Point-and-click is a very niche genre, largely taken up by flash/browser-based games. It’s not their fault that the games of this genre are often limited in scope either; it’s a very narrow platform with which to work after all. However, Pastel Games is a developer that has managed to pull out all of the stops with their creepy wild-west masterpiece Aurora. Its action begins as you arrive at what appears to be an abandoned town, with no trains due for the foreseeable future. It is therefore up to you to unravel the mystery of what on earth’s going on before the inevitably sinister-feeling events of the game begin unfolding.
Aurora’s format is typical of the point-and-click genre. No matter where you are, there’s always something to click on and therefore interact with. Click on people, items, or parts of the room you’re in, hovering over your chosen click-spot first to see if the cursor changes. If the cursor changes its appearance, you’re hovering over an item of interest. You must then click on these items and people in an effort to initiate conversations and thoughts/musings which are meant to further the storyline.
Making progress isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as some other point-and-click games (the Monkey GO Happy games are a breeze by comparison), but this is all part of the mystery. You have to search various areas carefully, often having to discover items in a certain order before the story pushes forward. You spend lots of time in certain areas trying to figure things out, and all the while the eerie music is playing and the run-down, dilapidated, and generally abandoned town creeps further and further under your skin and into the part of your mind in charge of giving you that uneasy feeling of the unknown. Even mobile games like the Cluedo app cannot touch the level of mystery that comes as standard in Aurora’s gameplay.
The game’s mechanics are also more complex than many standard browser-based point and click games. In particular, you’ve got an inventory at the bottom of the screen. You must populate this inventory with various items you find along the way, but must also work out exactly how each item is used. Items can either be used alone or combined with others, their usage forming part of a larger purpose. Autosave is also a lifesaver, allowing you to dip in and out of the action as you please since you can always pick up where you last left off.
The game’s look is where it truly stands out from a majority of point-and-click puzzle games. There is a distinct juxtaposition present in the game’s style: a western is supposed to be full of life, but this just isn’t the case here. Pastel Games has managed to create a western backdrop, but one whose very life and essence has been sucked out of its core. What’s left is a husk of a town in the wild west, and in the resulting vacuum resides an unrelenting eeriness that only becomes more intense as the story unravels.
The artwork itself in Aurora is responsible for the eerie atmosphere, and such. Each scene looks like a beautifully-painted masterpiece, portraying what was once a bustling town in the wild west as the antithesis of the honky-tonk, bustling wild-west we have all come to know and love from the western genre in general. Pastel Games’ game portfolio is awash with quality artwork as well – the creativity in Aurora is seen just as strongly in their other games, including The Scene of the Crime.
What’s not to like about Aurora? It’s a gorgeously designed, cleanly-presented point-and-click game with an unusually deep artistic style and unparalleled mysteriousness. The artistic style lies in apposition with the eerie music, and the complex nature of the puzzles themselves make for an even thicker air of mystery, one that can at points prove difficult to inhale. Still, even if you’re no stranger to these disturbing types of horror game, you’re bound to find Aurora a breath of fresh air that stands out from the crowd.