Girl Genius: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne

7 August 2023 Agatha  could be the bring hope to the world or reign down its utter destruction.  In the mesmerizing world of "Girl Geni...

7 August 2023

Agatha could be the bring hope to the world or reign down its utter destruction. In the mesmerizing world of "Girl Genius," Agatha Heterodyne emerges as a brilliant and adventurous heroine. Born with a "Spark" in a realm populated by mad scientists, airships, and automatons, Agatha's journey begins in the city of Mechanicsburg when she discovers her true identity as a Heterodyne, heralding legends of madness. Her adventures are a whirlwind of daring battles, enigmatic puzzles, and alliances with eccentric characters. What sets Agatha apart is her unwavering determination to forge her destiny and reshape the world. Her tale, a celebration of creativity and the indomitable spirit of adventure, reminds us that even in a world teetering on the edge of chaos, the human spirit can rise to astonishing heights. "Girl Genius" is a riveting epic that will kindle your imagination and leave you longing for more as Agatha Heterodyne unravels the mysteries of this extraordinary world.

Girl Genius is an ongoing comic book series turned webcomic, written and drawn by Phil and Kaja Foglio based in Seattle, which coincidentally also is the birth place of PAX. PAX is one of the largest consumer expo for all things videogames and boardgames in North America. It was very fitting then that while visiting PAX West last week we bumped into Kenneth Engelsen, game director of Rain games. From this developer of Teslagrad and Mesmer comes a videogame of  Girl Genius™: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne . Kenneth showed us their new game and was so kind to send us a review copy as the game release this Wednesday. 

What is it?

Girl Genius™: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne is an action-adventure game in the spirit of classic games such as Jak & Daxter, Rachet and Clank etc. By blending the comic-book visuals with a stylized 3D environment the game brings the comic steampunk inspirations to life and allowing the player to experience Agatha Heterodyne’s story, as she navigates the hostile hallways, catacombs and kitchens of her ancestral home, Castle Heterodyne.

As the long-lost heir of an eccentric lineage of mad scientists, her destiny beckons her to reclaim the ancient stronghold to restore its former glory and assume the mantle of a "True Heterodyne." Only then can she muster the strength to confront the formidable Wulfenbach Empire and other covetous contenders for power. Yet, her initial challenge involves grappling with a malevolent and deranged AI ruling over the castle, navigating its perilous spiked snares, and confronting seemingly bottomless abysses of doom. Adding to the intrigue, there's the vexing presence of Zola Heterodyne, draped in a conspicuous shade of pink. Is she another lost soul seeking kinship, or a cunning antagonist poised to steal the limelight?


Adventures in Castle Heterodyne takes inspiration from early 3D Zelda titles, as well as classic PlayStation 2-era titles like Ratchet & Clank and Jax & Daxter. With -not quite- cell shaded graphics it has a very comic book cartoony look and feel. With so much existing lore to draw from it is not surprising that the game has plenty to draw inspiration from. For those that miss those old 3d action/puzzle/platformer days they can dive right into the game and take on the challenged it brings to the table.

After a quick introduction you get to get to work as Agatha the main protagonist of the story as you take on a fully self-aware castle and its inhabitants in order to prove your worth and get in control of it before you can claim your spot among your forefathers as ruler.  You get control of the character and camera and during a brief introduction you quickly acquire a big Wrench as your main weapon and tool. From there the game works you through a series of rooms loaded with puzzles, traps and enemies to dispose of. Attacking and dodging are simple to understand and use, but there is no jump button. At least not in the traditional sense there is not. You can jump down in some cases when you are near an edge, but it is not always and at times it can be a bit difficult to line your character up just right to get the prompt.  There are still multiple layers of depth however that you can visit by using stair, elevators and jumping board. Just do not expect to go bunny hopping into all sorts of secret areas. 

The enemies are well designed with good animations that telegraph when they are about to attack, allowing you to hit them first before dodging out of the way with expedience. Initially only having your wrench might limit you but over time you will acquire blueprints for new tools that will give you an edge. tools such as the grapple gun, power lantern, and Death Ray. Your mad science abilities will not only allow you to use those, but also upgrade and transform them to make them that much more effective.
Throughout the game you will gather resources that can be used for skill upgrades, weapons upgrades, or a cup of coffee to restore your health when it is most pressing. 

