#8 Zniw Adventure
I’m close to having played one hundred point-and-clicks this year alone. They are sort of my jam, with each adventure lovingly transporting me back to childhood. Back to being a ten year old boy, hogging the family computer in early 1997, desperately trying to outsmart a goat. Nothing is more nostalgic to me in gaming than an old-school point-and-click. So, when asked if I wanted to play the award winning Zniw Adventure, I had just four words in reply. Bring me my mouse.
Zniw Adventure began life as a comic draft, created by Karolina Twardosz. The decision to progress it into a video game came in 2013, when Karolina contacted programmer/designer Lukasz Mikolajczyk. Early on, it was agreed that Zniw would be a point-and-click title, and one that the whole family can enjoy. This meeting led to the founding of Azure Mountain, a small, two-person indie studio based in Poland. Together, Karolina and Lukasz would develop and publish their debut game, Zniw Adventure.
Initially, the game was going to be a free title, featuring a handful of puzzles, all found within one location. But the “demo”, as it was later referred to as, was so well received that the next logical step was to evolve Zniw into a full title.
The game was developed without a budget or publisher. Karolina and Lukasz worked on Zniw from 2013 to 2020, at which point the game would finally make its way to Steam on November 6th. After seven years, the completed game would boast “ten different locations, more than 22,000 frames of animation, and over 20 designs of prehistoric creatures and additional features, like unlockable bonuses and a dinosaur encyclopedia.”
The work had certainly been put in and I can’t wait any longer. So, let’s play!
Zniw Adventure is a hand-drawn point and click adventure game with a strong 90’s vibe and cartoon animations. Play as Zniw – a yellow female dinosaur who is on a mission to find the ultimate gift for her mother’s hatchday!
Before the premise had even been laid out for me, I was immediately struck by the style and presentation. The game plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon. Characters are cute, drawn with soft lines, lots of colour, and given there are no voice overs, everyone has large and very expressive eyes/faces. The character designs are fantastic but don’t just take my word for it. In 2020, Zniw Adventure won Best Character Art, Best Animation, and Best Programming at the annual Adventure Gaming Studio (AGS) awards. Very impressive and well deserved.
To suit the visual style, composer Denis Comtesse put together a relaxing collection of fifteen acoustic tracks that pleasantly waft in the background, minding their own business.
Zniw is sassy and has a short fuse, like all memorable adventure protagonists, but the tone of the game is mostly playful with sprinklings of slapstick humour. There is no gore, blood, or bad language here – this game is for all ages. What I loved is how it honoured its comic beginnings in several subtle ways. For example, when you move from location to location, the screen is turned like a page in a comic book, and during cut scenes you are presented with still images in quick succession, like reading a comic strip. These touches suit the game and are used with great effect.
You play as Zniw, a young female dinosaur that leaves home in order to acquire a gift for your mum. The secret to a good point-and-click is keeping the opening premise as simple as possible. Make it as easy as you can for the player to get on board straight away. As soon as Zniw leaves home, she heads to the market with the idea of buying her mum flowers.
As this is a point-and-click, almost the entire game is played using the mouse. If you hold the LMB, you’ll get your interaction wheel, with your three mains being use, look, and talk. In conversations, you’ll appear to have options of what to say but it always just comes down to picking an order – everything gets said, so you can’t go wrong.
Something I’m dying to celebrate with you is how the game treats your inventory. I have never played a point-and-click before where I have had to make my own inventory. I loved that aspect. You have to find the materials to make a backpack and early on in the game, you can’t hold many items because your backpack is cobbled together with leaves and old twigs. As you progress through the story, you’ll upgrade your inventory so that you can hold more and more. What a brilliant idea. All future point-and-clicks should take note of this.
Buying flowers doesn’t work out for Zniw and so she travels further and further from home in search of the perfect gift. Before long she gets lost and her journey back is fraught with danger. The story unfolds at the right pace, with situations growing in complexity, along with new characters that temporarily pull her away from her immediate focus. The building of the climax is really good fun – at one point Zniw is an axe-wielding dinosaur, escaping captivity with essential help from the very thief you were a victim of. If that doesn’t wet your whistle, I don’t know what will.
To compliment the story, throughout the game you can collect pebbles that unlock concept art and mini games! There are also 32 achievements to unlock on Steam, plus every encounter and new location adds to your encyclopedia and glossary. I’m all for a little education while I game and there is a huge amount of content to be enjoyed here.
To be honest, I have had to cut this promotion down in size quite considerably, for fear of it being too long. There are so many noteworthy aspects of the game I haven’t mentioned that I could have. To be clear, Zniw Adventure is one of the most rewarding point-and-clicks I have ever played. The style, tone, and themes are perfect for this genre. The premise, characters, pacing, all of it hitting the mark. This game is aimed at all ages, so finding the right balance of difficulty could have been a challenge, but Azure Mountain have taken it in their stride, like everything else. This isn’t a fluke. You can’t help but come away from the game feeling like this studio knows exactly what they’re doing and I’m left excitedly wondering what the future holds for them.
For fans of point-and-clicks, this is a must play, and Azure Mountain is a studio you should keep an eye on.
Zniw Adventure is out now on Steam – Zniw Adventure on Steam (steampowered.com)
Website – Zniw Adventure – a prehistoric point ‘n click adventure game (zidandzniw.pl)