Trüberbrook (Switch) Review
Release Date: April 17, 2019
Publisher/Developer: Headup Games/btf
Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch (reviewed)
The classic age of point-and-click gaming left us with a myriad of wonderful memories. Games like the Monkey Island series or Day of the Tentacle combined colorful characters, humor, and puzzles into odd yet memorable experiences. Digital downloads have allowed a bunch of them to come back into the limelight, via rereleases or upgrades. Meanwhile, new games in the genre attempt to rekindle that flame. Trüberbrook brings a beautifully designed world to investigate; crafted quite literally by hand, but the story and presentation leave a bit to be desired.
Trüberbrook puts you in the shoes of Hans Tannhauser, a scientist visiting the titular town in an alternate reality version of 1960s Germany. The art is unique in that the environments were actually hand-crafted then photographed in several different situations, allowing you to explore the world in day, night, et cetera. Characters are placed over this unique scenery and are well lit on their own, really feeling like little people playing around inside a diorama. The world when playing on a handheld Switch can really feel like a tiny living picture box in your hands. Hans' adventure begins when someone robs him whilst staying in the small town's hotel. He runs into a woman who helps him on his quest that soon falls into a science fiction storyline. The game is only a few hours long if you power through but puzzles pop up to impede your progress. Unfortunately a lot of puzzles boil down to Find X and Insert Into Y to proceed. You run across something that needs a doohickey, so you search around until you find it. You can press a button to see all the interactable items in the world, so the hunt goes a bit easier.
I do enjoy how the interface works on the Switch. Hovering your cursor over an interactable item brings up a wheel on the left of the screen. Available options come up that you press one of the directional buttons to utilize. If items can be combined and used they pop up. I would have preferred to be able to use touchscreen functionality in handheld mode. When activating the interactable nodes it's easy to feel like you should be prodding the screen, but you have to move a physical cursor over to the item in question. The puzzles and items are pretty straightforward, but sometimes feels as if you are stuck heading down the developers' path. For example, you start the game near a beautiful lake. At one point, I found myself in possession of a fishing rod and a can of sardines. Thought I should head out and fish, but there wasn't an intuitive way to combine items, and Hans simply glazed over the obvious.
Perhaps my favorite part of the game outside of the aesthetics are the family friendly options. I wholeheartedly believe in a company being able to create what they want, but I also have a rough time sharing an otherwise pleasant game with my kids if there are a couple few things I'd rather them not emulate. In Trüberbrook, there are a few moments, such as Hans finding a "Personal Massage Device" (which is used in a trade and nothing else) or characters smoking that are part of an adult world but maybe not things I'd want in my kids' games. Small tweaks allow you to bypass the vibrator, smoking, and the like, making it something you can share with the family. I appreciate when an artist takes the time to make both rather than have censoring forced upon their work. It allows the end consumer to make the choice.
Overall, Trüberbrook is an enjoyable game, it just feels as if the gameplay itself is rather simple and linear, turning into a bunch of fetch quests. This may be exactly what you want, though. It is slow paced and can get frustrating traversing two or three screens of town with the speed options being "walk" and "walk slightly faster." Knowing how the backgrounds were built definitely adds to the wonder: you can see the natural lighting and marvel at how the character models meld into the world. Trüberbrook is a fun title that hearkens back to classic point-and-click games, but leaves you wanting more.
-Gorgeous, handcrafted world
-Addition of a "kid friendly" mode serves both purists and those wanting a cleaner experience
-Sometimes slow moving
-Both very linear and occasionally obtuse will lead to some frustrating moments
-Let me use the Switch touchscreen, please
Special thanks to Headup Games/btf for providing a code for review!