A few years back, if an indie title came out and it was; artistic, drained of colour or silent, then you knew you were in for something different, something exciting. Nowadays, we have a shed-load of titles which fit within this description due to the baby-boom reaction to a certain ‘Hawaiian pastime’ named game which came out in 2010. I don’t personally mind a good indie game, I don’t really care what game sparked the inspiration or had mechanics ‘borrowed’ in order to create a new game as long as the new game in question has it’s own spin on the genre and mechanics or recreates the feeling I had when I first played the aforementioned game. So, Does Albert & Otto sit out due to a back injury or does it scream “how low can you go!” as it twists and turns it way past the obvious inspiration?
A story inspired by dark events buried in our history and told through a child’s drawings and clues scattered throughout the game that forces the player to think outside the box
The above is from the information sent to me with the game and after playing the game a few times, I can see what they mean. I have my own theories on what is really happening based on the drawings you find and the dark undertones which are present throughout the game. However, for the remainder of this review, I will talk about the game in a literal sense and not what my presumptions/theories are as it seems part of the gameplay is thinking about things and coming to your own conclusion.
Our protagonist, Albert, is on a mission to save his sister, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious force. On your journey, you will encounter Otto, your sister’s blood-red magical teddybear which she had somehow dropped whilst being kidnapped. Albert has a gun which he can use to overcome enemies and puzzles and Otto has a few special abilities which also come in handy with the puzzle solving. Throughout the game we see a mixture of combat and puzzles; however, the game does tend to be more platform and puzzle heavy over combat, which I’ll explain in further detail below.
Albert & Otto is a puzzle platformer in the vein of Limbo, only this time you have various combat mechanics to help you on your way. The majority of the game revolves around almost pixel-precision jumping, levitating items such as boxes and sheep to create platforms and weights on switches, and even using the poor sheep as portable torches as you set them alight and take them with you into dark caves. There is a small amount of combat which you overcome with your gun – the mechanic for this is simply, aim with the right stick and hit R2. The enemies you will encounter include killer crows and a few bosses – the crows can be shot but the bosses require platforming and puzzle solving in order to overcome them.
Otto, on the other hand, cannot attack but does come in handy in other ways. He is a ‘magical’ teddy who is attached to you during normal gameplay which gives you the ability to double jump. You can also drop Otto on the ground to apply pressure on switches, use his ‘shock’ ability to activate power boxes and even make objects levitate whilst he is on your back. I thought Otto, in general, is a great idea and really helps to make the game its own. Sure, certain aspects of the game look like Limbo but these extra gameplay mechanics really help make a game stand out when it’s in a genre that is growing every day.
The puzzles in Albert & Otto are what really intrigued me with this game. I started playing it knowing it was a short game (as confirmed by the developer in their description of the game) but I was thinking it would be a load of easy puzzles and enemies with no thought required – I’m glad to say that I was wrong. True, some of the puzzles are easy, simple ‘place a block here and stand on the other platform’ mechanics – but some of them require you to drop Otto so he slides onto a switch while you jump into another area to activate a different switch in order to replace Otto with a crate and then…. Basically, you have to use your head for a few of the puzzles is what I’m getting at!
Some of the platforming parts of Albert & Otto can be a bit too pixel-perfect for my liking as well. There are a few parts where you must ride a crate down a rapid river which is constantly moving down-hill. Throughout this stage, you must jump over spikes and land on the crate, hurry through platforming sections to grab a sheep and return to the raft before it goes too far, and pick up rocks/crates along the way to set on switches whilst the ‘raft’ still moves. There is a trophy for completing this section with no deaths but let’s just say – If there was a trophy for completing it with less than 20 deaths, I probably still wouldn’t have it!
The bosses are great. That being said, I had nothing but trouble in killing them! Each boss has it’s own pattern so it is a case of playing a few times, dying often and learning their pattern. The satisfaction you get after finally destroying one is amazing. Personally, I had to take a break from the first boss for 20 minutes because I’m not very good at remembering patterns and each time I got a little further, it killed me again. But once you do overcome it and step back, the boss battle was actually really well put together as you don’t only have to think about yourself and your placement but also Otto and even the boss. It was very enjoyable – don’t get me started on the second boss!
Finally, Albert & Otto also has something which all indie titles love – collectables. There are 26 shards to collect throughout your adventure, they build a picture of your family (so is the picture printed on the glass of the photo frame or has the image become stuck to the glass then torn as it shattered? Maybe I’m just being picky?). This doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than a trophy but that’s fine, I never had to go out of my way to find them as they all appeared to be within sight everytime one popped up.
Albert & Otto: The Adventure Begins is out on Xbox One on the 10th January 2018 and on PS4 NA/EU on the 16th/17th January 2018
Despite the frustrating jumps, the split-second timing and the memorising of the bosses movements, I thoroughly enjoyed Albert & Otto. Its gloomy aesthetic may look a lot like other titles out there, but there is enough under the hood to make this game it’s own. As far as I’m aware, this is the first of four episodes which is clear by the length of the game – it took me just over two hours to complete yet I still can’t hold that against it – if you like games of this genre and style then I’m sure you will love Albert & Otto: The Adventure Begins.
Albert & Otto: The Adventure Begins
- Interesting theme and mechanics
- Dark, eerie atmosphere which keeps you intrigued
- Fun puzzles that get you thinking at times
- Some pixel-perfect jumps can get stressful
- The game can be very unforgiving if you make one wrong move (may not be a negative to everyone)
- The game is a little short (about 2-3 hours)