needed breaks that I sought for between the puzzles.

At some point in the game, you are tasked with retrieving a book of knowledge and the trials and tribulations you face during that task is immeasurably satisfying!

The game has no dialogues – the bird people communicate using unintelligible gibberish. Instead of that being a negative, I felt it brought me an understanding of what the world is, and what they are saying, better than what meaningful spoken words could have expressed. Creaks revels in its eccentricities, never going out of its way to tell you the complete story – you uncover it piece by piece and put it together like a jigsaw puzzle.

A childish charm permeates every bit of this house and its alien residents. The house with its labyrinthine corridors seems like a mystery in itself – hiding secrets behind every turn. The house is a hoarder’s paradise – its cozy nooks and crannies feel believable and lived in. Even the enemies, after a while, start to feel like more than mere adversaries – you grow to love their cutesy behaviors. You start treating them as collaborators and companions who help you uncover the puzzle of the room.

Oh yes, and something that I completely missed – there is a huge scary monster outside the walls of this ancient masonry trying to demolish every standing brick of this mansion that has already given up. You join in the mission with your bird friends to protect their home from this unstoppable threat and possibly find a way back up to your room.

The genius in making the complex simple

It’s hard to imagine that a game of this complexity can be created with such a minimal control scheme. Every level has the look and feel of an escape room masquerading as a dollhouse – and it switches up its ideas frequently to stop the gameplay from getting stale. The subtle tutorials offer a great deal of handholding to prepare you for the bigger puzzles later on.

As you encounter the enemies on each level, you start understanding their loathing towards light. Switching on one’s glare when an enemy is underneath them transforms the creaks into harmless furniture – dogs become nightstands, jellyfish turn to ornate globes, scary mimics to coatstands, and goats to chairs. You play them off against each other too, and by hopping down ledges, climbing up ladders, using obstacles, floor switches, remote lights that can be activated by your personal portable switch, elephant trunk-like water pipes, and drawbridges, you make the path clear to the exit of every room.

The movement of the creaks and their behavior reminded me of a realtime strategy battle, where you use their predictable movement as chess pieces to complete your objective. There is an undercurrent of nonviolence to your actions too – almost all the time, you only trap the enemies in a particular area so that they cannot reach you.

Some of the puzzles have a timed element to them, and that might deter a few casual gamers – but it is nothing to be afraid of, as there is no requirement for fast reactions. Once you have figured out the solution for these brainteasers intuitively, it is only a matter of planned execution. This game is an entertaining 8-10 hour romp across inventive puzzle rooms – my recommendation would be to not rush through. Take your time, and soak in the wonderful sights and sounds!

Hidden behind all the puzzle-solving sheen, are these interactive Baroque and Victorian paintings scattered all around the house. Impressionistic pieces inspired by Monet and Renoir peep out of every gilded frame. These collectibles feature clockwork marionette characters that you can control. They range from semi-interactive setpieces where a person wearing a plague mask hides in the scenery, and a bird-man playing a song causes flowers to bloom, to minigames like teaching a fish to jump through hoops and two gun-birdmen fighting rabid critters in a forest. From finding cats in a maze, an intelligent mechanical dog, fighting knights in an arena, a dance battle, and beatboxing, the astonishing part of these paintings are that they are entirely optional and thus, missable. So much love and effort have been poured behind this part of the game that I feel it would be a pity if you ignored these.

Poetry in motion

If there is something that grabs your attention by the collar and pulls you right in, it is undeniably, the imaginative artwork. The gorgeous hand-drawn and painted art are the products of designers Radim Jurda and Jan Chlup. This is a game where every frame is a painting – the mastery that they wield over their craft is worthy of praise. The artwork seems inspired by Edward Gorey’s Victorian pen-and-ink drawings and Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are illustrations, but moves far ahead in creating its own unique style.

Different hatching styles give the 2D sets and figures an unmistakeable 3D appearance and depth. Each level of the game is a visual feast – the rickety mansion with its hastily boarded up walls, the sheer variety of ladders, narrow unsteady planks across sheer drops, the baubles and trinkets in every room, libraries crammed with books in a constant state of disarray, a stained glass avian family tree with sunlight filtering in, an Egyptian pyramid (wait, what?), clock towers and chemical laboratories – it wouldn’t be possible to name them all, yet would be a great disservice to have not mentioned them.

Beautiful animations accompany almost every object in the game – the way the transformed furniture rattles for a moment when you switch the light on a creak, the dog gets sad when you block it from returning to its resting mat, the shadow doppelgangers cackle when left idle, fossils displayed on walls move their bones around and even dying potted plants bloom back to life when you focus light on them.

You rarely get a fail state in the levels which you cannot escape from – I was once caught in such a dreary situation where my wide-eyed protagonist was haplessly cornered by the death-dealing electric tentacles of a jellyfish. After my level reloaded, I felt that there was something strangely amiss. I had this sinking suspicion, that the music had not repeated itself. It felt like the same instruments – a medley of soft piano chords, the warm and mellow twangs of a cello, and the thumping rhythm of the percussions – but the melody itself sounded just a trifle different. That was enough to warrant my curiosity, and I fell into the deep black hole of my own conspiracy theory trying to uncover its secrets. What I found out, left my jaw wide open! The Creaks soundtrack has been created by Joe Acheson, composer at his solo-studio Hidden Orchestra. Having never before designed a soundtrack for a game, Joe brought something wonderfully unique and innovative to this medium. He managed to create a project with almost infinite soundscapes – with the help of automatic remixing, the game self-generates musical arrangements, leading to something which he dubbed a ‘living soundtrack’.

Classical instruments like zithers, flutes, harps make way organically to bells, chimes, and clarinets, layering themselves snugly over each other in a variety of octaves and pitches. The music makes you feel that you are at a concert of your favorite band where they sing their old popular songs in their own new improvised ways – remixing their own beats, structure, lyrics, and pace – which leaves you with that happy, glowing feeling of experiencing something new wrapped in a blanket of nostalgic familiarity. With rising crescendos and sweeping glissandos, the music also tells you if you are on the right track to solving a puzzle.

The visuals and sound of this game are nothing short of pure creative genius – you will be hard-pressed to find a game with such astounding attention to detail.


Creaks is not only the best game by Amanita so far but also one of the finest in its genre to date. It keeps surprising you through everything it does – be it the stunning artwork, the dynamic soundtrack, the heartwarming humor, the varied enemy types, or the innovative level design. With Creaks, Amanita pushes games as a form of media far enough to be compared to the masterpieces of Pixar or Ghibli. And boy, does it deliver!

Disclaimer: PC (Steam) review copy provided by the developers with no riders.

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