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The Antidote

The Antidote


    The title screen.The title screen.
Developer: Innovative Underdogs
Released: 2019.02.22
Genre: Mystery / Comedy
Graphics: Realistic / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Another day in the office. After which getting forcefully taken to a weird castle-like place, and having been drugged with some bizarre substance. So it's one of those days again. Now, there's some way to escape by searching through the strange place, and hopefully finding the antidote for the drug.

The Antidote is the first game of the Dutch developing team, who call themselves Innovative Underdogs. If there ever was a fitting name for a developer, this is it. This bizarre point-and-click game made with AGS is probably going to go under the radar for many people (as it's not even listed in the AGS game database for some reason), but the game certainly is trying to be more innovative than your average indie adventure debut game.

Just looking at the graphical style of the game is going to be very different from most games in the genre. The game is built around (clumsy) stop motion animated characters, which are actually photographs of the developers themselves. The backgrounds are mostly modified photographs, which have some kind of drug-trip colouring to them. From the very first scene there are obvious problems, like scaling problems for the protagonist. But when later in the game incorrect scaling is actually part of the gameplay, one is left wondering what exactly is "right" and "wrong" in this game after all?

A talking well? Well, why not?A talking well? Well, why not?

There are many great things in the game, which even after several decades and thousands of adventure game titles are somewhat unique. One of these features is that the protagonist is able to talk to (most) in-game objects (most of the time) and having (most of) them actually respond back to the player! This is even used as a hidden hint system of sorts. The developers claim that there are only unique responses to actions in the game, which is not entirely true, but quite close to it anyway. Some puzzles are very strange too, which in some cases is a plus, and in some others a minus.

Sadly the gameplay is front-loaded in the sense that the best ideas are near the beginning of the game, whereas the end of the game is nowhere near as good. If the final climax of the game is (spoiler alert!) a maze, maybe one more round of innovative thinking would have been a good idea. Fortunately the strengths of the game carry it through even some rough spots here and there. Some things in the game seem to be simply mistakes, although with a surreal game like this, it's always hard to tell. But when the player gets stuck because some of the interactable areas are not labelled, when all of the others are, it's hopefully a mistake that got through to the final product rather than a designed feature to make the playthrough intentionally slower.

Fundamental big questions.Fundamental big questions.

There are some nice attempts towards userfriendliness. For instance, the player can change the intended action by three different ways (mouse clicking, choosing from a drop-down menu, and keyboard shortcuts), and there is a teleporting map even if the game area is not that big. This is all very good. There are some cases where no one really paid attention to details though. For instance, if the player tries to use other objects on a strange book of "useless facts" that is an inventory item, that other object must be selected before reading the book, and while reading the book, the chosen object must be selected as an active icon elsewhere than on top of the book pages. Things like that can be counted as something that a first-time developer can do without realising how those make things unnecessarily complicated for a random player.

It's not a big surprise that there is no voice acting in the game, and perhaps it's a good idea to leave that up to each player's imagination. How would an electric chair or a meatball sound like to a drugged protagonist anyway? Otherwise there are some small sound effects and music in the game, nothing special, but everything works nicely in the context.

Under the surface the game is a very oldschool adventure game, and this is a good thing. There are locked doors to open, fetch quests, a maze as already discussed (and not necessarily a good thing), inventory puzzles, and some very challenging puzzles that are not something that a person playing his first adventure game could ever solve. Some of the best puzzles in the game are going to be challenging even to the most experienced adventurers, like unlocking a vault or trying to read strange writing on the wall. Here and there the player even needs to be a "GeNiUS" to progress further.

Overall The Antidote is a very solid effort as debut game, even with some problems. Creating a visually unique adventure, with some unique qualities and challenging puzzles is not an easy task even to an experienced developer, so what these guys managed to pull off with their first game is very good and in that regard the game can be recommended to players who are experienced adventurers. The obvious problems in the game, and some debatable things mean, however, that in the competition with other titles in the genre, this innovative game will remain an underdog. Perhaps that's what the developers wanted too. But for an adventurer who has played a great number of games, The Antidote will offer a nice chance to experience something different and inspiring for a change.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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