It seems to be adventure game season at the moment as I’ve recently reviewed both Silence and Deponia on the Nintendo Switch, and today I’m taking a look at the Kickstarted Trüberbrook from btf and Headup Games. Now, I didn’t know anything about Trüberbrook apart from a few screenshots which caught my attention the moment I laid my eyes on them, so I pretty much went into the game blind in term of the story, the background and with little to no expectations of what to expect.
With its beautiful visuals, decent playing time, and selection of puzzles which range from simple to thought-provoking, Trüberbrook was a delight to play through from beginning to end within a few sittings. The community seems divided with the title though, some love it and some not so much; let’s see what I thought…
Trüberbrook has a rather unusual story which I’ll try and briefly cover without giving away any spoilers or major plot points. You play the part of a young American physicist named Hans Tannhauser, a student who has won a trip to Trüberbrook via some obscure lottery he never knew he entered. With nothing better to do, as he’s completed all of his studies back home, he takes the prize as a sign that he needs a vacation. Upon arriving in town, things seemed quite pleasant and relaxing. He signed in at the local Inn, got to know the residents nearby, and even bumped into a fellow tourist who just happens to be another scientist.
Hans deserves a relaxing break from all of the work he’s been doing back home, it’s a shame he won’t find that here in Trüberbrook! After a brief run-in with an intruder who has stolen some of his research documents, Hans joins up with Gretchen, the scientist he met previously, in order to seek out this unknown person and retrieve that which is his. Thus begins our adventure, you’ll be tasked with repairing machinery, escaping from a looney-home, solving ancient puzzles, and uncovering a mystery which spans beyond the laws of physics.
The first thing that stood out to me, in terms of the gameplay, was the controls. Trüberbrook operates a lot like Deponia on the PlayStation 4 (not the Nintendo Switch one I reviewed the other day). The left Stick moves your character and the Right Stick controls an on-screen cursor, like a mouse. So, you can walk around but you can’t interact with anything unless if you move the ‘mouse’ cursor over it and pick one of the four options. The four options are presented in a clean fashion with a simple action wheel depicting Look, Pick up, Use, and Talk, each one is mapped to either Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square, or Up, Down, Left or Right on the D-Pad respectively.
Just like most point-and-click games these days, you can hold L1 to highlight all of the interactive objects (although this didn’t always work) and we have the ability to run with R2, a feature the Switch version of Deponia had but not the PS4 version. One of the things I didn’t like with Trüberbrook was its inventory. You can hold R1 to look at your inventory on the top of the screen, but you can’t actually move the ‘mouse’ or select any of the items to look at them – it’s just there to show you what you have.
I know that doesn’t sound like a major issue, but in a game where a lot of your puzzles are inventory puzzles, you kinda want to explore your inventory and see what each item is so that you know what you can and can’t do with them. However, in the game’s favour, the images all look fairly recognisable and I never really hit a spot where I wasn’t sure what I had to do next.
Let’s talk about the puzzles – the skill level varies quite a bit with them, especially if you’re going for the platinum. I personally really enjoyed trying to figure out what I had to do next in most instances, but some of the solutions were a case of trial and error, with some being straight up pot luck! Every puzzle is an environmental inventory one, from what I recall. You’ll be moving objects around the scenes, trading items with other characters, and using items on certain objects in order to escape, destroy a priceless set of armour, or build a strange machine.
Now, if you’ve not picked up on it, I’ve said you can use items with people and other objects in the scene in order to solve puzzles and progress – but how does that work when you can’t even select items in your inventory? Simple, the game keeps it as basic as it can. If you have an item which can be used, one of the four face buttons will become that item when you hover over the person/object with your ‘mouse’ cursor. A simple tap of the button will either resolve the predicament you’re in or result in your character saying he doesn’t think that’s what it should be used for.
You can also interact with the characters by talking to them. This sometimes opens up new interactions such as swapping items and reluctantly handing over your ‘external massager’ to a horny woman…
Speaking of which, something I found fascinating was the choice to enable ‘kids’ mode in the options. Supposedly this means adult objects, such as the vibrator, and some conversations, are altered to make the game kid-safe. I’ve only played it in Adult mode though, but I’ve not really encountered any moments I would deem as adults only. It would be great if more games offered this – not a gore on/off switch, like we usually see, but an option for certain scenes or words to not get used if a kid is playing it.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Trüberbrook looks visually stunning. It’s almost like you’re playing with claymation characters in a claymation world, but you’re not. Going off the press release, the developers have created most of everything you see within Trüberbrook, from the environments to the backdrops, in real life and then 3D scanned them into the PC. Once the scans are in, they have applied textures and cleaned them up a little, but the core structure is based on the physical objects. That’s quite amazing and possibly the first time I’ve heard of something like this being done.
