PEGBRJE: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, and Unobelisk

We’re getting really experimental

Don’t have to tell me twice.

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is the lengthily titled narrative game created by Crows Crows Crows, the indie studio based out of Germany that brought us the smash hit ‘The Stanley Parable’ — to which I’m still working on 100% (I think I have one more year left to wait). As one might expect from a studio known for narrative experiments, players will be booting up a whimsical adventure and heist to steal an emerald; at least, that was probably the plan. Plans don’t always work out, though.

See, in a fashion one could only dub ‘Stanley Parable-esque’, the player’s Heist doesn’t actually happen, for another player is actually playing the game at the moment of launch. This causes our player to instead be booted in to the back to witness the behind the scenes of the game, resembling a discombobulated theatre backstage full of storyboards, prop boxes, and tape on everything. From this new location, the player dives in to assist the frantic voice over the intercom requesting help to get the active player through the game itself as the rest of the staff are on strike due to being understaffed. Moving from room to room, players will take the advice of the director to instigate many of the events and reactions for the gamer to progress through the story, or at least that’s the idea. Unfortunately for our poor director, players aren’t necessarily forced in to performing every deed correctly, or even performing each task at all; anything that can be done, will be done. See just like with the Stanley Parable, CrowsCrowsCrows employs the narrative landscape and player’s complete freedom as their primary gameloop, understanding the desire to simply do whatever and see what can happen. Everything can alter the trajectory of the game, from where the players moves to how long they sit idle in certain areas, all bending the narrative to appear linear when in reality has been branching since the moment players start. This wouldn’t be as effective if it wasn’t for the fantastic narrative work of the intercom director — voiced by Simon Amstell — who’s constant interjections allow for the player to feel as if their actions are actively altering the world and how it perceives them, which in turn drives the constant need to see what can happen next.

To any that have played Stanley Parable, Dr. Langeskov and the Terribly Long Title will feel hilariously familiar while still giving a breath of fresh air thanks to the intriguing premise and gameplay setting. The little nods to aspects of the game normally digitized and numerical, to pamphlets with player reviews that are just absurd helps to tie the entire project’s whimsy together. It’s hard to not spoil much, because that first playthrough cannot be replicated no matter how hard one may try. All I can say is that if you love narrative adventures that gleefully enjoy subverting expectations while reinforcing the ability to feel as if you can do anything, this is a free experience worth the 15–20 minutes of time.

Truly, where am I.

Unobelisk is a bizarre exploration puzzle adventure created by Ghostwind, a solo indie dev based in Brazil. Players will be finding themselves in a strange world that combines flesh and mechanics out in deep space, awakening as a being known only as Uno with a single goal; reach the top of the Obelisk.

Unobelisk is a hybrid style of adventure, where players will be spending the majority of their time in a bird’s eye view of Uno in order to explore the spacecraft known as the Obelisk. It centres around the exploration of the areas, not necessarily giving a solid indication of where the top is nor which direction would be the easiest to achieve that goal. Everything is about as unclear as Uno’s understanding of self, but through logs and reasoning nearly every secret can be uncovered. However, exploration and puzzle solving will occasionally be interrupted by primordial ghosts, entities that are difficult to explain yet simple in purpose; destroy Uno. Contact with these ghosts will drag Uno out of this top-down view in to a first person view, becoming a turn-based combat simulation. Here, Uno has three weapon modules at their disposal: a knife, a pistol and a shotgun. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, with the two gun-based modules requiring ammunition to function. The first person mode also gives Uno the ability to move somewhat, as some encounters will begin with too much distance between the enemy to properly use the knife, or they may be behind cover. Movement uses up the turn, so plan accordingly.

What Unobelisk is able to achieve with this style is a bizarre blend of thrilling exploration and unsettling atmosphere as the entities — including Uno — all look and sound like horrifying amalgamations of scientific malpractice. The Obelisk is an isolated mystery of science, something we’ve heard all too often before and can guess the outcome of. Yet even still, thanks to the clever use of level design and world building, you don’t feel as if you are following a linear story and are instead tinkering with the remnants of a possibly abandoned ship. Where you take Uno is completely up to how you interpret the puzzles and where you go, which can lead to side quests and even hidden power ups. It’s by no means a small game because of this, with it taking me an hour to just confidently get out of the starting region and is advertised to take about 10–20 hours. If you were wanting an adventure that will unsettle while exploring a world free of those pesky ‘ethics’, then this might be exactly for you. There’s even a puzzle hint for those of us that get lost somewhat easily, but it won’t take away from the difficulty that Uno has found themselves in.