Besides a cache of weaponry, it is also important to bring your brain power, but you are not doing this all alone, your trusty
Dingbot minion can explore areas Agatha can't reach, by moving in tight spaces, digging underground, and flying, which are upgrades you get over time and use.

Once you get the hang of all that you will be using traps and objects to re-build the world around you and solve the many tricky spatial puzzles that are in the game. If you are too worried about being attacked while solving an issue you can safely retreat.

If you are not comfortable with dealing with both enemies and puzzles you can set the difficulty lower or even on story mode where enemies just cannot hurt, you and you can focus on that story and the puzzles. 

As for the balance in the game, especially with puzzles I had moments where it was not always clear to me what I was supposed to do. Especially once dingbot came into play. The game give you hints only sparingly if at all and it will take exploration and a little bit of brain work to figure out what to do and how to move on. During all this solving I did end up fighting the camera at times as I was looking around in different directions for a solution. This might be good news for those looking for a puzzle challenge and lesser so for those that are in it more for the action as these puzzles really can slow you down at times. 


With such a deep history and lore to dig into you can expect a lot of reference work in the game. They even went as far as to include all the book as an ecopy within the game itself which is a great feature for fans and those who want to learn more about the game. The challenge is also to balance providing information for newcomers as well as those with in depth knowledge of the world and characters and make sure it covers all the right bases. As a newcomer myself I found the world a bit confusing at times, and reading the lore collected, especially in the beginning seemed rushed and lacking a bit in exposition. I kept playing however and as I went a long and read more, talked more and explored more I got a better grasp of what is going on. Being able to read the comics builds on that even more of course. There are tons of areas to explore and hidden lore items to find. Some of those even act as a currency of sorts to buy new skills or upgrades. Fans will delight in finding all the secrets and being able to meet and interact with several beloved characters from the Girl Genius universe, like Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, Tarvek Sturmvoraus and many others.

Both in graphics and in sound the game does a decent job but at times it all feels a bit empty and bit too much like its PS2 era inspirations in areas such as textures or sound effect. This of course can be seen as part of its charm, invoking feelings of nostalgia but can feel somewhat dated at times. 

It is a bit of a shame that there is no voice acting whatsoever in the game. That is in part due to the size of the studio and the budget available, but the director Kenneth Engelsen pointed out that it was also an artistic decision in parts because fan all might have their own head cannon on what these characters sound like and messing with that might be disappointing for some. So leaving it untouched might be the best choice after all. But what it does do is leave a lot of reading for the player if they want to catch all of the backstory and main story that is ongoing.  

Parent recommendation

Girl Genius: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne does not present any concerns in regard to bad language, or blood and gore etc. In fact, an aspiring you girl genius sets the game apart from many other protagonists in video games. The game has you battling only robot- or robot-like creatures that basically have run amok, limiting the violence factor and by moving to story mode this is even less of a factor. The tools, their upgrades as well as character designs are fun and colorful. And yes, you might have to deal with your "evil heritage" but after all the just do not know how Agatha will deal with this.

Final thoughts

Girl Genius: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne is a fun exploration action-adventure game that brings back a lot of gameplay nostalgia of N64 and PS2 era gaming. With a fun protagonist and her adorable clank automaton the game draws you in with its deep lore and sense of adventure. Fans of the book series will get most of the game and its hidden secrets while new players but become new fans of the written stories. Some parts of the game can feel a little outdated and empty because of the design choices but they work for the chosen esthetic and stay close to the comic originals.  Puzzles are challenging and make good use of the various objects, and skills in the game and require quite a bit of brainpower and focus. Sometimes so much so a hint system would have been most welcome. But it is to be said that they are not impossible to solve. 

The game is out now on PC and will soon also come to Nintendo Switch. 

GameGirl Genius: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne
PublisherRain Games /PM Studios
DeveloperRain Games.
Platform: PC: GOG, Steam / Nintendo Switch (soon)
Release Date:  5th September 2023 (Price: $26.99)
Review Platform: PC ( Steam)
ESRB: NA (Geeks rating E10+ )

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks  


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