In btf's new adventure game, a vacation in the tiny village of Trüberbrook could lead to the destruction of the universe.
I love narrative games and Trüberbrook stole my heart when I saw the trailer for the first time. It has such an amazing art style and I love when a mystery exists in otherwise ordinary settings. That's exactly what Trüberbrook delivers: a ridiculous, unbelievable tale in a tiny little village with nothing for miles around as well as a plot that could lead to the destruction of our entire universe.
I often praise games for bringing high stakes to a story without resorting to the "oh, by the way; if you fail then somehow it'll lead to the destruction of everything and everyone" shtick. In Trüberbrook's case, some of my highest praise would be that it actually manages to apply that threat to a plot where I never saw it coming. In fact, the entire premise is that the main character (Hans Tannhauser) won a vacation in a contest that he doesn't remember entering. Nonetheless, knowing it's too good to pass up, he travels to Trüberbrook. Unfortunately, on his first night there, a mysterious man somehow ends up in his room and steals his quantum physics thesis, leaving behind some very suspicious radioactive footsteps. Trust me; things only get weirder from there!
Trüberbrook is a whimsical point and click romp that sneaks a dash of dry wit into the writing alongside a pinch of science that goes over my head. At its heart, it's an exercise in walking around and picking stuff up then using that stuff on other stuff. The entire game can be completed in a few hours although I took almost 7. Some of the puzzles can be solved right away and others make enough sense that you can figure them out with some messing around. However, there were several that resulted in me walking around every square inch clicking on everything and following every dialogue choice possible. Keep in mind, the world is huge toward the end of the campaign.
You can inspect, interact with, use items on, or talk to things although most people and objects only allow for a few of those options. Sometimes, you need to look at something or use the right dialogue option to open up new choices which can get incredibly annoying. At one point, I actually had to inspect an object twice before it allowed me to do more with it. Because this was so out of the ordinary, I spent at least 45 minutes with a checklist of every location thoroughly interacting with everything possible until I figured that out.
Sadly, the majority of my time with Trüberbrook was similar. I rarely actually had fun or felt good about figuring puzzles out although the times when it worked out were pretty awesome. Figuring out how to use a whistle to break a satellite dish which makes a little girl get away from a TV was pretty fun, for example, and all of the puzzles are absolutely ridiculous in the best of ways.
My complaints about Trüberbrook don't end there. Another annoying issue is that it typically treats passwords like an inventory item but at one point, you get a password with seven sets of numbers then have to repeat those numbers back in dialogue. I ended up having to travel back to write the numbers down and to make matters worse, the second set of numbers was purposely smudged, meaning you have to guess at what it is. Also, Trüberbrook doesn't allow you to use the Switch's touchscreen so you have to use the joystick as a mouse. This would be fine except that it helps you a bit by magnetizing your mouse to an object when you go near it and this sometimes makes interacting with small objects difficult because the cursor wants to zoom to other objects instead.
Another example of poor game design is that dialogue often gives you multiple options but to select them, you point the analog stick at the one you want. The radial wheel only uses the right side of the joystick thus making precision difficult. Even walking is a chore at times as Hans gets stuck on objects near him easily, especially on the very narrow circular stairways.
In addition to these issues, there were a couple of major bugs. The lesser of these is that at least twice in the game, a character would get more or less lighting on them rapidly back and forth, causing their art to jitter between two distinct images. However, the worst bug is how summoning birds to a specific location would sometimes create a new dialogue option in a blank space in the air. If you try to speak with that spot, your cursor becomes permanently unusable until you manually restart the game. There are a handful of other minor complaints but they all add up to one thing: Trüberbrook needs some major bug fixes and fine-tuning.
Finally, there's the art; the one thing that really sold me on Trüberbrook from the start. Everything in the game world is beautifully rendered and playing it felt a bit like walking around a stop motion movie. After playing through, I learned that there's a good reason for this: the developers actually hand-crafted real objects, set them up, and then used "photogrammetry" to digitize it and create a world that the player could explore. In addition, many of the backgrounds truly look like they're straight out of a postcard and if I wasn't so busy being constantly frustrated with figuring out what I needed to do, I would've adored these environments more.
With everything being said, I really hope that btf continues making games and using this spectacular art style. I'd love to take a vacation in one of their worlds but this one just left me longing for a different trip altogether.
I wanted to enjoy Trüberbrook but mediocre frustrating gameplay can only be helped so much by amazing art. I can only recommend it to people who absolutely love point and click games and don't mind being bogged down by major gameplay issues.
- + The art is unique and gorgeous
- + Contains a beautiful village complete with witty situations to gradually untangle
- + Fully voiced dialogue
- - Confusing puzzle solutions
- - Very repetitive exploration
- - Numerous bugs and minor issues