Cradle was planned to be launched in 2012, but the adventure game from the Ukrainian firm Flying Cafe for Semianimals was released on July 24, 2015. Over four years of development turned into four hours of gameplay, yet the finale still appears to imply that they were in a rush to deliver something.
The four-person development team is from GSC Game World, which was previously responsible for the Stalker franchise. There are echoes of these post-apocalyptic shooters in Cradle, noticeable in the aesthetic backdrop, intriguing storyline, and technological complexity. The most intriguing feature of the game is its tale. Using only one place and two people, the creators were able to build an intriguing and realistic environment that begs more study.
We wake up with recollections, someplace on the Mongolian steppe in a yurt. The year is 2077, according to the calendar hanging beside the entrance. Looking through the notes and newspapers scattered everywhere, we gradually uncover more fragments: individuals had lost their capacity to procreate, therefore they began to transfer their identities to mechanical androids until a solution to this problem is found. One such corpse lies on the table in our snug yurt, but it is unfinished. We try to fix the android during the game – I’m going. At the same time, we learn more about the main character and the woman’s history, as well as more about the society around us, which, as it soon becomes clear, is riddled with difficulties.
The majority of the information is revealed through discussions with Ida, which are mixed with gameplay segments. This is when things become less fascinating. We watch the action from the first person perspective, controlling items in the world using inconvenient controls. The entire scenario is reminiscent of a traditional adventure game: find three batteries, bring fruit off the tree, and make meals. There are sometimes occasions that appear to have no purpose other than to artificially lengthen the game. The aim is to scan flowers with a sophisticated instrument and find the most beautiful ones. There is also a lot of running, but just in both directions – the authors have prepared only two sites, which we continually move between. If we want to learn more about the plot, we generally need to get additional body parts for Ida. This sort of section is justified by the storyline, but it does not change the fact that it is monotonous, repetitive, and does not match the imagined universe at all.
Leaving the yurt exposes a huge and intriguing environment, beckoning exploration of distant hills and an enigmatic railway network. However, we eventually get a wasteland, two places, two persons, various environmental puzzles in the near vicinity, and a lot of gathering coloured cubes. The sudden and abrupt finale, on the other hand, is an even larger letdown. It’s conceivable that the makers intended to conclude the tale this way, but after such a lengthy wait, it’s more probable that they just wanted to get the game out there. The epilogue may address some of your questions, but it’s only a cutscene that breaks gameplay and leaves you unsatisfied. Cradle is visually appealing, and the slightly unusual location matches the plot and the facts of the world wonderfully. The location itself – a Mongolian yurt and its environs – is not typical for futuristic computer games. However, it works perfectly in this case. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for technological issues: the menu is devoid of graphic choices, and the game can load even the most powerful machine, resulting in terrible reductions in frame rates for no apparent reason.
The music is also noteworthy, from the flawless underlining of the events on screen to the successful song at the end credits. However, the other side of the coin must be mentioned: the acting, particularly our hero’s voice, is pretty ordinary, bland, and lacks conviction. We leave the planet after a few hours, without notice, which was constructed in only a few seconds as one of the most exciting science-fiction universes in recent years, and simply with the assistance of conversations or little pieces of paper attached in various locations in our tent.
This is a fantastic accomplishment and the production’s strongest aspect, but we want more. Cradle’s biggest failing is that this compelling plot and universe could not be translated into an equally superb video game.