Return of the Obra Dinn – DEMO AVAILABLE

As well as games at PAX generating buzz, a few well-known international designers were in attendance. People kept telling me that Lucas Pope, of Papers, Please, was showing a game. I was like, “It’s OK, I’m seeing everyone, I’ll get to it.” But Return of the Obra Dinn was indeed a standout experience, not  least because of its striking, monochromatic, 1 bit rendering. I’m amazed at how such sparkly clouds can be created from  mere dots. Simple lines can make a ship’s cabin feel sincerely claustrophobic, too. Visually, it’s very different to Papers, Please, while also feeling familiar in scope.

The Obra Dinn is a merchant ship that was lost at sea and then drifted back into port five years later. More than the average investigator, you have a magical stopwatch. When you’re close to a deceased crewmember, you can use it to see a snapshot of their final moments. Ominous sea shanty-style music begins playing, consistent with the early 1800s time period, and you can explore the immediate area, theorising about unfolding events. It is worth looking into every nook and cranny, as well as around the obvious moment of death, because context is everything.

I quickly went from thinking “Well, that guy is getting whacked,” to “I wonder if that’s why,” to “Aaaaaaa.” The mystery is quite complicated and players will piece it together in a probably non-linear fashion. The sequence in which events happened is important, but initially hard to fathom, which is great.

I don’t know if I’d recommend Return of the Obra Dinn to fans of Papers, Please. I would recommend it to people who appreciate a polished experience in which every line of dialogue works beautifully and every pixel is expertly placed.

Use a magical stopwatch to see the final moments of deceased crew

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