*EDITED AND UPDATED 09 November 2014*
This review covers the updated builds of Chapters 1 and 2 of AR-K.
There was much to like and dislike about the original builds of AR-K, and I'm happy to see that the team at Gato Salvaje is committed to fixing their game while doing their best to finish Alicia's journey. When I played it the first time, I couldn't overlook the gamebreaking bugs I found as well as some minor annoyances that cropped up here and there which hampered a quality adventure experience.
What hasn't changed from the past builds is Greg Rucka's solid writing. While I think he was brought in at the end of the development of Chapter 1 and had to work with what he had, he does a good job at imbuing the various characters in Alicia's world with mostly believable dialogue. Alicia's voice actor, Ash Sroka, aka Tali from Mass Effect, still is the best of the bunch at making Alicia a prickly character but one I can follow for this adventure. The other voice actors are serviceable, although I noticed that their audio levels in Chapter 2 seemed louder in a few places, like Mr. Wallruss in the diner.
While the design of the game feels odd to me still, complete with some puzzles I think that could use some better hints, I'm happy to see that Gato Salvaje has started adding in descriptors for items in your inventory. Unfortunately not all items have them and I hope that they continue to add in good, solid description for items that, on first glance, you might be clueless as to what they are or where they came from.
Tonally the game is all over the place, but after at least three playthroughs now I'm used to its strangeness of being serious and ridiculous at the same time. Chapter 2 introduces a narrator that only Alicia can hear, and it's that coupled with its odd fourth-wall-breaking insistences that it knows it's an adventure game that make the story move at a weird pace. It feels a little like a game from the early years of Pendulo Studios, where you couldn't decide just with what tone their games wanted to run. There are still a number of typos to be found in the game's text but nothing so bad that a player can't follow along with the story.
Now for the bug fixes; I still found some but the good news is I think they caught all the ones that were game breaking in the first two chapters. I hope this experience will bear through repeated playtests as well as going forward into Chapters 3 and 4. Also the horrendous audio pops that seemed to manifest after playing the game for extended periods was gone, which made playing the game much better. Alicia herself responded much faster I felt while clicking around the screen, moreso in Chapter 1 than 2, and her walk animation ran more smoothly. It was not game breaking but there were a few instances of characters being replaced with bright pink rectangles in Chapter 2, namely the robot butler in the apartment later in the game and also the professor in the test room after he's been distracted.
AR-K is a strange game; It feels like a first time adventure title from a studio that wanted to break the mold when it came to how you interface with the game and organize your inventory, much like how Resonance from Wadjet Eye Games more slickly let you put research topics into your 'memory inventory'. While the first two chapters showcase a studio that's still finding their feet and their voice, I am happy to see them take responsibility for AR-K's faults and do their best to fix them. I'm not expecting them to fix any strange design issues; Deadly Premonition in its original form was a beautiful mess of game design that somehow worked, but most importantly it ran without any major bugs that glitched out the gameplay. I'm willing to forgive AR-K's design shortcomings if they're able to keep up with tackling any flaws that keep cropping up during the game's lifecycle.
And for what Steam Achievements I found, they fixed! I'm currently unaware of how to get some of the achievements, but I suspect some may still be bugged, such as doing Chapter 2 in one sitting. The story progression achievements are working now, which is fantastic.
The length is decent for its price point. I think they could have bumped it up a little bit to make it fair when the studio gets chapters 3 and 4 out, but the price is enough for people to try it if they're curious for a new adventure game.
Is this game worth it for $9.99? I'd say yes. It doesn't have Chapters 3 and 4 yet, but they are much more stable. Just be prepared while playing that you may run into some rough edges, but that doesn't stop it from being charming.