Trüberbrook PC Review

Point-and-click games have always been quite divisive within the gaming community, in a ‘love them or hate them’ fashion, but it’s usually not the gameplay that makes or break them – it’s the story, the characters, and the world. Everybody has at least heard of the Monkey Island titles, even if they weren’t around to play them, and Grim Fandango is commonly hailed as a storytelling masterpiece. However, it is still unanimously agreed upon that both of those games also often confuse and drive players to extreme frustration (or at least to a Wiki). There is simply a flaw in many point-and-click games where the player is just expected to be able to work out obscure, nonsensical puzzles, or to somehow know how to interact with incredibly specific objects without any help from the characters or the game itself. Still, many of them are widely beloved even with these flaws because the universes they pull the players into are magical and deep. Sadly, Trüberbrook has all of the annoying, awkward, and contrived puzzles that have almost become a staple of point-and-click games but with almost none of the charm.

The game begins with our protagonist arriving at the secluded little German town, Trüberbrook, after winning a lottery he didn’t enter. Yes, I also completely lost faith in our hero, Hans, immediately after hearing this; especially considering his status as some kind of genius. After a glowing spectre steals Hans’ science notes on the first night, we’re very gradually swept up into a dimension-hopping, multiverse-collapsing, time-travelling sci-fi fest. Kind of. All that super interesting stuff in the Kickstarter and release trailers doesn’t really happen until the very end of the game and none of it is really worth the slog getting there. Where I expected to be constantly interacting with new alternate time-lines or helping myself from behind the scenes, Back To The Future style, I was instead dragging my feet as I backtracked through the same few areas over and over trying to figure out what to do next, after seemingly exhausting every possible option. Here’s the trick – keep speaking to everyone; new dialog options that progress the story appear completely out of touch with what you have just been doing and from NPCs that, as far as the player knows, should have been completely unaffected.

Of course, the biggest attraction for most people isn’t going to be the gameplay anyway, it’s going to be the visual design, which is truly stunning. I mean it’s absolutely beautiful, exuding that ‘Wes Craven vibe’ that I never expected to see in a video game. Every scene is a meticulously crafted 3D model, lovingly decorated, painted, and eventually digitised. The technique really makes the whole game a treat to explore and every new area is just fun to look at, especially when it’s all prettied up in snow. Then, before you know it, you’re back in the game and you don’t even know why you’re here – you’re just trying to get the cable car to work but there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it, there’s nothing useful to interact with and nobody is helpful and the bucket at the end of that long plank must do something, it just has to! But it doesn’t. It never does. And unfortunately, the constant, tedious trekking back and forth through the same couple of scenes eventually even starts to detract from the design as each transition between locations stops being an excited gasp and fades into a disinterested sigh.

To help with knowing what items can and can’t be interacted with, or how to move between locations, I’d recommend sticking the spacebar down the entire game because it marks everything and I’d have hated to scan the environment myself because there’s no clear distinction, due to the uniform nature of the hand-crafted design. It would have been much better to have added some kind of faint glow or a Tom and Jerry effect, that pops out the things that can be used. Just another in a stack of many little niggles that add up to a rather bleak and tiresome experience. Still, there’s the odd funny moment and spark of excitement when something new is finally discovered but these few and far between bursts of fun don’t even compete with the pace-stuttering downtime spent travelling, empty dialog, and either way too simple or frustratingly buried in ‘point-and-click logic’ puzzles.

Generally, unless you’re incredibly interested in the spectacular visuals, I can’t recommend Trüberbrook. It feels half-made with large sections being completely disjointed from the plot and rooms, that no doubt took someone a ridiculous amount of time to design, build-out, and paint, having nothing in them, even when it’s abundantly clear that they should have. Perhaps cuts were made to meet a budget or tight Kickstarter deadlines but instead of having a lean 3-4 hour game that shows off what it does best, it drags on for around 6 with a lot of stiff backtracking and filler. Although, honestly, even with a tighter path and more interesting puzzles, I still think the story may have somewhat held it back. It teases this grand adventure when there’s little more to see than a town full of monotonous NPCs and a small facility where the ending takes place. Even the recordings Hans makes throughout the game about his discoveries, and the messages he takes for his wife, Beverly, have no closure. It all just ends after the player makes a single decision, where each path leads to an equally disappointing finale just as things get good. A story should be about the most interesting part of the characters’ lives, not everything that led up to it, only to then slam the door in the audience’s face.

4 out of 10
DarkZero