An adventure throwback that’s über good
As we sit down to play this quirky ’60s-set point-and-click adventure it takes seconds to mentally tick off the game’s influences. Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and a dash of Ron Gilbert’s sense of humour all bubble to the surface in the game’s opening gambit as our hero dictates his thoughts to ‘Beverly’, as the gentle breeze of Badalamenti-like cool jazz builds, and the town’s hotelier drops a joke about our name: “Elevenhauser, is it?” We’re actually playing as Tannhauser (pronounced ‘tenhauser’ – geddit?), a physicist who’s won a trip to the remote German town of Trüberbrook, where he hopes to finally find the peace and quiet he needs to finish his PhD thesis. He’s out of luck in this place.
He wakes in the night to find a mysterious man rifling through his suitcase – a man who steals his science paper, then disappears into thin air. Tannhauser’s bump in the night sends him on a journey that involves spacial wormholes, dinosaurs, swamp monsters, a secret underground vault covered in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and a lonely robot that’s seeking friendship.
It’s at this moment, when we stumble into a science lab-bunker and need to convince the friendless machine, the Barbarossa 2000, to let us in, that our demo really starts. The puzzles are simple enough: first find a memory card to bring the robot to life, then, through dialogue choices, get it onside. There’s a gentle humour to the conversation that’s reminiscent of Douglas Adams. The streamlined controls – there’s no item management; if you have the correct objects to solve a puzzle an option appears as you dawdle over areas of a scene – ensure we’re focused on solving puzzles, not wrestling with abstract item combinations.
The upshot of the control setup (the right thumbstick is your ‘cursor’ and the D-pad controls your actions) means we can enjoy the world German dev BTF has created. The team has a background in TV and it shows. The scenes are created from handmade dioramas, which are then digitised, and character models are added later. The resulting blend of stop-motion techniques and digital puppets creates a charming, unique game world. There are rough edges to scenes, and the real-world lighting feels warm and inviting. It’s like playing an Aardman animation directed by David Lynch. (It’s as good as you’d imagine.)
There will be 30 such scenes in the final game, and many will be revisited in different states. But with a mysterious voiceover threatening, “Your world is going to collapse,” time’s running out to see them all.
PREVIEW “IT’S LIKE PLAYING AN AARDMAN ANIMATION DIRECTED BY DAVID LYNCH.”
FORMAT PS4 / ETA JAN / PUB HEADUP GAMES / DEV BTF Trüberbrook mixes realworld and in-game lighting for a uniquely warm and comforting feel.
Top Tannhauser arrives in the town with plans to science the *blorp* out of his thesis. That’s not going to happen…