I really think there should be a word for when you are simultaneously surprised and also not surprised by something. Because that’s absolutely how I’m feeling about blowing through Alekon in a couple of days. It’s not that I expected it to have more content, but more that I didn’t expect that I was going to be starting it up every chance I got until I saw the credits roll.
Borrowing heavily from – and throwing some occasional good natured shade at – the Pokemon Snap games, you are tasked with taking photographs of critters, which in the Alekon-universe are called Fictions, in a variety of poses. Initially, you are tied to a path, where you have full range to look around, but cannot move or control the speed at which you move. Capturing good photos will award you with Creativity, which is necessary to open additional islands where you will find more Fictions to photograph.
That part of the game play loop was pretty much what I was expecting, and what I was looking for. One of the things I did really enjoy that I wasn’t expecting was that, once you do what you need to in order to open three different paths on an island, and you traverse each one at least once, you are given the option to explore the island in its entirety in Wander mode. This is exactly what it sounds like – you have full ability to move around everywhere, with no time limits or limits on how many photos you can take. When you want to return to the hub world, you just click on any of the many portals scattered about.
Upon returning to the hub world, your photos are automatically sorted, and the best one of each Fiction in each individual pose is judged, and the points added to your Creativity total. After judging, you can click on any greyed out outline on the wall to get hints for what other poses you haven’t captured on film yet.
Additionally, once you photograph a Fiction for the first time, a copy of that creature appears in the hub world, and every single one of them will – eventually – have a minigame for you to play to obtain even more Creativity. The minigames come in a lot of different styles, and there were some that I tried once and said “Oh, no, no thank you” and moved on. It’s important to talk to the Fictions, though, even if you’re not really interested in the mini-games, because some of them do grant you additional abilities that you will need to complete puzzle sections throughout the game.
I completed the game without capturing every available pose, or completing every available minigame. In fact, I don’t even think I discovered every single Fiction. The win condition of Alekon definitely gives you some wiggle room to prevent the game from becoming overly grindy or frustrating. You can, however, finish up the game and then return to the hub world and resume playing mini-games and taking pictures, even though the game does its darnedest to make you think that you cannot.
The story was serviceable for a game that is basically about playing with a camera and meeting fantasy creatures & helping them with their problems. A couple of times I got stuck trying to figure out how to open a path, complete a mini-game, or solve an environmental puzzle, and since the game is so recent, there aren’t any real guides out there yet. However, stepping away for a bit and coming at it with fresh eyes always did the trick for me.
While I might not have minded another island or two to explore, I can also appreciate that Alekon didn’t overstay its welcome, and I definitely left more than a few things unfinished, so there’s potential for a bit more play time without replaying the game in its entirety. I spent just under 6 hours with the game, and almost every single minute I was delighted by the art, the music, the game play and the character design. It really is just a lovely chill little game, and I honestly think I might have been more satisfied overall with my experience playing Alekon than I did with Pokemon Snap.