There’s nothing quite like a quirky, interesting, and mechanically unique indie game, an adventure that places you within a recognisable world which has been altered by the events of a catastrophic genocide. Caligari Games and Daedalic Entertainment have presented us with such a situation, combined with a fascinating gameplay mechanic which is essential to solving the games’ puzzles. The Great Perhaps is a story about loss, pain, hope, and mystery, using knowledge of the future to help those in the past.
Although I really enjoyed my time with The Great Perhaps, there is one aspect that may be a massive turn-off for potential buyers. It all depends on the price the game is going to be selling for – I’m not aware of this at the point of writing this review. So, please be aware that this review is based upon the content of the experience and not the value for money.
The story within The Great Perhaps is a short and sweet one, you take the role of an astronaut who was aboard the space station when a catastrophic event caused the destruction of every living being down upon the Earth. As a safety precaution, the onboard AI supercomputer placed our protagonist within a deep sleep for one hundred years, allowing him to awaken once the dust has settled and the world is once again ‘safe’ to return to – albeit with the help of a spacesuit. So, upon reviving after his slumber, we briefly mourn the loss of our family and then head down to see what’s left of the place we once called home.
Upon landing, and seeing the destruction all around, we come across a strange artifact in the form of an old lantern. However, the light this device emits doesn’t only illuminate the darkness, it allows us to see the world before the end was nigh! This magical light shows us glimpses of the past, a world full of happy ignorant people living their lives and going about their business, not one of them aware that today is going to be one of the last they ever have upon this world. The lamp serves as more than a window to a happier world, it can also transport your physical body back into this timeline for a brief period at a time – could you alter the future by informing the past?
You’re not sure if it’ll work but what do you have to lose? The future of the world and the entire human race depends upon you succeeding in stopping the event from happening via the use of time travel and defying the laws of physics…
The Great Perhaps is essentially a puzzle game that involves defying the laws of physics so you can transport items from one time period into another in order to resolve the problems at hand. This entire concept isn’t only a rather unique and very interesting gameplay mechanic, it’s also a visual treat to view it unfold in front of you. As you walk around in the preset (everyone’s future), the world is a 2D landscape of death, destruction and carnage, with dead skeletons laid within each building and magnificent structures nothing but rubble within this desolate land. However, a simple tap of your lantern and you’ll see the past lit up before you as if you’re lighting up the darkness with a small beam of light.
This allows you to observe the past (or the future as you can use it to see the present-day whilst you’re within the past) without physically being within that timeline and visible to its inhabitants. Why would this be useful? Well, your adventure takes you down subway tunnels, which has blockages in the present and moving trains in the past, so timing your time travels is essential to not getting squashed. There are also soldiers and strange beings which you must work your way past by alternating accordingly. There’s a nice sense of satisfaction once you realise what you have to do and then time everything perfectly so you can overcome the obstacles ahead.
Although you’ll encounter a lot of people in the past and strange beings in the future, you don’t really interact with anyone (maybe through fear of altering the timeline in a way you’re not expecting?), so conversations tend to be one-sided or a little short when our protagonist decides to talk. The meat of the game lies within its puzzles, the requirement to overcome obstacles both in the present and future by jumping between timelines and using the various objects you find in each to your advantage, let’s look at them…
Whereas most of the puzzles aren’t really that ‘paradox-inducing’, such as bringing a bottle of alcohol from the future in order to quench the thirst of a sad alcoholic clown so you can get a balloon, one resolution seemed rather hard to comprehend. I don’t want to describe it in detail (as I just did but deleted it as I feel it may spoil some of the games’ narrative) but there is one puzzle that requires you obtaining an item from the future to stop a fatal event in the past, which in itself would be a paradox as one wouldn’t exist without the other so this must be different or have happened before. It’s quite confusing but having played the game to its final conclusion, I think I know how it was done.
Every new scene you walk into requires you to both explore the past and the present in order to proceed, removing obstacles by jumping through time and bypassing locked doors by simply walking through an open arch then transporting yourself via the use of the lantern. The lantern itself has a short timespan for its powers, around a minute at a time within the past. After this time, you’ll be whisked right back to the present regardless of your location – so be sure you’re not standing on a hole in the ground or within the Earth upon re-entry. Although there is this rather strict time limit, you can instantly send yourself back to the past as there’s no cooldown, it just adds a sense of pressure and urgency as you need to ensure you do as much as you can and position yourself correctly before the forced teleportation occurs.
I never found any of the puzzles difficult, although there was a few which required a few attempts to get right, such as spying on a crazy guy in order to learn what concoction he used to feed his ‘Audrey II’. As such, I’d say The Great Perhaps is accessible to people of all skill levels within solving puzzles as you’ll never feel the need to look up a guide or that you need more hints or tips on what to do. The AI comes along for the ride when you go back down to Earth, so if you need help, she’ll usually give you a few hints anyway.
