But an adventure game is a narrative plus puzzles, and Moebius’s core gameplay element occupies the same underwhelming space as its narrative aspects. Your experience is going to vary depending on your fluency with the genre and your basic brain power (I’m admittedly low on the latter), but allow me to take you through the process of solving your typical puzzle in Moebius: (1) Recognize a puzzle and its objective. (2) Develop a sinking feeling that frustration is imminent. (3) Solve the puzzle almost immediately. (4) Feel the fear of frustration get displaced by brief elation, followed by a vague emptiness stemming from a lack of accomplishment.
Moebius’s puzzles are usually quite simple, but I wouldn’t call them poorly designed outright. On the one hand, it’s great that you rarely feel stuck. But as you combine items and navigate dialogue trees, the puzzles never give you the “A-ha!” moment that you'd expect to feel when controlling a genius detective. And many of the puzzles feel out of place; deducing the correct amount of cream and sugar for a librarian’s coffee, for example, doesn’t quite seem a task matched to Rector’s apparently soaring IQ.
The so-so puzzles go hand-in-hand with Moebius’s technical performance, which is acceptable and nothing more. The game’s cartoony mix of 2D and 3D art is on limited occasions charming but usually a bit archaic-looking, particularly when focusing on character models and their stilted movements. The comic book-styled cutscenes look blurry and outdated, and graphical hiccups occasionally make characters’ heads sink into their body cavities, or cause objects they’re holding to levitate in front of them; sure, these issues never get in the way of the gameplay, but they don't exactly help the experience either.
If Moebius: Empire Rising were to come out a couple of years ago, it might feel like a welcome throwback to the days of classic point-and-click adventures in spite of its very pronounced issues. There’s an elegance and a purity to clicking around the game’s numerous locales, and it moves at a good pace. But the gameplay is too mundane, and the story too disappointing for it to be given a pass today. As it turns out, games like Double Fine's Broken Age as well as lower-profile titles like Machinarium and Gemini Rue are just a few of the well-executed entries available in the genre’s recent resurgence. There are far better, less compromising places to look for this kind of experience.