I will admit, there isn’t a lot of environments you’ll be travelling to within Trüberbrook, with around fifteen or so locations. However, each one looks great and the lighting in some of them, like the treehouse, is simply stunning. I really enjoyed the institution as well, but I felt that particular area was a bit short with not as many interaction points as I would have hoped for, plus your ‘stay’ there was never brought up after a single conversation you have about it. And that’s where the game starts to slip a little. Quite a few of the locations only have a few interactions points, thus limiting what you can do. This meant solving some of the puzzles really was just a numbers game, it was all about trying everything until you pick the right option in a dialogue or clicking the right item.
The music within Trüberbrook triggered my love for cult classics such as the X-Files and Twin Peaks. Seriously, as soon as the game started and we’re running through the tutorial-disguised-as-a-prologue segment, the whole thing felt eerie and like it was something out of these classic TV shows. You can feel a lot of the inspirations the game has just by closing your eyes and listening to the music in the background within various locations.
I was equally as pleased with the vocal talents the team had employed as well. We have a full voice over cast who deliver the game in both English and German as well as providing subtitles which are easy to read and perfectly matched up to the dialogue being spoken. For, what is technically an indie game which was crowd-funded via Kickstarter and published by Headup Games, Trüberbrook is a very well thought out, incredibly polished, and almost unreal 3D point-and-click adventure game. The gorgeous visuals are enough for the asking price alone…
It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘personal opinion’, but I tend to put together my thoughts when I feel how I felt as a fan of the genre may help me in terms of the overall review. People who have read my reviews before will know I love the point-and-click genre, I love seeing how the developer can take the genre and apply their own spin on it to create something new, from the multiple characters with their own skills in Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey, to the perfectly executed time-travel mechanics in Day of the Tentacle, each game has its own personality. Trüberbrook’s personality lies within it’s unique and fascinating visuals which clearly steals the limelight within this experience.
However, as an avid fan of the point-and-click and puzzle genres, did I feel there was enough within the game to hold my interest – yes. Even though the interactions were overly simplified, with the nicely adaptive command wheel, I didn’t wish I had the chance to try literally every item with every hotspot (as I would usually do in a game when I got stuck), I liked that the game only prompted me to use something when it was possible to use it. In regards to the difficulty of the puzzles (which is basically the whole gameplay, as it’s one big environmental inventory puzzle), nothing was too difficult to work out for myself but there were moments when I got a little stuck as I wasn’t 100% sure what I was trying to do.
As such, a notepad, or maybe an option for a hint would have been nice, for those who wished to use it. I liked that I had to think about things, which is the polar opposite of Dance of Death, as that game had too many hints on screen in my opinion, but a gentle nudge would have been nice. Although, even without any such help and no peeking at any online walkthroughs or guides, I managed to reach the end credits within eight hours or so. As I stated earlier though, if you’re into your trophies then have a read of them first (if you don’t mind spoilers) as there is a lot of missables which will require another playthrough if you miss them.
Trüberbrook drew me in with its gorgeous visuals and had me hooked with its story and narrative. Even though the puzzle solving is mostly limited to narration options and simplified environmental inventory puzzles, the various personalities you’ll interact with really helps to make each solution different from the last. The process of how the developers created each environment in real life, then scanned them in, all whilst applying powder to create winter and their own lighting for the various time periods, is all very fascinating and perfectly came together into a spectacular visual treat for your eyes!
Along with its great soundtrack and well-casted vocal talents, Trüberbrook was a delight to play and I honestly hope this isn’t the last we see from the developers as I would love to find out what happens next, post-credits…
- - Simply stunning visuals which were scanned in from real-life creations
- - Music which brings a nostalgiac feeling of shows such as the X-Files and Twin Peaks
- - Great voice acting
- - It has a 'kids' mode, so adult objects and conversations are supposedly altered slightly
- - Lots of missable trophies (Some may see this as a negative, I see it as replayability as you're not given a platinum by just playing the game)
- - The interactions are rather simplified, as you don't have nay inventory management or have to combine items in order to solve puzzles
- - It is quite easy to forget what you're doing some times if you're not paying attention
- - Despite the beautiful landscapes, there isn't many interaction points outside of the ones you have to click on, so the game becomes very easy to just perform trial and error on each point