You had one job…
Ironically, the main complaint I have with a game about time travel is the amount of time it takes to complete it! I sat down, in the early hours of this morning, in order to run through the game and see how much I could get done before taking a nap. I was just over two hours into my playtime when the credits began to roll… Now, before anyone thinks I’m judging a game based upon the length of time it took to complete (and obtain all but one trophy without actually looking at the trophy list), I’m not. I have praised and loved a number of small games in the past, not every game has to be a 50+ hour experience. However, without knowing the price of the game (as it’s not currently listed on Steam), you should decide for yourself if the price the game is going for matches up to the two-three hour experience you’ll get.
What I will say is that I thoroughly enjoyed what I played of the game, the personal stories of all the individuals you meet, the clever time-based puzzles, and the amazing artistic effects when you have one timeline bleed through to the other with the use of the lantern’s light is very surreal and great to look at. I also loved the small details linking the two timelines together, details that emphasis that the past we return to isn’t that far off from the end of the world. One such detail, which I think is correct, is the hospital staff. One of the puzzles requires you to get a nurse to hook up with a security guard in the past. In the present, there’s a male and female skeleton huddled together, holding hands, one dressed as a guard and one a nurse… R.I.P. lovebirds.
That being said, I would have loved for the game to be a bit longer, maybe four hours or so? But again, I’m basing this on the fact I wanted more as I was so intrigued and entertained by the magic lantern and not by the value for money aspect. Whereas I loved the time travel and the jumping between timelines, I was left wanting some new puzzles based around this fascinating mechanic and maybe more of an insight into the backstory of where this lantern came from and why it has these magical powers, as it’s not Green and appears to be of human creation.
Ahhh, this is a part of the game which I have no complaints or issues with, the visuals. If you’ve played games such as Ubisoft’s amazing Valiant Hearts, or Juggler Games’ My Memory of Us, then you’ll recognise the art style instantly. It’s a hand-drawn 2D art style with beautiful looking backdrops and whimsical characters which are full of personality and character. As I’ve mentioned above, the visual contrast between the past and present, with using the lantern to light up the other timeline, is a great visual effect that makes this game so unique in its delivery as I’ve not seen anything similar within this genre (not that I can remember). Jumping between timelines is great in itself, seeing the devastation and pain caused by the horrific events which are shortly going to occur, but having the ability to make the two dimensions bleed into one another makes it that little bit more surreal and special.
Soundwise, both timelines have their own music which matches the events and situations which you’re experiencing. However, I did have an issue with the sound levels (and I also overlooked the subtitle option in the menu which I didn’t notice until I started writing this review). There’s one volume slider that adjusts everything, yet I found that certain scenes play the music louder than the spoken vocals and completely drowns out what people are saying. As I didn’t realise there were subtitles, I originally went through the game with the volume turned right up so I could hear the people talk. However, this resulted in the music and sound effects being quite loud at 3 am in the morning, so I had to turn it back down and try really hard to listen. As such, I’d highly recommend you turn on the subtitles in the options menu – unless a separate slider for both music and voices is added post-launch.
Despite the short playtime and unbalanced audio, The Great Perhaps is a fun game with a rather unique gameplay mechanic, the lantern. Jumping between timelines and solving puzzles by utilising the various objects and people we find within them was both satisfying and creative, if not a little simple. The game does a great job of telling the story via our protagonist and AI conversing with one another throughout, explaining things as they go for the benefit of us observers, yet it also leaves a number of things untold, making us come to our own conclusions of what happened next. Although it’s only a two-hour experience and lacking in replayability due to the fact I had collected all but one of the trophies without even looking at them, if the game is priced at an acceptable level for that length (in your opinion) then I’d have no issues recommending it.
I love games with quirky mechanics and a unique spin on solving the puzzles, two aspects I feel The Great Perhaps shines in. If you’re looking for a short experience with memorable characters, interesting puzzles, and really cool visual effects, check out this game once it launches on the 14th of August 2019.
The Great Perhaps
- - Clever and interesting puzzles revolved around utilising items from both timelines
- - Lovely visuals, despite the horrific chaos
- - The effects of seeing the other timeline bleed through with the beam of light is great
- - The music is very nice and fitting with the situation and time period
- - Quite short at around two-three hours based on your ability to solve the puzzles
- - Despite the music being nice, it overpowers the vocals with no separate volume slider
- - Not much variety in how you solve the puzzles you encounter
- - The backstory and exposition wasn't great, our protagonist wasn't fazed by the magical lantern and didn't really question its abilities and why you can now jump into the past