"...the short runtime, irritating main character and abrupt final section does Tardy few favours."
The PC is the home of point-and-click games, and with plenty of tributes and celebrations of the genre out there, Tardy is another one trying to crack the code to adventure game excellence. The story begins with a man named Ramto waking up from cryogenic sleep in a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. In an attempt to get home, he makes his way through the craft and eventually crosses paths with Ann, a doctor who is trapped inside the ship and speaks with Ramto through a communicator. The two have to work together to find out what's happened on the ship and how to get back home.
The story itself is nothing new, and the fact that I couldn't stand Ramto for a good portion of the game does nothing to help matters. He's your typical Han Solo wannabe — except just a regular guy and not a bounty hunter. Ramto thinks he's good at everything and is cocky and arrogant. He doesn't get a redemption arc, though at one point in the story his character does a complete 360 with no real warning or explanation. It's meant to make me feel something for him, but it instead falls flat on its face.
Tardy's pacing is also all over the place. The game can be beaten in under four hours, and the first half an hour or so feels like a slow burn, building up to some bigger threat. Once both characters are in the mix, plot points are dropped in and quickly brushed over. The final section feels extremely rushed, with nearly everything that happens feeling very disconnected from the rest of the story. It takes a complete left turn, leaving a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Even with this, Tardy is clearly a love letter to those great '90s Sierra and Lucas Arts games, and that's abundantly apparent in its visuals. Where Tardy shines the most visually is in the infrequent cutscenes which showcase the game's empty world and muted colours. Planets covered in an orange haze and spaceships that feel icy cold to look at are conveyed perfectly here. It's just a shame that the environments don't have much more variety. We only see one planet, and a lot of the areas look the same, so the novelty sadly wears off rather fast.
If it's an atmospheric game you're looking for, though, Tardy might have you covered with its chilling music. The tracks range from quiet, ambient themes that make you feel uneasy — like something's waiting for you on the other side of a door — to ones that emphasise the desolate state of the abandoned ship that you're on. Others capitalise on the perfect sci-fi adventure as you travel through space and capture the wonder and mystery of the galaxy. It's a fantastic accompaniment and easily my favourite part of the game.
As with its visuals, Tardy doesn't stray far from your typical LucasArts point-and-click mechanics. Most of the puzzles pose a fair challenge without being too frustrating, and more often require you to actually complete a different puzzle to provide a hint for the one you might be stuck on. A lot of the solutions are also really satisfying and make sense, so it made me feel accomplished when I got past each one. The only real downside is the lack of exploration. Once you're in a room, you're stuck in that room until you've solved all of the puzzles. Part of the fun of these types of games is going back to old areas and using all of your newfound tools to uncover hidden secrets, so I found this incredibly disappointing.
One really neat innovation is the lack of an inventory. Basically, every item you get stays on the screen. This sounds really odd at first, but because you only keep items relevant to the room you're in, the screen never feels too cluttered. This saves a lot of going back and forth between menus, which is my biggest bugbear with these games.
Control is also a little slow and awkward. Once you click on where you want Ramto to go, he's slow to respond. One regular problem I had involved clicking on the wrong object: if I tried to change where Ramto was going, he wouldn't react until the last minute. And while the lack of an inventory is great, if you do happen to have too much stuff on the screen at any one time — like diary entries, which serve nothing beyond providing extra backstory — you have to interact with a drawer or a table and manually drag the object back.
Where the fiddly controls are most apparent is in many of the game's keypad puzzles, which require an on-screen keypad rather than your physical keyboard to type in instructions or passwords. This mechanic is a baffling decision, and given how small some of the keys are, can be really awkward to execute. Compared to the fact that there are other puzzles in the game which allow you to use the arrow keys on your keyboard, it is all the more unusual.
Tardy has a couple of bright spots, but amidst the indie wave of point-and-clicks, it really does little to stand out. Its atmosphere and inventory system are excellent, but everything else fails to elevate this game beyond a simple "tribute." Additionally, the short runtime, irritating main character, and abrupt final section does Tardy few favours. Anyone looking for a good point-and-click game should try any of Wadjet Eye's excellent games before giving this a crack.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.